Amelia Island- One of the Top 10 Islands in the U.S.
By Dave Finn
Amelia Island, located in the northeastern Florida, is a 13-mile long naturalist wonderland. Anchored by park reserves at each end, the city is bordered by the expansive white quartz sand beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as mounded sand dunes that protect the fauna and wildlife. On your strolls you may encounter nesting loggerhead or green turtles, egrets, herons, whitetail deer and bobcats. Small in size but big on stature, it’s no wonder Amelia Island was voted one of the “Top 25 Islands in the World” by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2013 and for eight consecutive years has been awarded a spot in the “Top 10 Islands in the United States”.
My most memorable moment was standing on the dock at the Harbour Marina gazing across the Amelia River which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. As I waited for what the locals declare is “Florida’s First Sunset”, I realized how apropos the inscription above featured on a plaque in our condo truly was. “Golfing on Amelia Island is the best. We love to visit when we need a rest”. When I paused to watch the sun’s slow descent, I was truly at rest. Not an easy feat in our wired world!
Fernandina Beachis a vibrant Victorian seaport village that forms the hub of Amelia Island. Boasting a 50+plus block historical district comprised of century old mansions, cottages, boutiques and interesting shops, you’ll feel like you have taken a step back in time as you explore the area. If you find lighthouses as intriguing as I do, check out the Amelia Island Lighthouse, reportedly the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in Florida. Looking for more action? This is also the place to test your angling skills with world-class fishing. Feeling a little parched? Looking for a bit more history? Let me suggest that you swing into the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar. But whatever else you do, make sure you arrange your day so you can enjoy a fabulous sunset on the patio at Brett’s Waterway Café.
There a number of vacation property options to choose from including charming B&Bs, inns, motels and hotels, condominiums and private home rentals, in addition to three world-class resorts. We stayed at the Summer Beach Resort which offers a variety of full equipped oceanfront condos, villas and townhouses with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Great for anyone who prefers a home away from home!
With 117 holes in total on the island, you’ll have plenty of variety if you choose Amelia Island as your next vacation destination. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers three 18-hole championship courses including Pete Dye’s Oak Marsh, Bobby Weed’s Ocean Links and Tom Fazio’s Long Point. Mark McCumber and Gene Littler collaborated on the 18 hole design at the Golf Club of Amelia Island and there’s 27 holes at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club as well as another 18 holes at the Tom Jackson’s Amelia River.
While Amelia Island boasts many fabulous restaurants, one of my personal favorites was Espana Restaurant & Tapas, though making a decision on what to eat was definitely a challenge with more than 17 hot and cold tapas, an amazing array of salads and numerous tempting entrees on the menu.
For lunch, I’d recommend the blackened grouper sandwich at the Marsh View Bar and Grill at the 19th hole at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. It was simply the freshest and best tasting fish sandwich I’ve ever had.
If you’re driving south along I-95 take A1A East right after you cross the Georgia state line and not far from the Georgia state line. You can also fly into Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) from a number of major US Cities and drive an easy 30 minutes northeast to reach this seaside retreat.
To find out more about Amelia Island visit http://www.ameliaisland.com/ or http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/fernandina-beach.html. For Stay & Play Golf Packages starting at $125USD per person per night visit Florida’s First Coast of Golf at http://www.florida-golf.org/
Dave Finn is a golf travel writer and photographers from Canada. You can read more about his adventures at www.golftravelandleisure.com