Last Updated on: 19th June 2023, 06:51 pm
Are you planning an Amelia Island getaway for your next vacation?
The island and the historic town of Fernandina Beach belong on every traveler’s Florida bucket list!
An Amelia Island vacation is more than just a beach fly-and-flop (though its location off the coast of Florida is ideal for accessing some of the country’s best beaches).
However, there’s something here for everyone! From couples to friends to families with small children, anyone can come and have a trip of a lifetime.
Of course, your trip will go much smoother if you know what you need to plan for your visit to Amelia Island ahead of time!
Here are essential Amelia Island travel tips, including where to eat, the best activities, where to stay, how to get here, and more.
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My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2023
These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.
Protect Your Trip via Safety Wing
Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.
For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.
For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.
Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.
The Top 6 Most Popular Amelia Island Tours & Attractions
Before you dig into all the island has to offer, you should know that these are the most popular guided tours, attractions, and day trips on Amelia Island.
Amelia Island Travel Tips: Things to Know Before Visiting Amelia Island, Florida
Ready to start planning? Here are my best tips for planning a trip to Amelia Island!
Consider this your ultimate guide to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach.
Good to Know: We were guests of Amelia Island during our trip. However, all opinions are my own.
Decide How Long to Spend on Amelia Island
Before you can decide anything else, you need to decide how long you want to spend on Amelia Island.
The nice thing is that it’s a place where you can come for a weekend getaway or come for a week or even more.
There’s so much to do here, and those with lots of time will love spending those extra mornings and afternoons soaking up the sun.
If you only have one day in Amelia Island, you can visit a few of the top things to do, eat at a couple of the best restaurants, and go on a guided tour.
You can do this as a day trip from Jacksonville, St. Augustine, or Savannah, or you can stop over and spend a full day here as part of a Florida road trip.
If you spend a weekend in Amelia Island, you can enjoy a majority of the best things to do in Fernandina Beach and the island.
You still can’t cover everything, but you can get a great overview of the island’s history and culture.
Plus you can taste more of the amazing local cuisine and spend some serious time at the beach.
Of course, if you have one week in Amelia Island (or more!), you can cover most of the island’s top activities and spend even more time at the beach and on the water.
No matter how long you have to dedicate to your trip itinerary, you can easily fill up your time. Of course, you can also leave your calendar empty and see where the island takes you.
And if you don’t feel like you have enough time to see and experience everything you would like, you can always plan many more Amelia Island getaways in the years to come!
When is the Best Time to Visit Amelia Island, Florida?
A year-round destination, there’s always a great reason to come to the island.
Weather in Amelia Island
Florida’s climate is not a monolith, so you might wonder what the weather is like on Amelia Island. Because of its location, the weather is similar to coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
Amelia Island temperatures are mild, even in winter. While you might prefer to leave swimming for the summer months, you can enjoy the water in a myriad of other ways (yes, even in winter).
Amelia Island Weather by Month
Here are the average temperatures in Fernandina Beach by month. As you can see, Amelia Island weather year-round is much less volatile than in many parts of the country.
Temperatures are listed in degrees Fahrenheit, with the left number representing the month’s average high temperature and the second is the average low temperature.
Good to Know: The weather on Amelia Island might not be the weather you’re interested in! When you’re here and you need a fishing report for weather for Amelia Island fishing conditions, check out K-Bay 106 FM for Charlie Taylor’s Fishing Report.
Special Events on Amelia Island
You may want to plan your trip to Amelia Island around a special event.
Some of the most popular are Concours week (March), the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival (May), and the Right Whale Festival (November).
Check out upcoming Amelia Island events here.
Where to Stay in Amelia Island
The first thing you’ll probably want to decide when you start to plan a trip to Amelia Island is where you are going to stay.
Luckily there are lots of great places to stay, so you have a lot of fabulous choices from which to choose. However, I do have some opinions about which are the best hotels on Amelia Island.
We stayed at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Amelia Island. This new three-star oceanside hotel has quickly become one of the best places to stay on Amelia Island.
Our room had stunning ocean views, a separate living area, and a great balcony.
The area around the hotel has great restaurants within walking distance, and the beach itself is just a five-minute walk.
You can check into your hotel room, drop your luggage off, and be at the beach or a beach bar before your car engine has even cooled.
If you want to go swimming in the evening, the hotel pool and hot tub stay open late and make for a wonderful way to unwind at the end of the day.
I have stayed at several SpringHill Suites this year (in Amelia Island, Birmingham, and Albuquerque), and I always love how the rooms are designed to maximize comfort and relaxation while still having a contemporary look.
I also loved the lobby decor and other common areas, which are beachy yet elegant.
More Places to Stay on Amelia Island
If you are looking to stay at one of the best resorts on Amelia Island, the four-star Omni Amelia Island Resort has a full-service luxury spa and is one of the best resorts for someone looking for hotels with golf courses.
Another luxury option is The Ritz-Carlton, a five-star resort that also features a golf course and spa along with five restaurants.
This is also the resort that hosts the annual Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance. If you will be coming to the show, book a room here early as it sells out far in advance of the event.
There are many more options for Amelia Island accommodations, from bed and breakfasts to apartment rentals to budget motels.
How to Get to Amelia Island
First things first, where is Amelia Island? Located in northeast Florida, this barrier island is part of the Sea Islands, a chain of coastal islands in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
This is the same island chain that includes Hilton Head, Jekyll, and Tybee.
Our Trip to Amelia Island
We drove from Hilton Head to Amelia Island as part of our Big Southern Road Trip. It was our only stop in Florida, but culturally and geographically the island is closer to Savannah and Charleston than Miami.
Should You Drive or Fly to Amelia Island?
You could choose to drive to Amelia Island as part of a Southern Coastal Road Trip through the Carolinas and Georgia or as the northernmost stop on a Florida Road Trip.
Alternatively, you can fly and rent a car after you arrive.
If Amelia Island is your only stop and you are coming from somewhere far away like the West Coast or the Northeast, you may want to fly.
However, we enjoyed having our vehicle to get out and see as much of the island as possible, so driving is a great option if you are close enough to drive in less than a day.
No matter how you get to Amelia Island, prepare to have an amazing time when you get here!
Flying to Amelia Island
While there is a small airport on the island (Fernandina Beach Municipal Airpor), most people flying commercial will choose to land at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).
You will want to rent a car to get from the airport to the island if you want to have your vehicle during your vacation. I use Discover Cars for renting cars on my trips.
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can take an Uber or arrange a private transfer from the Jacksonville Airport to your accommodations in Fernandina Beach.
Driving to Amelia Island
Here are drive times for getting to Amelia Island from nearby Southern cities.
Savannah 2 Hours
Orlando 3 Hours
Tallahassee 3 Hours
Charleston 4 Hours
Tampa 4 Hours
Atlanta 5.5 Hours
Charlotte 6 Hours
Miami 6 Hours
Montgomery 6.5 Hours
Chattanooga 7 Hours
Birmingham 7.5 Hours
Nashville 9 Hours
How to Get Around Amelia Island
If you plan to spend most of your time in Fernandina Beach, the area is charming and walkable. However, some of the best things to do in Amelia Island are not in downtown Fernandina.
While people might wonder do you need a car on Amelia Island, the answer is that it makes life easier but you can get around without one.
If you don’t want to drive, you can opt for Uber or Lyft, though there’s not always a car available at all times.
Another option is to get a recommendation for a local taxi from your accommodations.
Important Amelia Island Safety Tips
While you might think that safety isn’t something you need to think about when going to Amelia Island, there are some common sense (and not-so-common sense) safety measures you need to take to this idyllic vacation spot.
Crime is low, even for a popular vacation spot. Of course, that doesn’t mean it does not exist. Women need to take the same precautions they would take anywhere at night, especially if drinks are involved.
We found the water a little too rough during our time there for our one-year-old. Remember that beach conditions in this part of the Atlantic Ocean can change rapidly.
If you’ve never swum in the ocean before, read up on ocean and beach safety before you arrive. If you’ve never seen a rip current before, it’s usually the water that looks the calmest.
Unfortunately, this is the section water that you need to avoid. You can read up on how to avoid a rip current here.
Because the beaches are home to sea turtles, there are regulations in place to make sure that they can thrive on the island’s pristine beaches.
These include things like filling in holes you dig so the turtles can’t fall in and how close lights can be to the beach so they don’t disrupt the turtles finding the sea.
For a full list of Amelia Island beach regulations, click here.
While we didn’t see an alligator on Amelia Island (which we did in Hilton Head and outside of Vicksburg), there are alligators up and down the coast of Florida.
Alligator safety starts with not going into deeper puddles (they like to hang out there) and NEVER feeding them, but it doesn’t end there.
Read through this local guide to alligator safety on Amelia Island.
What to Eat in Amelia Island
My husband is a chef and he thought the food in Amelia Island was some of the best we ate during one month traveling around the South.
The fresh seafood options make the island a foodie paradise, and there are great restaurants for all budgets, from fine dining to cheap eats.
Here are a few places we enjoyed.
Timoti Seafood Shak
Amelia Island is famous for wild-caught shrimp, and Timoti Seafood Shak is a great place to enjoy fried shrimp and hush puppies, though they also have poke bowls and crab burgers.
The outdoor garden has a play area for kids that’s pirate-themed, and the tables are almost always full or nearly full.
Don’t miss this popular downtown Fernandina Beach spot.
Salt Life Food Shack
With beautiful ocean views and live music, Salt Life Food Shack is a great place to enjoy local seafood in a vibrant atmosphere on Main Beach.
With three north Florida locations, you might recognize them from Jacksonville or St. Augustine.
Whether you’re looking for seafood, cocktails, or sushi, there’s something here for everyone.
For those looking for fine dining options in Fernandina Beach, Le Clos Restaurant Provencal is a French restaurant that features local seafood alongside duck and Angus steak.
This is the best place for escargot and pate in Fernandina Beach.
Hola Cuban Cafe
If you want to experience Cuban cuisine during your time in northeast Florida, come to Hola Cuban Cafe for empanadas, pressed sandwiches, and papa rellena.
Open for breakfast and lunch from Thursdays through Sundays, don’t skip the cafe con Leche.
Marina Seafood Cafe
The oldest restaurant in Amelia Island, Marina Seafood Cafe is located across the street from the harbor, this is a local favorite with old-school charm.
Enjoy these 10 Can’t-Miss Amelia Island Sites
Here are the top ten things to do in Amelia Island.
Fort Clinch State Park – Includes a Civil War-era naval fort, views of the lighthouse, and beautiful hiking and nature opportunities.
Amelia River – Take a cruise or enjoy a sunset with views of the water.
Amelia Island Historic District & Downtown Fernandina Beach – Set aside time to walk the charming streets and appreciate the historic sites and architecture.
Palace Saloon – The oldest saloon in Florida, the Palace Saloon boasts historic interiors along with modern amenities like live music and bottomless mimosas.
Amelia Island Museum of History – Located in the island’s former jail, this small but packed museum covers over two thousand years of island history.
Marlin and Barrel Distillery – Enjoy a distillery tour and sample locally made vodka and rum.
American Beach – One of the most prominent African American beach resorts during the Jim Crow era, today American Beach is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, one of the National Parks in Florida.
Nana Sand Dune – the tallest dune in Florida and part of American Beach.
Amelia Island State Park – the best place to go horseback riding in Amelia Island -right on the beach!
Old Fernandina – beautiful architecture in the oldest part of the city.
Decide How Much Time You Want to Spend at the Beach
While Florida beaches are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you might find that you want to balance enjoying the island’s natural beauty along with its historic sites and cultural treasures.
If you know you want to spend all of your time outside soaking up the sun and the sound of the waves, then that will help you decide what other activities you need to book (or not book).
However, if you know you will have days where you’d like to do other activities, it helps to have an idea of how much time you’ll have for other adventures since some will need to be booked in advance.
Plan Your Activities Ahead of Time
If you will be traveling to Amelia Island to enjoy nature and get outside, know there are tons of activities and sports you can enjoy, from kayaking to horseback riding to biking.
You can book one of these kayak tours, which are some of the most popular tours on the island:
If you’d like to horseback ride on the beach, reach out to Amelia Island Horseback Riding.
If you want to go surfing or paddleboarding, you can find surf shops with rentals available on Main Beach.
If you want to enjoy the sand beaches without going in the water, keep in mind you can enjoy a picnic, go on a walk, go on a run, or even just relax and build a sandcastle without setting foot in the water.
Consider Going on a Guided Tour (or a Self-Guided Tour)
While I adore traveling off-the-beaten-path and seeing things on my own, two of my favorite experiences on Amelia Island were on guided tours.
The first is the historic tour of Amelia Island, which covers the absolutely insane history of the Island and the eight flags that have flown over it. Yes, 8! Even Texas can’t beat that.
The second is the Amelia River Sunset Cruise, which was a magical evening on the water. We saw Fort Clinch and Cumberland Island from the water, along with dolphins and rays playing at sunset.
While we weren’t lucky enough to see any sea turtles or manatees during our cruise, we know people who did!
Decide if You Want to Take a Day Trip from Amelia Island
There are a few great places to explore nearby if you have enough time that you want to spend a day off the island.
The Cumberland Island Tour is one of the most popular day trips from Fernandina Beach.
Run by Amelia River Cruises, the same people who ran our wonderful sunset tour, this takes you to Cumberland Island to see the wild horses.
Cumberland Island is protected by the National Park Service and is actually one of the National Park Service Sites in Georgia, not Florida!
Other options for day trips from Amelia Island include Jacksonville and St. Augustine. You could even pop over to Savannah for the day and come back at night.
What to Do in Fernandina at Night
If you’ve filled your days with sunshine, activities, and beach time, you might find that you want to enjoy your evenings in Amelia Island from the comfort of your hotel. Which I do enjoy doing on family vacations some evenings.
I loved our stay at the SpringHill Suites so much that I made sure to hit the hot tub every night, and it was the first real swimming pool our son got to swim in!
However, if you prefer to enjoy the local nightlife, here are a few fun and romantic things to do on Amelia Island at night
Play a round of mini-golf at Gregor MacGregor’s Mini Links & Drinks.
What to Bring with You to Amelia Island
While I’m sure you plan on doing a lot (A LOT) of shopping while you’re here, there are a few items that you do not want to leave home without!
First, bring a guidebook. This is especially important if you will be going on a long road trip around Florida or you will be exploring the area for more than a quick weekend getaway.
For road trips, I like Lonely Planet’s Florida & the South’s Best Road Trips. I have a few more recommendations for guide books below.
Second, make sure to bring your cell phone. You will want to stay connected during your trip, plus it will serve as a navigation system should you rent a car and a go-to camera.
Third, grab a camera. While it’s great to have a cell phone with you for quick pics, if you want to do more serious photography or take more videos, I find it nice to travel with a separate dedicated camera as well.
If I will be wrestling with my toddler on the trip, I’ll grab my Sony ZV-1, which is a powerful compact camera with great video capabilities as well.
Next, bring a waterproof bag (also knowns as a dry bag) so that you can safely bring your electronics to the beach or kayaking.
You don’t want to ruin your trip with a drowned cell phone or a wet camera, but you also don’t want to miss out on capturing all those great beach moments with your loved ones!
Finally, bring a backup charging bank for your phone.
What to Buy in Amelia Island
I love buying thoughtful souvenirs and gifts when I travel. Here are a few ideas for locally made Amelia Island souvenirs and gifts.
Sharks’ teeth – this part of Florida is famous for them! You can find shark teeth jewelry for sale if you don’t find one on the beach.
Sea Turtle Gifts – A great idea if you’re looking for a gift from Amelia Island for kids.
Locally Made Rum – If you go on a distillery tour, pick up some rum to take home as an Amelia Island memento!
Amelia Island History – You can find great books in the local museums and book stores if you want to bring back some local history to continue to learn once you’re home.
Sweets – There are great shops downtown to get locally crafted treats.
Invest in a Travel Guide or Two (or Three)
I used four guidebooks to plan my trip around the South (and nine! to plan my Rocky Mountain road trip).
Lonely Planet Florida – Perfect for someone traveling to multiple places in Florida. The state is big and has so many hidden gems that having a guidebook goes a long way to getting the most out of your trip.
Lonely Planet Florida & the South’s Best Trips – this book was essential for me when I was trying to plan our road trip and understanding what was near each other and what not to miss.
Greater Than a Tourist-Amelia Island Florida USA: 50 Travel Tips from a Local (Greater Than a Tourist Florida) – One of the few dedicated travel guides to the island written from a local’s perspective.
Good to Know: You can get a free copy of the Amelia Island Tourism Guide, which is the official Amelia Island travel guide put out by the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council.
Before You Get to Florida – Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
It’s especially important to get travel insurance whenever you are more than one hundred miles from home and visiting big cities or having outdoor adventures.
More Florida Travel Resources
We just love Florida! I’ve been six times, and I already can’t wait to go back! Here are all the Florida travel blog posts that I have to help you plan your trip around this wonderful state!