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Amelia Island may be known for it’s pristine beaches but there’s a lot more to do when you’re done splashing around in the ocean! From kayaking and biking, to exploring the historic downtown area, there are no shortage of things to do in this popular vacation destination.
Thanks to Amelia Island for hosting our trip. All opinions are 100% my own.
When you live in Florida, there are no shortage of places to vacation! Of course, we’re always up for visiting new destinations and were excited to take a trip across the state to check out Amelia Island!
It’s reputation as a fun, family-friendly beach town makes Amelia Island a popular vacation destination and we couldn’t wait to see all that it had to offer!
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Where is Amelia Island
Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, you’ll find this barrier island about 40 minutes north of Jacksonville. It’s part of the Sea Islands chain in the Atlantic Ocean that runs from South Carolina to Florida.
Things To Do In Amelia Island
Hit the beach
The sunshine state is known for it’s beautiful beaches and not surprisingly, that’s one of the reasons people flock to Amelia Island! There’s nothing better than the feel of the soft quartz sand between your toes and with 13 miles of public beaches, there’s plenty of it.
In fact, the very first thing we did after checking into our hotel was to go for a walk along the beach!
Fernandina Beach has over 40 access points, making this public beach easy to get to from just about anywhere.
With so many miles of sand, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot to set up your beach umbrella.
Whether you want to relax with a book or build sand castles (or like my daughter, build sand sea turtles), there’s no better way to vacation!
Though you’ll find some of the best beaches, there are no shortage of other things to do while you’re here. Check out some of the other things that Amelia Island has to offer.
Kayak through Lofton Creek
One of our favorite outdoor activities is kayaking so we were really looking forward to kayaking through Lofton Creek with Amelia Adventures.
Will, our guide, was fantastic. He was personable and fun and really great with the kids. He was also super knowledgeable about the area, pointing out lots of interesting things along the way.
The river itself was very serene, making for an easy ride so we could just relax and enjoy the natural beauty all around us.
It was a fun adventure and a great way to kick off our trip. If you’re looking for more to do, Amelia Adventures also offers excursions such as sunset cruises, private charter boat tours and even tours to Cumberland Island, famous for their wild horses.
Take a bike ride
You can never go wrong with a leisurely bike ride. While kayaking is our favorite way to explore from the water, there’s no better way to explore on land than by bike.
We picked up our bikes from The Beach Store And More, conveniently located just off the beach. If your children aren’t old enough to bike on their own, trailers and tag-a-longs are also available.
There are plenty of biking trails in Amelia Island and the flat terrain makes for an easy ride. We chose to bike along Egans Creek Greenway but you can also bike to Fort Clinch, along the water or choose your own adventure.
Tip: While the ride though Egans Creek Greenway was beautiful, we made the mistake of going midday, when the sun was at its hottest. If you’re visiting in summer (we were there in August), I would suggest planning your ride for the morning.
If you want to cool off with some water activities afterwards, The Beach Store and More also rents out surfboards, bodyboards and paddle boards.
Explore Egans Creek Greenway
There are plenty of places to ride bikes but because Egans Creek Greenway was so highly recommended, we decided to check it out. Opened to the public in 2000, this protected area spans over 300 acres and is perfect for nature lovers.
The grass covered trails are perfect for walking or biking, with lots of vegetation and local wildlife along the way. You may see birds, rabbits, turtles and more. We spotted these little guys sunning themselves on a log.
If you look closely enough, you may even see a few alligators along the way.
Bring a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables, visit one of the wildlife viewing areas or take a stroll along the boardwalk. It’s a great way to see the beauty of Amelia Island up close and personal.
Get a history lesson at Fort Clinch State Park
You don’t have to be a history buff to have fun exploring the grounds of Fort Clinch. Surrounded by 1,400 acre park, this fort served as a strategic stronghold during the civil war.
Exploring all the different rooms of the fort gave us a glimpse at what life must have been like for the union soldiers.
The girls had a blast wandering through all the rooms and galleries and even pretended to cook a meal in the old stove.
If you visit over the first weekend of the month, you can experience the firing of the cannons and other battlefield drills.
If you have extra time, you can explore the area surrounding the fort. There are sand dunes, salt marshes and a maritime hammock and the area is also popular for fishing, camping, shelling and hunting for shark teeth.
Try a unique form of bowling
If you’ve never heard of Duck Pinz bowling, you’re not alone. I hadn’t either but we decided to try it out and had SO much fun! Similar to regular bowling, the main difference is that these balls are smaller and have no finger holes.
This form of bowling is both easier and more difficult than regular bowling. As far as rolling the ball, that part’s a whole lot easier. Because the ball is so much lighter than a standard bowling ball, it’s great for the kids.
However, since the ball is smaller, it’s much harder to get a strike. That’s why everyone gets three turns instead of two, to balance it out. Other than that, the game is the same and great for all skill levels.
We went in the afternoon and there were other families there. However, there’s a bar and an upstairs lounge area that makes it perfect for when the grownups want a night out.
Duck Pinz is kid friendly until 8pm, but after that you have to be 21+ to enter.
Check out a fun bookstore
My kids already love going to bookstores but we found a new favorite in Story And Song Bookstore. Before we even entered, we discovered a wall with pretty angel wings and of course we had to stop for a picture!
The bookstore was very cute and filled with lots of fun decor.
Like any local bookstore, there were a wide variety of books to choose from and the children’s area was bright and colorful. My youngest made herself right at home!
They also hold a lot of special events. You’ll find everything from storytelling (for both kids and adults), TED talks, concerts and lots more. You can check the schedule on their website to see what’s coming up.
The Bistro offers simple breakfast items, sandwiches and desserts. In addition to drinks like specialty coffees and tea, they also serve beer and wine (perfect for when you come to one of the concerts). We ordered sandwiches and enjoyed our meal in the charming courtyard out front.
Its a really cute bookstore and the staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming. It’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day.
Play a round of miniature golf
Every good beach vacation involves at least one afternoon of mini-golf, right? You’ve got several different courses to choose from in Amelia Island.
Putt Putt Fun Center, located along Fernandina Beach, is basic mini golf but you have a a beach view.
Island Falls Golf is a short drive from the beach but features waterfalls, tunnels, bridges and fun music.
Other choices are Heron’s Cove Adventure Golf at the Omni Hotel and Gregor MacGregor’s Links And Drinks in the downtown area.
Wander through historic downtown Fernandina Beach
If you want to take a fun break from the beach, spend a couple of hours wandering through the quaint downtown area.
You’ll find a variety of boutiques, a bookstore, a Christmas shop and plenty of places to pick up must-have souvenirs or gifts.
My youngest decided that her favorite shop was the one that was a combination ice cream shop and toy store! I mean, that is a pretty good combination! We had a little fun goofing off in this one.
When you’re done shopping, stop and get a snack at one of the coffee shops, dine at one of several restaurants in the area or treat yourself to something sweet.
If you like historic buildings, take a peek inside the Palace Saloon. Originally built in 1878 as a clothing store, it was bought in 1903 and the clothing was replaced with booze instead. It’s been that way ever since and it’s now known as Florida’s Oldest Bar.
More Things To Do
While this was all we could squeeze into the few days we were there, there is still more to do! If you have time, here are some other things you may want to check out…
- Amelia Island Museum Of History
- Maritime Museum of Amelia Island
- Amelia Island State Park
- Horseback Riding
- Sunset Tours
- Guided Tours
- Amelia Island Lighthouse
- George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier
Where to eat in Amelia Island
Salt Life Food Shack
Having had an amazing meal at Salt Life in St. Augustine on a previous vacation, we couldn’t wait to visit this location. With views overlooking the ocean and a reputation for great food, we knew we were in for a delicious meal.
They offer both indoor and outdoor seating but the best views are upstairs on the balcony. There’s nothing better than dining with an ocean view!
We started with a couple of cocktails (we were on a beach trip after all) and appetizers.
We went for the Shrimp & Chorizo Nachos but had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! This appetizer was huge and we probably could’ve made a meal from this alone. The ingredients were layered so that even the chips underneath were covered with shrimp and chorizo toppings. It was absolutely delicious and we couldn’t stop eating it!
Because I eat avocados every chance I get, I had to give the Avocado Fries a try too. I’d never tried them before but if you like avocados, you’re going to love these. Even though we completely overdid it on the appetizers, it was totally worth it!
For our entrees, we tried a little bit of everything. I went for the Shrimp Brochette, with bacon wrapped shrimp and pineapple glazed with teriyaki sauce.
My husband was all about the Beach Boil, made up of shrimp, snow crab legs, sausage, corn, onions and potatoes.
The girls ordered sushi…
and Poke Tuna Tacos. Typically these are drizzled with an avocado sauce and wasabi cream but my daughter ordered it without (I know…what was she thinking?!).
Every single thing we ordered tasted amazing! Salt Life really knows how to do seafood and I only wish they had a location near us (though I’d probably go broke)!
If you can only visit one restaurant while in Amelia Island, I highly recommend this one. Between the ocean views, the service and the food, it was by far our favorite!
If you’re looking for another casual place on the water, you may want to give Down Under a try.
Complete with Tiki Bar, it’s a great place to visit if you want to have drinks while you watch the sunset.
We started with the sesame seared ahi tuna and calamari.
For our entrees, the girls ordered the Down Under Shrimp Tacos…
and blackened shrimp.
My husband tried the Fried Seafood Platter…
while I went for the Cast Iron Seared Scallops.
Of all the entrees, I’d recommend the shrimp tacos. We love to share and everyone agreed that these were the tastiest.
Afterwards we ordered a couple of drinks and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere. We’d heard that you can sometimes spot alligators, manatees, dolphins and more so we kept our eyes open. We didn’t see any this time but you just never know…
Brett’s Waterway Cafe
We stumbled upon Brett’s Waterway Cafe when we were exploring the downtown area. Overlooking the marina, we thought it would be a fun place to stop in for a light snack.
We loved the view and had fun watching the boats come in and out.
There were plenty of great things to choose from on the menu but we weren’t super hungry. We just wanted something small and decided on the peel & eat shrimp.
They were a good size with just the right amount of seasoning. They were so good that we almost ordered another serving (but didn’t want to spoil our dinner).
It was a fun little restaurant with great service and we’ll definitely try it out for dinner next time.
Located right on the beach, Sliders is a lively restaurant with plenty of coastal vibes. As soon as I heard the live music and saw people dancing in the aisles, I knew we were in for a good time!
It’s also very child friendly. I remember when my children were younger, one of the biggest challenges of taking them out to eat was keeping them entertained. Sliders solves that problem with a pirate themed playground adjacent to the dining area.
We ordered a little bit of everything, from a cheeseburger to the catch of the day BLT.
The kids ordered the crabcakes…
and fried chicken potstickers.
Everything we ordered was delicious and on top of that, we had fantastic service. Afterwards we sat outside and listened to the band for a bit before heading out. It was a great night and Sliders is definitely going back on our to-do list next time we’re in town.
DeNucci’s Ice Cream Shop
What’s the best way to cool off when the hot Florida sun is beating down? One of our favorite things to do is treat ourselves to ice cream and DeNucci’s is the perfect place to do it!
They have everything you’d expect, from cones, shakes and sundaes to smoothies and even a soft serve frappe. A popular spot among the locals, this family owned shop is the best place in town to cool off!
Where to stay
You’ll need somewhere to stay when you’re visiting and we really enjoyed our stay at SpringHill Suites by Marriott. One of the best things about this newly built hotel is that it’s just a short walk to Main Beach park, restaurants, a convenience store (perfect if you want snacks and water for the room) and more.
Our room was spacious, with plenty of room for our family of four to move around. My kids loved the sitting area…
and I was a big fan of the large desk, where I could spread everything out and work at night.
The view from our room was pretty amazing too!
Another bonus is that breakfast here is included. When you’re a family of four traveling for multiple days, meals can add up and this is a great way to save money.
There were plenty of options too, from cold cereals to eggs and bacon. They also had yogurt, bagels, muffins, fruit and more. There was a clear favorite though…my girls were all about the make-your-own waffles!
The hotel also has a fitness center, coffee shop, event spaces and a full service restaurant. Of course, you’ll want to check out the pool area too.
If you get hungry while relaxing poolside, Tides Pool Bar And Grill offers food and drinks poolside.
This hotel really has a lot going for it, from the fact that it’s brand new, in a great location and reasonably priced. It’s the perfect place to stay for a family vacation.
Overall, we had an amazing time in Amelia Island! It’s such a beautiful town and there was plenty to keep us entertained. It’s the perfect vacation destination for the whole family.
Have you been to Amelia Island? What was your favorite thing to do there?