If you’re a lover of history, have we got some stories for you. Escape to an island named for a princess — where Indians roamed, pirates plundered, gilded age millionaires visited and lived, and African-Americans came to play as a refuge from segregation. Yes, Amelia Island is chock full of history and we can’t wait to tell you about it.
Check into any of the award-winning Bed & Breakfast Inns in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, your home away from home for the next three days and located smack dab in the middle of 50 blocks of historic charm to explore. Looking for a boutique hotel? Try the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn — the first local school built on Amelia Island in 1886 that has been renovated into a swanky historic hotel. Or for those planning a luxurious getaway, book a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island or Omni Amelia Island Resort.
Your first order of business is a visit to the Amelia Island Welcome Center, located in the old train depot at the foot of Centre Street. Pick up helpful information and brochures from the friendly staff as well as learn about all eight flags that Amelia Island has flown under since 1562! This is where your history getaway begins.
Where can you overlook the Fernandina Harbor and marina right on the Amelia River AND enjoy a delicious lunch? Brett’s Waterway Cafe has been serving up land and sea dishes in a casual atmosphere for over 30 years. Try the fried green tomatoes, shrimp & grits, and key lime pie. Oh, and don’t forget a Bloody Mary to go along with it. It’s a meal in itself!
Located on the northern end of Amelia Island is Fort Clinch State Park, a Civil War era fort and state park providing daily fort tours, trails for biking and hiking, beachcombing, sunbathing, swimming, and surf fishing. Adults and kids alike will love traipsing around the fort as soldiers reenact what life was like back in 1864. If you happen to be around on the first weekend of the month, you’ll witness a soldier garrison firing cannons and demonstrating other battlefield skills. Just down the road from Fort Clinch is the Amelia Island Lighthouse. This historical beacon has been shining its light since 1838 and can still be seen 16 miles out at sea. Read all about it here then go see it for yourself.
Pepper’s Cocina Mexicana & Tequila Bar has been serving up yummy traditional Mexican fare right in the heart of historic downtown for years. Their extensive tequila selection and menu filled with Mexican classics will transport you south of the border. Be sure to try their signature margaritas while indulging in dishes like Chorizo & mozzarella cheese stuffed poblano pepper. Dine inside or on the patio overlooking historic downtown Centre Street.
INSIDER TIP: Try the Mariachi Loco for a yummy take on fresh grilled fish!
You can always grab breakfast wherever you are staying or you can head to Amelia Island Coffee where all the early birds go. Located in a 140 year old exposed brick building, Amelia Island Coffee offers a variety of hot and cold coffee and espresso drinks, organic teas, freshly baked pastries, and breakfast sandwiches and bagels, I’d say they have all your breakfast items covered. Grab a table inside or outside and enjoy the eclectic vibe of “the coffee shop”.
One of the most fascinating chapters in Amelia Island’s history takes place in and around American Beach on the island’s south end. In addition to the A.L. Lewis Museum, folks can also take a step back in time with Ron Miller, tour guide extraordinaire and owner of Coast One Tours, whose mission is to “Educate and share the History of how and why American Beach was founded”. Become educated, enlightened and enraptured with not only his tour but the amazing history he provides.
Marché Burette located at The Shops of Omni Amelia Island Resort is the French-style market and deli of your dreams and the perfect place to grab lunch. This adorable eatery, deli and shop not only features a delicious breakfast and lunch menu but offers a wide selection of groceries, one-of-a-kind gifts, craft beers and wines. Sit on their oversized waterfront deck and soak it all in!
Discover the rich history of Amelia Island with an Amelia Island Historic Tour. Set out in an air-conditioned minibus for a guided tour of Amelia Island and learn about different phases of local history from the Timucua Indians to the modern shrimping industry. Folks love this tour.
Here’s what one tour attendee had to say: “Daniel was an entertaining and informative tour guide who has a lot of knowledge about the history of the island and a few insider tidbits that were interesting. I would definitely recommend this tour to those who want to know more about national and regional history through lesser-known facts. The bus was comfortable and the size of the group was what we prefer when taking tours. A win-win!”
For a special evening and to end this day of discovery, venture over to David’s Restaurant & Lounge. This elegant, darkly-lit and upscale fine dining establishment specializes in steak and seafood with an extensive wine list. The comfortable roomy lounge with a full bar, appetizer bar menu and special martini menu is always a nice place to begin your relaxing dining experience and talk about tomorrow’s activities. It’s been a good day!
INSIDER TIP: Order the signature Prime Aged Ribeye, served with mashed potatoes, seasonal veggies, and finished with rosemary au jus on the side. Trust me…you’ll dream about it.
Known for their famous buttermilk fried chicken & waffles, salads, sandwiches and $15 bottomless bloody mary’s and mimosas, Leddy’s Porch at The Florida House Inn serves up simple, clean, southern fare for weekend brunch. Dine inside, on the porch or in the courtyard — it’s all good. Get a history lesson while you’re there. Amelia Island was Florida’s first luxury tourist destination, luring captains of industry, socialites, and dignitaries during the Gilded age of the late 19th century, The Florida House Inn was a favorite place to stay and it’s said that some of those visitors have never left.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Fernandina Beach without going to the Amelia Island Museum of History. Housed in the former Nassau County jail (you can still check out one of the cells) in the heart of Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, the state’s first spoken history museum is an excellent place to get your introduction to the wild and wonderful history of the island. There’s a “Discovery Ship” area for children to explore life as a pirate, a choice of docent or self-guided tours, and exhibits featuring treasures from Amelia Island’s last 4000 years.
Dine on the patio under a canopy of live oaks at The Patio at 5th & Ash. This downtown restaurant has an eclectic menu with a variety of dining options. Menu favorites include the Clams Vongole sauteed in briny broth with garlic, lemon and white wine. Or, the Chicken Pollo that comes with grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and basil topped with lemon butter. Wash it all down with a Spice Up Your Life Margarita and I’d say that’s about a perfect lunch. Vegan and Vegetarian options are available as well.
As far as Amelia Island river cruises go, they don’t get much better than this one. By far one of the most popular venues on the island, Amelia River Cruises is highly recommended with a storytelling captain that provides narrated, historic and wildlife sightseeing tours with views of dolphins, manatees, sea otters, alligators, and the wild horses of Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Dinner in an old 1900’s home is the ambiance we’re going for and Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro is the answer. Perfect for a relaxing meal with friends and family, Joe’s has been serving up delicious local seafood and beef since 1998. If seafood and steaks aren’t your thing, they also offer up Joe’s specialty gumbo, a variety of salads, and yummy pasta dishes. Dine al fresco in the courtyard or in the main dining room.
INSIDER TIP: The Seafood Bouillabaisse is amazing.
Ghost Tours of Amelia Island explores the paranormal and spooky stories here on the Island with your tour guide. Hear all about Amelia’s spooky haunted history on this informative .5-1 mile tour. You’ll hear chilling ghostly tales and the most famous haunted stories the city has to offer. Ending at St. Peters cemetery! Ghost hunting equipment is provided. Take a tour… if you dare.
These suggestions are just a sneak peek of all Amelia Island has to offer as you plan your Historic Weekend Getaway. Discover more and plan your perfect trip on www.ameliaisland.com for a complete list of places to stay, eat and play. We’re looking forward to seeing you here for years to come.