The trouble isn’t being able to plan a road trip in Florida, because that’s the easy part, but rather knowing what places to visit on your trip and just what to do there.
When we set out on our most recent trip to Florida, we decided that we were going to visit smaller towns versus the larger cities that we’ve always gravitated towards because hustle and bustle is our jam at times.
And you know what?
This trip turned out to be one of the best road trips we’ve done in a long time. We got to see parts of Florida that move at their own pace, places that made it really easy to get lost and stand still for a while without feeling that you’re missing out on the rest of the world.
How to get to Amelia Island
Here’s how we recommend planning the perfect Florida road trip:
By Air: We highly recommend flying into the Jacksonville international airport and start your trip in Amelia Island and fly out of Orlando if possible. This way you can leisurely make your way down along the eastern coast of Florida which is full of charming towns, stunning nature, and endless beaches.
If at all possible, plan your trip loosely allowing for some extra time. As you will discover, the laid back way of life of these coastal towns will infect you. It’s the only way to really enjoy the area. Trust me, we like to rush our days to fit in as much as possible. But, it’s nearly impossible to do in this region of the states.
We’re not even sure where to start with how much we loved Amelia Island. It’s such a lovely city.
It’s essentially the Hamptons meets St Augustine. The island has been under eight flags in the history of its existence (fun fact: the only place in the US). There’s history and a sense of community that envelopes you in a way that’s hard to describe. You’ll quickly learn that the people here are extremely friendly, and are extremely proud of their little piece of paradise that used to be a lumber town.
Is it any wonder that John Grisham lives here?
And it’s consistently in the top 10 of best islands in the US. With 13 miles of gold-sand beaches, state parks, and world-class hospitality, you understand why. It’s easy to lose yourself as well as track of time when you step onto the island.
Where to stay in Amelia Island
You can’t come to Amelia Island and not head to the Omni Resort. Yes, it’s on the other side of the island (a 20-minute drive), but it’s so worth it. It is a luxury that feels like home but with fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean. And with it being removed from the center of town, you can appreciate the untouched nature surrounding you.
And the Omni Resort’s property is expansive. There are 3.5 miles of beach to enjoy, marshlands to kayak, and even golf courses to tee up on. And you can spoil yourself at their spa or lounge at the pool. A stay there is a definite treat for yourself.
But if you’re looking for a more intimate and local feel, then we recommend the Addison as the second lodging option. This bed and breakfast is located within walking distance of downtown and is extremely inviting and quaint. You feel the unmistakable personal touch and hospitality from the amenities in the room to the delicious breakfast spread. And you can meet other guests at their evening happy hour with wine.
Where to eat in Amelia Island
Some of the best seafood we’ve had in a long time. We highly recommend starting here and getting the (Canadian) lobster roll and the hush puppies (although the fried shrimp basket is their most popular offering). While Timoti’s has been in Amelia Island for 7 years, you might also recognize the name because they have locations in Five Points and in Pointe Verde.
The Green Turtle Tavern
Looking for a more local vibe? This is where the locals like to hang. With its laid back atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to relax to close out a day. Their happy hour goes till 9 and then a band takes over so you’ll find the place filled with locals having a good time.
Specializing in flavors from Spain and Portugal, Espana serves wonderful food and great ambiance. If you’re looking for romantic things to do on Amelia Island, we recommend heading here for a date night. The atmosphere mixed with a glass (or two) of Sangria makes for the start of a perfect date.
If you’re looking for great food and a very laid back and chill vibe, you can’t miss the Salty Pelican. Primarily a seafood restaurant, they also have a nice selection of dishes for non-seafood eaters which makes it a great spot to visit with friends.
Florida House Inn
Florida’s oldest hotel and has great fried chicken, chicken waffle, great drinks. We liked the Spanish coffee because it has all the alcohol.
Located on the ocean side, this is where you will find more tourists than locals. That said, the food is still great, and it’s only a few steps away from the beach so its the perfect place to grab a drink after being in the sun all day.
Located right on the beach (and it’s the only restaurant on the island right on the beach) and across from Salt Life. This is where you go for great live music. And you can’t beat enjoying the stunning ocean views with a drink in your hand.
You wouldn’t expect the rich flavors of Asian street food to be found on Amelia Island, but Wicked BAO has just that. It even features tons of delicious vegan options. It’s a great place to head to for happy hour as they have delicious drinks and apps.
A few additional places that are on our list:
- Amelia Tavern
- KP’s sandwich shop
- Café Karibo
- Cantina Louis
Things to do in Amelia Island
For being only 13 miles long, it’s easy to think that you can pop over to Amelia Island for a quick day trip. Please don’t. We were taken aback by just how much there is to do on the island. Not to mention, we fell in love with the locals and the atmosphere so much so that we didn’t want to leave.
So, don’t underestimate all the things to do in Amelia Island, Florida. Here’s a sample of what you can look forward to enjoying.
1. The Palace Saloon
We highly recommend popping in here and grabbing a drink or two. It has such a cool vibe for being the oldest bar in Florida. Built in the 1800s, the building still has many of its original features like mosaic floors, tin ceiling, and gas lamps along the bar. You won’t be finding a place quite like it anytime soon!
2. Cocktail Crawl
Not only is it perfect for bridal parties, girl’s getaways etc, it’s also a great way to get to know the local bar/pub scene downtown. We recommend the Amelia Island Downtown Tasting Tour. Hitting four bars, you get to hear from the bartenders and get a first hand experience about the history of the area and the locals.
3. Go Antiquing
Yes, there are antique shops on Amelia Island, and yes you should totally check them out. And as they are spread out across the island, you are sure to stumble upon one of them and you are going to find it hard to not go inside and browse though you will definitely not leave empty handed.
4. Farmers Market
If you happen to find yourself downtown on a Saturday, be sure to check out the artisans (and local band!). You can buy everything from seafood to produce. It’s a visual treat and the fresh aromas will have your mouth watering.
This goes without saying, but you can’t come here and not spend time on the beach. The water and sand are perfect. Not only can you enjoy the warm waters, but when on land, you can have fun hunting for shark teeth in the sand.
6. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
One of the most romantic things to do on Amelia Island is to enjoy a horseback ride on the beach. And there are many places that you do that on the island, but we recommend Amelia Island State Park. Featuring 200 acres of untouched nature, you can enjoy the beach, salt marshes, and coastal forests.
7. Become a Civil War Soldier
One of the top things to do in Amelia Island, Florida, is Fort Clinch State Park for its unique blend of history and nature. Fort Clinch played a vital role in the US Civil War and the fort is explored through the eyes of a Union soldier. It’s fascinating even if you aren’t a history buff. Afterwards, you can explore the rest of the park with its hiking trails, bike trails, and seashore.
8. Get an Adrenaline Rush
One of the most adventurous things to do on Amelia Island is to enjoy the ocean views from 12,000 feet above! With views of the Atlantic Ocean as you free fall back to Earth, this tandem skydive is one that you won’t soon forget!
9. Brush Up on your History
Located in the old county jail, the Amelia Island Museum of History walks you through the history of the island and the people. Though it is small, it has a lot of information in it. And if you aren’t interested in the history of the place, there is a bit of the museum dedicated to the jail including a cell.
10. Walk History
After visiting the museum, enjoy walking around the 50 block historic section of Amelia Island. And there is a lot of history to enjoy on the island. The island also boasts many of the oldest things in Florida from a newspaper to an inn. Trust me when I say you will fall in love with the amazing brick facades and bygone era feel.
11. Visit a Lighthouse
On the highest point on the island, you can visit the oldest lighthouse in all of Florida. A tour of the Amelia Island Lighthouse is a journey through Florida’s history, even before it was a state!
12. Support the Theater
We also recommend checking out the community theatres on the island and there are two: the Amelia Community Theater and Amelia Musical Playhouse. And both are just lovely! With a variety of works produced, you know you are in for a great time of live theater.
Amelia Island Weather
If you want to maximize that feeling of carefree summer days, you need to visit Amelia Island between April and October when the daytime temperature is between 79 – 90°F.
But prices are less during January and February when the weather is at its coldest staying below 70°F. And at night, you will definitely need a jacket as it gets chilly.
Seriously, you will fall in love with this delightful place. Just reminiscing about all the things to do in Amelia Island, Florida, makes me wish I was there right now. When you are creating your Florida road trip itinerary, you must include Amelia Island. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did!