If you’re looking for a coastal vacation with a small-town feel, Amelia Island is a great fit for you! On Amelia Island, you will find 13 miles of beach and while this is great for a beach lover like me, there’s also tons to do! If you also want to do some exploring, Amelia Island has a lot of options from their historic downtown to river cruises. Amelia Island is packed with history and there are activities for all different ages and interests, making it a great destination for a variety of people. Read on to hear all about what this special island has to offer.
What to Expect in Amelia Island, Florida
Amelia Island is part of a group of islands that run from South Carolina to Florida; Amelia Island is in northern part of Florida, just minutes from Georgia. It definitely has a southern feel to it, which we found charming. Amelia Island is a small town and it will feel that way. It is going to be much more quiet on the island than what you experience in other beach destinations.
Best Things to do in Amelia Island, Florida
Get lost wandering the streets of Downtown Fernandina Beach. This area definitely reminds me of a smaller Charleston or Savannah! There is a lot of charm and history and plenty of shopping, dining, and places to grab a drink, too.
Go to the beach. Naturally if you are headed to an island for a vacation or quick getaway, you probably love the beach. And spending time at the beach is a great activity on Amelia Island! The beaches are dog friendly and quiet with plenty of space to spread out.
Amelia Island Museum of History showcases the history of Amelia Island. The museum itself is in the old county jail! There are interactive exhibits and it’s a great place to learn all about the history of Amelia Island, from pirates to Civil War battles. It also showcases pieces by local artists.
Amelia Island lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Florida. It is small but still beautiful. There is limited parking and also limited hours of operation, so we didn’t make it on this trip but would love to visit on a return trip!
Fernandina Beach Pinball Museum is definitely a hidden gem! For $10/hour, you will get unlimited play of several pinball machines.
Amelia Island Lighthouse – the lighthouse is located on Lighthouse Avenue in Fernandina Beach, Florida. The area surrounding the lighthouse is a small park with picnic tables and there are also restrooms. There is limited parking at the lighthouse but it is open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm (except for Thanksgiving Day) and you get
Amelia Island State Park allows horseback riding, which is actually the only Florida beach that allows you to do so. Amelia Island State Park also has 12 miles of trails that lead to three different areas.
Fort Clinch State Park is one of the most visited Florida state parks. Located on 1,400 acres and has hiking/biking trails, campgrounds, and secluded beaches. But more exciting, there is as a lot of history. There is even an old fort, which you can tour. It’s set up the same way it would have been back in the Civil War. There is a separate admission to the fort of $2.50 per person on top of the entrance fee ($6 for cars of 2-8 passengers, $4 for single occupant vehicles, and $2 for pedestrians).
Big Talbot Island State Park features unspoiled beaches, including Boneyard Beach which has picturesque driftwood trees along the shore. Big Talbot Island offers a vast array of wildlife and nature. Sharks teeth can be found on the beach while you are combing for shells or walking in the sand. In addition to several different hiking trails, kayaking is another popular activity here.
Amelia River Cruises have several different cruise options, so there’s a little something for everyone! They have sightseeing tours, eco tours, and sunset cruises. I really wish we’d had a chance to book a cruise with them, but unfortunately we ran out of time. I know we would have loved it!
Where to Eat and Restaurants in Amelia Island, Florida
I am actually going to divide this into where we ate and where we also wish we’d had time to eat! Since we were only there a couple of days, we didn’t get to try as many restaurants as I had on my list. We loved all of the meals we had and I’d recommend all of these places!
The Sandbar and Kitchen was a great find after deciding we didn’t want to wait for a table at Salt Life. We ate at The Sandbar Saturday night and we were kind of happy it worked out this way. We were able to snag an oceanfront table, which is nothing short of a miracle at 7 pm on a Saturday night. Even though we had an amazing ocean view, we would have also loved eating inside because there was live music.
The Boat House was a lunch stop for us. We had amazing cocktails and especially loved the seafood nachos (seriously, so good!) There was live music outside and their indoor seating had an upscale vibe.
DeNucci’s was an ice cream shop located right next door to our hotel, which made it very convenient for an evening treat. Maybe even a little too convenient!
Here are some additional restaurants I really wish we’d had time for:
Timoti’s Seafood Shak is known for amazing seafood. While it came highly recommended, we didn’t get a chance to try it ourselves. I was pretty bummed about that, but hopefully next time!
Sliders is located close to the beach. While we were unable to stop in, we noticed how fun this place looked as we were walking to the beach Saturday night. Their outdoor area was lit with string lights, there was even a playground for kids, and everyone was having fun. The vibes of this place seemed amazing and as we walked by, we really felt like we were missing out!
Salt Life was also recommended by many, but the wait was over an hour long when we tried to eat there. This must mean it’s a great place. It’s also understandable, as we tried to visit on a Saturday night. Instead of waiting, we found something else, but I’d love to come back and try out Self Life!
Espana is another place we were unable to make it to (why can’t there be more meals in a day?!) but it is a Spanish restaurant with paella, tapas, and good drinks.
Where to Drink in Amelia Island, Florida
The Decantery was a stop we couldn’t resist. While we tend to be beer people, the vibes and decor pulled us in. They have plenty of wine and offer wine flights, so everyone can find something they love.
The Palace Saloon is the oldest bar in Florida! Originally a haberdashery (clothing store) in 1878, it was transformed into a saloon in 1903. The Palace Saloon was the last Florida bar to close during Prohibition. We loved this historic feel of this saloon and I think you will, too!
The Alley by Amelia Island Beer Company had great vibes! We had actually wanted to go to The Tavern for dinner, but on the way, I spotted this place. It feels like you’re walking down an alley to enter (hence the name) and once we got inside we realized that the two are actually associated. It’s located right next to The Tavern but we never made it there because we loved the vibes of The Alley so much! The Alley is really laid back while the Tavern has more of a genuine restaurant feel (The Alley just serves appetizers).
First Love Brew Pub is a brewery with great beer. They also serve food if you’re hungry – their pizza is great!
Mocama Beer Company has some of the best aesthetics! Mocama is another brewery with great beer.
Resorts and Hotels in Amelia Island, Florida
We stayed at Home2Suites. It was a decent location – three (long) blocks to the beach and around 2.5 miles to the historic downtown district. We also appreciated that the hotel was dog friendly! Home2Suites was nice and we didn’t have any problems. However, if we were to visit again, I do think I’d stay somewhere else. With all of our beach stuff, we still had to drive to the beach. And when we wanted to visit downtown, we also needed to drive. Not a big deal, but there are hotels in both locations that would prevent needing to drive, which is preferable to us!
For a unique stay, check out the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn. It was built in 1862 as a schoolhouse and converted to an inn in 1998! The rooms are decorated with names of students who attended the school way back when.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort would be a great stay. It is farther from the historic downtown locations, but it is beachfront and a stunning property! I’d love to come back and stay here sometime. Because our trip was last minute, the rooms were around $750 per night the weekend we were there.
How long should I stay in Amelia Island Florida?
Our trip was brief (we were there from Saturday – Monday) and while we were able to see a lot, we also left without crossing a few things off our list that we would have loved to do. For us, 4 full days would really be ideal. But many go for 2 days and feel satisfied while others stay a full week and are content with that, too.
We hope that this article has given you a better idea of the best things to do in Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, Florida. From historic bars to Spanish restaurants, there is something for everyone here! Which one sounds like your perfect vacation? Let us know in the comments below! And if you enjoy video, you can watch our Amelia Island getaway YouTube video.