The possibilities for things to do on Amelia Island are endless. Amelia Island is actually a string of barrier islands near Jacksonville. Plan to spend most of your time outdoors lounging on the beach or hiking through one of the state parks.
There are also many indoor activities including museums, must-try restaurants, and local breweries and distilleries. Amelia Island is a great destination for the whole family or a solo trip. It’s also a popular spot for bachelorette parties and even weddings. The stunning beaches and colorful sunsets will make you want to come back every year.
Ready to plan your Amelia Island vacation? This complete guide will tell you all the best places to go as well as some restaurant and lodging recommendations.
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A Brief History of the Isle of 8 Flags
Amelia Island and its main city, Fernandina Beach, are known as the Isle of 8 Flags. Native Americans originally lived on the land until the early 18th century, when colonization started from several different countries.
Amelia Island is the only place in United States history that has been controlled by 8 different flags. The French were the first to rule the island until Spain took over in 1573. The founder of Georgia, from England, then took over the island from Spain in 1763. England ruled only for a short time and Spain eventually took the island back in 1783.
The Patriot Flag was then the first flag from American that was flown over the island when James Madison was president in 1812. Spain was able to reconquer it, though, and flew the Green Cross of Florida Flag.
The US then recaptured the island but only with the help of Mexican rebels. Then, in 1861, confederate sympathizers took the island and flew the confederate flag. Finally, in 1862, the flag was replaced by the official American flag we have today.
Amelia Island has such a confusing history with the capturing and recapturing from so many nations. This history is what makes Amelia Island so unique, though.
Fort Clinch State Park
If you want a day full of history combined with nature, Fort Clinch State Park is an amazing place to explore solo or take friends and family. When you first arrive in the state park, head to Fort Clinch to learn about Amelia Island’s contributions to the Civil War.
The fort has historical exhibits and art galleries inside. If you happen to be visiting on the first weekend of the month, check out the cannon fire demonstrations and battlefield fighting skill seminars.
There are several hiking trails throughout the park. Most are easy-to-moderate difficulty, so you can take young children. Or take one of the paved trails for an easy walk. Gopher tortoise sightings are common on all hiking trails.
After your tour and hike, you can also rent a surfboard or paddleboard and explore the canals. Feel free to fish from one of the many piers if you have a fishing license.
Fort Clinch State Park is located at 2601 Atlantic Ave, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, United States. They’re open from dusk until dawn. The entrance is $6 per vehicle.
Amelia Island Museum
Native American life on Amelia Island started over 4,000 years ago. The Amelia Island Museum starts at the very beginning from the Native American presence all the way through the many different fights for the island. You can take a guided tour to hear about the Spanish and French contributions to the island.
With all the different countries and cultures that helped to settle Amelia Island, there is a rich history and heritage. Amelia Island Museum is a great place to learn about how the past has shaped Amelia Island into what it is today.
The museum also offers nighttime ghost walking tours around the island to learn about the spooky side of Amelia Island. After your ghost tour, you can even go on a pub crawl with the museum staff. They also have daytime walking tours that are more kid-friendly.
Amelia Island Museum is located at 233 S 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, United States. They’re open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10. The walking tours and pub crawls are an additional charge.
Go Horse Riding
There are many companies to choose from when it comes to going horse riding around Amelia Island. Amelia Island Horseback Riding is top-rated with several different packages to choose from. Reservations are required, so make sure to book your day before or at the very beginning of your trip.
They offer daytime rides, sunset rides, and sunrise rides. The ride will take you through small sections of Fernandina Beach’s small town. You will also ride right along the water.
No experience is necessary. The guide will be there with you if you happen to be nervous around horses or have never ridden one before. Just be sure to share your experience level before you begin.
Amelia Island Horseback Riding is located in the Peter Point Beachfront Park. They’re open every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Remember reservations are required, and the meeting times might change depending on sunrise and sunset times. Prices start at $100 per hour.
Explore Downtown Fernandina Beach
A trip to Amelia Island isn’t complete with exploring downtown Fernandina Beach. It’s the main town on Amelia Island and has many of the top things to do and see. Spending a day lying on the beach or swimming in the warm blue water is also a great way to explore the island.
The downtown area is not very large, so you can easily explore it on foot. Make sure to pop into one or two of the boutiques. They’re all locally owned and have some interesting souvenirs to bring home.
Most of the restaurants are right on the harbor, so you get an excellent view of the water and amazing sunsets. Almost all the restaurants serve fresh seafood, including wild-caught shrimp.
Depending on the time of year you’re visiting, you might be downtown during an artwalk, a shrimp festival, or one of the many book festivals that happen throughout the year. For a full guide on what to do downtown and some maps of the year, check the official Amelia Island website.
Try Local Drinks at Marlin and Barrel Distillery
The Marlin and Barrel Distillery is one of the top places to visit on the island and is frequented by tourists and locals. The distillery focuses on handcrafted rum and vodka in many different flavors. All the liquor specialties are handcrafted, distilled, and bottled by hand right on-site.
All the ingredients are sourced locally and are some of the highest quality you can get. In fact, some of the top reviewers say the spirits are so pure, they don’t experience hangovers after sipping them straight or mixing them in with a cocktail.
The distillery offers tours where you can see exactly how the spirits are made and concocted. They also do free sampling. If you’re interested in making mixed drinks, you can ask any of the staff for advice on recipes. All the staff is extremely knowledgeable about the spirits and the flavor profiles.
Marlin and Barrel Distillery is located at 232 S 8th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, United States. They’re closed on Tuesdays. On weekdays, they’re open from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On weekends, they’re open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sampling is free and of course, you must be 21 years of age.
How to Get to Amelia Island
Since Amelia Island is off the coast of northeast Florida, they don’t have a large airport. The airport on the island is mainly used for private charters. If you’re flying, book your ticket into Jacksonville International Airport (JAX). It’s the largest major airport nearby.
You can then rent a car and drive the 33 miles to Amelia Island. Take I-95 to exit 373. Merge onto A1A and then drive the scenic water bridge to the island. If you prefer the ferry, you can book a ticket for the Mayport Ferry that goes over the St. Johns River. Have an Uber drop you off at the ferry station, or you can take your rental car on the ferry.
How to Get Around Amelia Island
Amelia Island is not very big, so getting around is easy. You can always keep your rental car from the airport and drive around the island. Uber and Lyft are also readily available. There are shuttles that run to and from the airport if you don’t feel like renting your own car.
On the island, there are plenty of places to rent bicycles and scooters. Some companies also offer horse riding as transportation, where you can ride around the island solo or with a guide.
If you’d rather a guided tour, you have plenty of options. This road tour might just do the trick! Or, if you’d like to check things out from the water, you can go on this kayak tour. Or, check out this interesting boat tour, described as a “go-kart on water.”
When to Visit Amelia Island
The best time to visit Amelia Island is the fall season. The temperatures have started to cool down, but it’s still warm enough to spend time at the beach and go for a dip in the ocean.
In the fall, the summer crowds are also gone. It’s easier to make a reservation at local hotels and there are shorter wait times at the island’s best restaurants.
The fall also has tons of oyster festivals and jazz concerts. For fantastic weather, you can also visit in the spring. The summer crowds will start to appear in May, though, causing a spike in hotel room prices.
Where to Stay in Amelia Island
Budget: Amelia Hotel at the Beach is a great budget accommodation choice. It’s only 2 miles from Fort Clinch State Park and within a 5-minute walking distance to local restaurants and bars. The rooms are casually decorated, featuring wet bars, flat-screen TVs, and large comfortable beds. Enjoy the hot tub and jacuzzi, and make sure to take advantage of the free hot breakfast.
Mid-range: Amelia Island Williams House is set in a 19th-century mansion only two miles from the Fort Clinch State Park and the Main Beach Park along the Atlantic Ocean. All the rooms are individually decorated and have fireplaces and hot tubs. The free breakfast is two courses, and they have free bike rentals.
Luxury: The Ritz Carlton Spa, Amelia Island is the top place to stay for pampering. The indoor and outdoor spa allow you to get massages, body wraps, and facials no matter the weather or season you’re visiting. It’s only six miles from the Amelia Island Museum and the Amelia Island State Park. Enjoy the free breakfast, lounge, and tennis courts in your spare time.
Where to Eat in Amelia Island
Down Under Restaurant has been around since 1982 and is a local and tourist favorite. Most of the menu is seafood-based, but there are some other options as well. Try the oyster Rockefeller or the fresh catch of the day sandwich. They also have an excellent ribeye and a huge cocktail menu.
Salt is a fine dining experience. Only plan to go here if you aren’t on a strict budget as it’s spendy but amazing. The food is incredible and worth the experience! The menu is seasonal with fresh ingredients, so it changes from time to time. No matter what, though, try the lamb loin or the snapper ceviche. For dessert, the cookie butter souffle is a must!
Ms. Carolyn’s Restaurant is a cheap place to grab some grub. It’s also one of the only places on the island that offers a non-seafood menu if seafood isn’t your thing. They’re also one of the top spots for brunch and breakfast. Make sure to try the made from scratch pancakes or the quiche.
All the Top Things to Do in Amelia Island are Waiting for You!
Amelia Island is easily one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Florida. You’ll be dreading leaving its crystal blue water, soft sand, and friendly atmosphere.
All of the top things to do in Amelia Island can be fit into a quick weekend trip. Or better yet, you can extend your stay and enjoy more of the island.
Have you ever visited Amelia Island? What is your go-to thing to do that you would recommend? Comment below and share with other readers.
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