Amelia Island Travel Guide (from a Local)

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In our Amelia Island Travel Guide we are going to cover how to get here, where to stay, what to do but most of all where to eat.  There are lots more places but these are the ones that we frequent the most and feel like have the best food, service, atmosphere, and value.

Some of the places to stay and things to do contain affiliate links.  If you use those when booking, we receive a small commission that helps us bring you guides like these plus the blog and the podcast.  We highly recommend using Booking.com mostly because of their cancellation policy and price matching and it is the platform we use when booking most of our travel stays. Read our Disclosure here

To listen to our podcast episode on Amelia Island click here

But first, how did Amelia Island become home...

How we ended up moving to Amelia Island

We fell in love with Amelia Island the first time we visited (literally within a couple of hours of seeing it in the daylight) and within a few short weeks we had actually moved here full time.  We wanted to be near our grandkids, live near the beach, Scott can work remotely, and it's close to an airport, plus it is in Florida (no state income tax) so we were sold.  

We also really loved that the beaches are public and that there's access points every 1/4 of a mile with mostly houses lining the beachfront. There are very few hotels, condos, or restaurants along the beach so its quiet and relaxing.  Dogs are welcome on the beach as long as you clean up after them so our pups quickly adjusted to their beach walks (not to mention the beach ranger comes by with dog treats and the dogs spot him a mile away). However, when we went into downtown Fernandina Beach with our friends for brunch, we new this was home.  We were living in a historic downtown area in Georgia and downtown Fernandina Beach, lined with shops, restaurants, and ice cream parlors was a dream. 

I recently ran across an article in a current magazine publication that pointed out Amelia Island (and a few other small towns) as summer beach destinations however the one restaurant they mentioned has since closed and they recommended the Lighthouse which is great to see and historical but only open for a few hours on Saturdays and even then just to see from the outside.  We wanted to provide a guide that would provide you with so much more information when planning to visit our hidden gem of an Island. 

How to Get to Amelia Island 

Fly into Jacksonville International Airport or drive if you are within 5-6 hours driving distance, it will probably be faster and easier to drive. 

You will probably want to rent a car, not only to get onto the island from the airport but to get to the beach and to downtown and so you can explore the state parks on the island.  Sometimes it is difficult to get an Uber to drop you off on the island (Scott has had several times that the Uber has picked up his ride and then dropped it). 

Where to Stay on Amelia Island

Amelia Seaside Inn 

Rent a house or condo, stay in a bed and breakfast, a local hotel, or a chain hotel. 

See ALL options here

Staying Near the Beach North End of the Island

This is where we stayed when we first came to Amelia Island. Both of these hotels are in the same complex and are connected.  We had also looked at areas around Jacksonville and so were using some points to stay at Marriott hotels this particular weekend in May.  We had planned to stay just one night and so booked a room at the Courtyard side the first night.  Breakfast is not included or available if you book a Courtyard room but they are both a block inland from the beach so it is a quick walk.  We took up the whole day exploring the island so were able to and decided to stay over a 2nd night so we could meet a realtor at a property the next day so we booked a last minute Springhill Suites room the next night and so breakfast was included the next day. This is a newer property with a few rooms facing the ocean. 

Staying On the Beach - on the North End of the Island

If you are looking to stay on the beach but also fairly close to downtown, we would recommend these two properties. There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance, Salt Life and Sandbar but you'll need transportation to get downtown from here. 

Staying Near Downtown Fernandina Beach

If you prefer to stay in town with walking distance access to shopping and restaurants (and some nightlife) consider one of these properties. 

  • Hampton Inn and Suites has a view from one side of the marina so if you could score one of these rooms, the sunset would be amazing. Here you are in the heart of everything.  If you are looking to visit during a festival or holiday, book far in advance. 

Staying in Inns and Bed and Breakfast Near Downtown Fernandina Beach

The Florida House Inn is home to the Mermaid Bar and Leddy's Porch

Staying on the South End of the Island 

If you stay here you may not need to leave the property as both have restaurants and shopping but we think you’ll want to explore more of the island. You'll have resort pools here and direct access to the beach.

The Ritz Carton Amelia also offers lots of special events throughout the year such as a Pirate Gingerbread house, Breakfast with Santa, special brunches, dinners and more.  This is the best place to find their events. 

Camping on Amelia Island

  • Camping at Ft Clinch is on the beach but it books up 12 months in advance so plan ahead

What to do on Amelia Island 

Enjoy the Beach- there is public beach access every ¼ mile along A1A and the beach is dog friendly (just bring along poop bags). Sea Shells are abundant here as well as Shark Teeth so happy hunting!

The Beach between Sadler and Main Beach

The Beaches We Enjoy the Most

If you aren’t in a beach front hotel or condo and can’t walk to the beach from where you are staying here’s what we recommend.

  1. We prefer the beach on A1A/South Fletcher Ave between Jasmine and Main Beach because there is parking on the beach side of the road every ¼ mile.  
  2. There’s only a few spots at each location so if that’s full our next go to spot is North of Main Beach.  Put Ocean Avenue in your GPS and it will take to you a one way sand road that you can park along and use one of the boardwalk access points to get to the beach.
  3. The next place to try is South of Sadler Road (where Slider’s is) on A1A/South Fletcher Ave. Go about a mile and then there’s beach parking on the beach side again.  The beach is wider so there’s usually boardwalks but you can park on the beach side of the street here.

Golf

Fernandina Beach Golf Club is a public course and Amelia River Club can be played as a guest and if you are staying at the Omni or Ritz Carlton you will have access to their courses.  There are also courses off the island and near Jacksonville. 

Putt-Putt 

Sip and Putt at McGregor's in downtown Fernandina Beach 

Can you take a beach trip and not play a putt-putt course? You can find three distinctly different places to play. McGregors is downtown Fernandina beach and is a basic putt putt course but offers cocktails course side, Putt Putt Fun Center is at Main Beach and is also a basic course but one used for tournaments and offers cold drinks and Island- Falls Adventure Golf on Sadler Road is a hillside course with obstacles and water that also has snacks and drinks for purchase.  

State Parks on Amelia Island

You can explore Florida's wild natural beauty in our State Parks

Ft Clinch State Park - Famous for Shark tooth hunting, the fort, hiking trails, the beach, and biking

Amelia Island State Park - you can drive onto the beach here with a four wheel drive vehicle

Festivals on Amelia Island

Amelia Island is known for its parades, fireworks and festivals.  See the events calendar here and plan ahead for accommodations.  

Our favorites have been 

Dickens on Centre during the 1st week of December to kick off the holiday season.

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival the first weekend in May 

and Every Saturday Year Round from 9am-1pm we have a Market Day.

 Other Activities on Amelia Island

Playgrounds on Amelia Island

If you have kids, take advantage of getting some of their energy out at one of the fun playgrounds. All of these have bathrooms but bring along water and snacks. 

  • Pirate Playground on A1A at one end of the Greenway
  • Playground at Main Beach - this had a cover during the summer 
  • Playground at Central Park has been recently refurbished and has some great playground amenities

Shopping on Amelia Island

Driftwood Surf Shop near Main Beach 

Local Surf Shops that you definitely want to visit for all your beachwear, shoes, and sunscreen as well as boards.

  • Driftwood Surf Shop 
  • Amelia Surf Co

Downtown Shopping includes your tacky touristy kitsch souvenir shops, tee shirt shops, ladies wear, home goods, menswear, gifts and more! It makes for a nice stroll if there's a little rain or it's too hot or you need a break from the beach.  Grab a meal or a dessert and stroll the shops.

Where to Eat on Amelia Island 

Get a printable version of this guide here so you'll have the list of restaurants to take with you.

For Brunch and Dinner we would recommend trying to make a reservation

There are lots more restaurants on the island and you can’t possibly try them all in one trip but this is a list of the ones we have tried that we would recommend the most.  Check opening days and times online or call and get reservations if you can.

Breweries & Distillery

  • Marlin & Barrel Distillery - Free Tastings - Tell Shannon Scott & Melissa sent you 
  • Mocoma
  • First Love Brewing
  • Amelia Island Brewers

Live Music & Night Life

Florida's Oldest Bar - The Palace Saloon

  • Green Turtle
  • The Palace Saloon - The Oldest Bar in Florida -Stop by and have your picture made with the pirate and grab a famous pirate punch complete with a souvenir cup
  • Mermaid Bar inside The Florida House Inn
  • The Principals Office Bar inside the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn

The Famous Green Turtle 

Wine and Cocktail Bar 

  • The Decantery 

Beach Front Bars (these are also Restaurants)

  • The Sandbar - right at Main Beach 
  • Sliders - at Sadler Road (there's also a playground here) and they have live music 7 nights a week.  Upstairs they have breakfast everyday except Tuesday and they open early for the Sunrise.

Sliders at Sadler Road 

Coffee

  • Mocoma Coffee 
  • Downtown Coffee Shop
  • 1928 Cuban Cafe - Great coffee, breakfast, sandwiches - open for breakfast and lunch
  • Starbucks 

1928 on 8th Street near downtown Fernandina Beach

Breakfast & Brunch 

  • Aloha Bagel 
  • Garden Street Bistro - small cafe so make a reservation 
  • The Patio at 5th and Ash
  • Tortuga Jacks at Sliders 
  • Leddy’s Porch
  • Go Juice - Smoothies, Frozen Coffee Beverages, Acai and Dragon Bowls

Go Juice on Sadler at Amelia Surf Co 

Lunch

Salt Life Near Main Beach

  • Salt Life - we love the Sear Ahi Tuna Salad and their specialty cocktails
  • La Serena - authentic mexican cuisine
  • 4th Street Deli - Sandwiches and Authentic Deli Salads (only open for lunch)
  • Tasty’s Burgers
  • T-Ray’s (known for their burgers, breakfast) - there’s usually a line
  • The Salty Pelican
  • The Sandbar
  • Sliders
  • Pepper’s Mexican
  • Pablos - moving to a new location
  • Grab a Deli Sandwich at Publix 

Tasty's Burgers on the corner of 8th and Centre Street 

Dinner

Espana in Downtown Fernandina Beach

  • The Patio at 5th & Ash - this is one of our favorite spots for outdoor dining and live music 
  • Ciao 
  • Espana - Spanish Tapas - definitely make reservations 
  • The Boathouse
  • The Wicked Bao - Asian comfort food such as Taiwanese buns, ramen, and fried rice - you'll likely meet the owner Nathalie so tell her hello for us
  • Sushi Akari - they close at 8 so get there before 7:30
  • Cafe Karibo
  • Pablos - upscale Mexican and Mezcal Drinks - new location on Centre Street 

The Wicked Bao on N 2nd Street 

Pizza

Arte in Downtown Fernandina Beach 

  • V’s Pizza
  • Arte 
  • First Love Brewing
  • Townies - they have a pizza garden outside the restaurant - New York Style Pizza - they serve slices for lunch

 Seafood  

  • Cedar River Seafood
  • Down Under 
  • Shucker’s 
  • Atlantic Seafood Market -If you have a kitchen go to and pick up seafood to cook
  • Publix also carries the Mayport Shrimp

 Off the island South on A1A 

  • Safe Harbor Seafood - you’ll need to take the ferry across the river and it is closed on Monday
  • Palm’s Fish Camp 
  • The Sand Dollar 

Dessert & Ice Cream

Whatanut in Downtown Fernandina Beach

 In Downtown Fernandina

  • Whatanut - handmade Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches - choose your cookie and ice cream flavor - they also have cones and lots of gifts to take home
  • Fantastic Fudge - Handmade Fudge & Yoder’s Ice Cream
  • Nana Teresa’s Bake Shop 

Fantastic Fudge in Downtown Fernandina Beach

On Sadler Road Mid Island

  • DeNucci’s on Sadler  - try the Hot Brownie Sundae but they also have Dole Whip 

Groceries

On the North End

  • Walmart 
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Publix
  • Nassau Health Foods - like a small whole foods or Sprouts

 On the South End

  • Harris-Teeter  - don't forget you can use your Kroger card for discounts and at the gas station here

Other shopping

Don’t miss our local Ace Hardware - beach essentials, clothing, a huge Yeti selection, flip flops and sunglasses 

Packing List for Amelia Island

  • Bathing Suit 
  • Cover Up/Rash Guard
  • Lightweight Tropical clothing - shorts, tank top, flip flops
  • Sundresses and Chino Shorts/Polo or Button up for Dinner 
  • Beach Chairs, coolers, beach shade, sand toys, shell bags (we have lots of shells in addition to the shark teeth)
  • Books and kindles
  • Golf clubs
  • Tennis Racket for Pickleball

Let us know if you have been to Amelia Island or are planning a trip!  Also if you find anything here to be incorrect or outdated, please let us know and we will update it. 


 

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About Us...

 

Hi! We're Scott and Melissa

The Sunshine Travelers

 

We are a couple of travel obsessed explorers sharing our travel experiences and stories to inspire you to travel more and better. We are so happy to have you here.

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