Our plans for the Summer did not initially include a beach vacation. In fact we were thinking of a few fun staycation ideas around Colorado instead. When an opportunity presented itself to be seen by a well known physical therapist, specializing in Spina Bifida and innovative treatments, we jumped on it. She is located in a town called Fernandina Beach, a city on Amelia Island, Florida. I will be sure to share more about the treatment plan we have begun and the awesome results we are seeing. For now, I need to share about the vacation itself because we absolutely loved this spot!
Amelia Island seemed to us like the best kept secret in Florida – a real hidden gem. There were so many nice restaurants and thing to do, amazing places to stay, history, and stunning beaches. It had a small town feel and everyone was incredibly friendly. By walking the streets, you can tell that many residents are renovating their houses and VRBO’s, which made us feel that Amelia Island will only get better in time.
Getting to Amelia Island
Amelia Island is not the easiest spot to visit from Colorado. The closest airport is Jacksonville and if you are a regular Southwest flyer like us, there are no direct flights. Since we were unwilling to take on a layover with three small children, we started looking into other airlines. This is when we discovered that on certain days, at certain airports, Frontier has an insane deal allowing children of any age to fly free with their Discount DEN membership. We adjusted our trip to take advantage of this deal which allowed us to fly direct into Jacksonville and save a good amount of money. From the airport, Amelia Island is about 40 minutes by car.
Where to Stay on Amelia Island
There are many different options for places to stay on Amelia Island. If hotels are your preference, there are luxury options such as the Ritz Carlton, mid range hotels like the Omni, and Inns or Bed and Breakfast options. For us, a VRBO is always the easiest choice so that we have enough bedrooms and a kitchen. There are plenty of rental options all over the island and many are walking distance to the beach. From what we could tell, there really isn’t any advantage to staying on one part of the island or the other. Each area along the Atlantic ocean side pretty much had beach access, restaurants, and anything else you could need!
Restaurants We Loved
Traveling with three young kids (read picky eaters) means we did not get to eat at any especially gourmet restaurants. There were certainly nicer restaurants that would have required reservations, but the places I’ve listed had short waits when we were there. Everywhere we tried was great and you can’t go wrong ordering fish, especially shrimp, at every single spot.
- Slider’s Seaside Grill – I read about this spot before we left and couldn’t wait to take the kids. Sit outside and let the kids play at the playground while you enjoy your cocktail! We liked it so much we went twice during our stay.
- Amelia Island Brewing Company – We always love trying the local breweries.
- Salty Pelican Bar and Grill – This restaurant was recommended on our river cruise and it was our favorite!
- Salt Life Food Shack – Connor and I snuck away for a date night here and it was super yummy!
- Amelia Island Coffee – Cutest coffee shop with delicious pastries and breakfast options.
- Moon River Pizza – Great for takeout and a night in.
Things to Do
The main draw of Amelia Island certainly was its beaches. They were fabulously clean with white sand, the water was calm, and there were a million shells everywhere. The locals also say you can find shark teeth in many areas. The beach access was unmatched, with over 40 access points along the coast and many accessible points with beach wheelchair rental. With so many beach access points, the beach never felt overly crowded because everyone could easily spread out. The kids were comfortable swimming in the ocean and we never felt super nervous letting them.
Outside of the beautiful beaches, Amelia Island is full of historical sites and super fun tours. We visited Fort Clinch State Park (a historic fort) in the middle of a rain storm and without a tour guide. It was very well set up and had many areas to explore, something our kids absolutely love to do. We also went on a sunset boat tour with Amelia River Cruises. The captain gave an excellent tour and let the kids drive the boat.
At one point during our week stay ,the kids needed a break from the beach. I know this sounds ridiculous, but they aren’t as used to the sand and spending the entire day in the sun. We headed to the Fernandina Beach Recreation Center and used the pool there. It was refreshing and has a splash area for younger kids. There is also a movie theater about 15 minutes away and two different mini golf spots in town. Pirate playground was so cute and the perfect early morning outing.
Historic downtown Fernandina had the best shopping and several delicious ice cream spots. You can get everything from souvenirs, books, Christmas ornaments, handmade dresses, and shark teeth here.
Let me know if you have any questions at all in the comments. Amelia Island was such a fun spot and we can’t wait to go back!