Located in the far northeastern corner of Florida at the border with Georgia, 155 mi/250 km north of Orlando, Amelia Island was one of the state's first resorts, drawing visitors back in the 1800s. Today, it retains some of that Victorian atmosphere, though its low-key elegance and relative tranquility compared to Miami, Daytona and St. Petersburg are its best assets.
The city of Fernandina Beach has some appealing old homes in the historic district, and you can stop in for a drink at what's said to be the oldest bar in Florida, the Palace Saloon.
The island's other selling points are its quiet stretches of forests and dunes that have been preserved, in part, because earlier residents built around—rather than on top of—the dunes, salt marshes, savannas and lagoons.
At the northern end of the island is Fort Clinch State Park, where a popular activity is bicycling. The park was built during the Civil War, and today re-enactors dressed in period costume provide entertaining tours for visitors. The fort also provides a good vantage point to view Georgia's Cumberland Island.
Other options include riding a horse along the beach or spending a couple of days relaxing at the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation resort (a popular golfing destination), the family-run, 25-room Elizabeth Pointe Lodge or one of the restored bed-and-breakfasts on the island.
Rare and vintage car aficionados head to the island each March for the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, one of the state's premier automoblie shows and a popular social scene known for its fabulous people-watching.
Salt, also known as The Grill at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, is worth a special trip. The Ritz provides five-star dining accompanied by (if you have time) the resort's cooking classes. The menu changes often depending on the best of the day's marketplace—which might mean roasted duckling, rack of Colorado lamb or a stunning vegetable plate. For a special occasion, try the chef's Adventure Menu with or without wines.
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival takes place in Fernandina Beach each May; it features the blessing of the shrimp-boat fleet and a salute to the region's eight-flag history.
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