Best Things To Do In Amelia Island, Florida

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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.

Collage of things to do in Amelia Island

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!

Where is Amelia Island

Amelia Island on map

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!

Family on Fernandina 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.

View of Fernandina Beach

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!

Child building turtle in the sand

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.

Raising paddles in the air while paddling

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.

Father and daughter kayaking on river

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.

Family on bicycles

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.

Family biking on nature trail

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.

Biking through Egans Greenway

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.

Turtles on a log

If you look closely enough, you may even see a few alligators along the way.

Alligator in a pond

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.

Historic Fort Clinch

Exploring all the different rooms of the fort gave us a glimpse at what life must have been like for the union soldiers.

Fort Clinch soldier barracks

The girls had a blast wandering through all the rooms and galleries and even pretended to cook a meal in the old stove.

Child pretending to bake in historic kitchen

If you visit over the first weekend of the month, you can experience the firing of the cannons and other battlefield drills.

Cannons at historic fort

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.

Holding a small ball for duck pins bowling

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.

Child bowling at Duck Pinz

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.

Bar at Duck Pinz in Amelia Island

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!

Angel wings at Story & Song

The bookstore was very cute and filled with lots of fun decor.

Inside of Story & Song bookstore

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!

Child reading a book

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.

Bagel sandwich at Story & Song

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.

Mini golf on the beach

Island Falls Golf is a short drive from the beach but features waterfalls, tunnels, bridges and fun music.

Island Falls golf center

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.

Downtown Amelia Island

You’ll find a variety of boutiques, a bookstore, a Christmas shop and plenty of places to pick up must-have souvenirs or gifts.

Shop in Amelia Island

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.

Driving a yellow car

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.

Ice cream shop in Amelia Island

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.

The Palace Saloon bar in Amelia Island

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.

Salt Life Restaurant in Amelia Island

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!

Family dining by the ocean

We started with a couple of cocktails (we were on a beach trip after all) and appetizers.

Large plate of nachos

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!

Fried avocados on white plate

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.

Chicken Kabobs at Salt Life

My husband was all about the Beach Boil, made up of shrimp, snow crab legs, sausage, corn, onions and potatoes.

Seafood Platter at Salt Life

The girls ordered sushi…

Sushi on white plate

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?!).

Tuna tacos with chips on white plate

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!

Down Under

If you’re looking for another casual place on the water, you may want to give Down Under a try.

Down Under restaurant on the water

Complete with Tiki Bar, it’s a great place to visit if you want to have drinks while you watch the sunset.

Tiki Bar at sunset

We started with the sesame seared ahi tuna and calamari.

Tuna and calamari appetizers

For our entrees, the girls ordered the Down Under Shrimp Tacos…

and blackened shrimp.

Blackened shrimp with french fries

My husband tried the Fried Seafood Platter…

Fried seafood platter with slaw

while I went for the Cast Iron Seared Scallops.

Seared scallops

Of all the entrees, I’d recommend the shrimp tacos. We love to share and everyone agreed that these were the tastiest.

View from Down Under restaurant

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.

Brett's Waterway Cafe in Amelia Island

We loved the view and had fun watching the boats come in and out.

Cocktail with harbor in background

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.

Bowl of peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce

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.

Sliders

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!

Patio at Sliders restaurant

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.

Pirate themed playground overlooking beach

We ordered a little bit of everything, from a cheeseburger to the catch of the day BLT.

Fish BLT at Sliders Restaurant

The kids ordered the crabcakes…

Crabcakes with french fries

and fried chicken potstickers.

Fried chicken potstickers from Sliders restaurant

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.

Outside Springhill Suites hotel

Our room was spacious, with plenty of room for our family of four to move around. My kids loved the sitting area…

Couch area in hotel room

and I was a big fan of the large desk, where I could spread everything out and work at night.

Large desk in hotel room

The view from our room was pretty amazing too!

View from hotel room windwo

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.

Breakfast buffet with fruit and bagels

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!

Fresh waffles in wafflemaker

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.

Springhill Suites pool area

If you get hungry while relaxing poolside, Tides Pool Bar And Grill offers food and drinks poolside.

Tides Pool Bar & Grill in Amelia Island

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?

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