My trips to Florida most often have included visits with a certain MOUSE I adore, but recently I’ve ventured out and explored parts of Florida you won’t want to miss. One of my absolute favorites – Amelia Island, Florida. Situated on the northeast coast, this barrier island is located just about 40 minutes from Jacksonville and will absolutely charm you.
Thanks to Amelia Island Tourism who provided this complimentary trip, I was able to do quite a bit of exploring. Whether you are looking for a couple’s weekend getaway or planning a family beach vacation, you will want to check out these hidden gems of Amelia Island, Florida.
If you are looking for a destination on the opposite corner of Florida, check out Panama City Beach, Florida – 11 Unique Things to Do.
Hidden Gems of Amelia Island, Florida
Amelia Island consists of approximately 13 miles of beaches, yet the island is much more than the beautiful sandy beaches showcasing the Atlantic Ocean.
From shopping and dining to quite a bit of history, I was impressed at every turn. There truly is something for everyone, making it an incredible family destination, one ideal for a multi-generational trip too. I definitely discovered why Amelia Island was voted the #4 Top U.S. Island in Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
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Pippi Longstocking House
One great way to explore the island is to take advantage of Amelia Island Trolleys. Open Monday through Saturday, they offer historical tours through downtown Fernandina Beach (which also includes Old Towne, the silk stocking district and parts of the north end of Fernandina Beach).
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The guided trolley tour was a wealth of information, and despite a bit of rain we were able to enjoy tales of pirates (yes, in these parts) and photograph some incredibly beautiful homes.
This home above is none other than the Pippi Longstocking House. Movie buffs will appreciate the home where the movie, New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, was filmed on location. While a fan of the fictional books and red-haired freckled character, I haven’t yet seen this movie. But now, having visited Amelia Island (where many of the scenes reportedly were shot), I’m watching!
The home is set apart from the neighboring houses by a copper top, ornate detailing, and gingerbread feel to it. Beautiful.
Kayaking Through Loftin Creek
Originally on the printed itinerary for my stay in Amelia Island, there was a 2 1/2 hour block reserved for one of two activities.
Spa Treatment at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island OR Kayak Excursion.
I’m going to give you one guess as to which one I was going to pick, knowing that I had never kayaked through alligator land before. You guessed it, I was incredibly excited about the Spa at The Ritz-Carlton. So you can imagine my surprise when there was only 1 option on my final itinerary…kayaking!
Let me just start by saying I was nervous.
No, I’ll be even more honest than that…I was scared and downright frightened. I mean we were talking about getting into a single kayak (me, the newbie, in a kayak by myself) and in Florida. Did they not know there were alligators around?
But here’s the thing, despite my fear, it was the most incredible experience. I never would have chosen it, but it was one of my most favorite experiences to date.
I have bragging rights now, for I have kayaked 4 miles through Loftin Creek thanks to the wonderfully patient folks at Amelia Island Kayak. I got well out of my comfort zone and experienced something truly remarkable and saw a different side of Florida. Find out more about how to take a kayak trip.
And don’t worry, my friends at The Ritz-Carlton made sure I enjoyed a spa treatment or two!
Best Beaches for Shark Tooth Hunting
Some beaches are known for their exquisite shells. Some beaches are nothing but shells – see Coquina Beach. Yet others are known for the soft white sand that feels so good under your feet.
As for Amelia Island, I’ll remember the beaches for shark tooth hunting.
Especially in cooler months when going into the Atlantic Ocean isn’t as appealing, shark tooth hunting is a great family activity that will satisfy your craving for beach time. I was visiting in early November and brrrr, it was chilly. I loved that I could still spend time walking up and down the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves crashing, and looking for these treasures.
Truth be told, I didn’t personally find any shark teeth, but I was with many who did.
The best spots to find shark teeth on Amelia Island:
- The Ritz-Carlton resort beach – in fact, as part of the Ritz-Kids Program, there are times the kids are taken to the beach and the staff helps them search for shark teeth. While I was searching myself, I spotted several staff members hunting while on a break. They had many (including the two above) and showed me exactly what to look for (and what not to look for). This was a perk for staying on property (which I loved).
- Fort Clinch beach – just down a pathway outside the Fort Clinch walls, you’ll find a long stretch of beach with many shark tooth hunters. A recent storm had caused so much ocean trash and debris to come upon shore, that it was the perfect time to search.
TIP: Aaron from The Ritz-Carlton said to look for a distinct gum line and that real shark teeth will not break if bent.
Speaking of Fort Clinch, history lovers, homeschoolers and kids who like to get out their “wiggles” and run, will enjoy this gem of Amelia Island.
Located within Fort Clinch State Park, this fort was an actual military fort occupied by troops since around 1736. Fort Clinch was vital during the Civil War in the United States, during the Spanish-American War, and was last used during World War II.
I loved walking through the Fort and all the buildings, some still full of beds and necessary goods or tools from an era gone by. Shaped as a pentagon, the fort still provides an impressive outlook on the coastal waters.
The coolest thing though – walking up to a soldier dressed as if he was in the Civil War. Apparently they do military reenactments at Fort Clinch!
Salt – Fine Dining at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
No list of hidden gems in Amelia Island would be complete without mentioning Salt, a restaurant located within the Ritz-Carlton.
Along with several others, I was invited to experience a dinner like no other at Salt, set in a contemporary coastal atmosphere, overlooking the ocean.
Why Salt? One thing you quickly see as you walk throughout The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island property, a theme of salt. You spy it on the menu of spa treatments. You see it in the gift shop with Himalayan salt blocks for cooking and Himalayan salt lamps. So there was no surprise with the name of this restaurant. In fact, when you realize that they cook with so many amazing salts, the name was perfection. Think salts like citrus salt, pumpkin salt, pickled salt, Mediterranean salt, and olive salt.
Our 6-course dinner actually was more like 9 or 10 courses if you count all the appetizers in our special Salt-inspired reception and treats post-dinner.
With courses like Tuna Tartare, Key West Pink Prawns and Butternut Soup (my favorite), we were off to a great start. THEN came an experience with Steak, Eggs and Lobster, served on a 250 Million Year Old Himalayan Salt Block…and yes, we were going to cook it ourselves. It actually was the only time our table was completely silent. This inspired me to look into salt block cooking and I can’t wait to try it at home.
Then came dessert and a S’mores Souffle with graham cracker, smoked vanilla ice cream and nutella anglaise. Amazingly delicious. Though I thought that was the end, they surprised us with macaroons and their signature homemade salted caramels.
My tastebuds were impressed beyond belief.
Tallest Sand Dune in Florida & American Beach History
With a little extra time on my hands one morning, I headed out exploring with a couple new friends, one who had some special sights for us to see.
This here is the tallest sand dune in Florida. Often referred to as “Nana”, the dune is located on American Beach, not far from The Ritz-Carlton.
Back when the United States was largely segregated, American Beach was a place where African-Americans could visit and vacation.
Just across the way from the dune “Nana”, is a nondescript white building. Historians and locals recognize it as a former jazz club where Louis Armstrong played back in the day.
So much history here.
The Sprouting Project – Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Executive Chef Daven Wardynski had an idea and it has turned into quite the project, and a beautiful one at that. Let me introduce you to The Sprouting Project.
Located on the property of Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, The Sprouting Project consists of a state-of-the-art aquaponic greenhouse, an expansive organic garden, a large collection of beehives, and a barrel room.
Themed dinners are hosted every month so you’ll want to RSVP before they fill up. As you can see above, the venue is simply stunning in the evening. I enjoyed a reception here for travel bloggers, with food served buffet style within the greenhouse.
That night I was surprised with this sweet treat made from some of the “liquid gold” from the over 2.5 million bees on property.
Though technically “off” Amelia Island, Boneyard Beach is such a hidden gem, that it’s worth venturing off a few miles to take a peek.
Maybe 15 minutes away on the northern most tip of Big Talbot Island, you’ll find this incredible spot. Had I been a bit more adventurous, I would have climbed down some paths to get better shots, but well, it had only been a year since I broke my foot and I wasn’t taking any chances. Recent erosion has made the paths to the coast a bit difficult, even prompting warnings from Florida State Parks.
Just look at the massive salt-washed skeletons of live oak and cedar trees, trees that once stood along the coastline. I’ve never seen anything like it. Boneyard Beach is definitely a hidden gem!
There are so many things to enjoy in Amelia Island, Florida that are off the beaten path. I hope you’ve found one or two hidden gems that will have you planning your next trip!
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