Amelia Island, Florida
Enjoy the Southern hospitality of the State's Northernmost Barrier Island
Despite being just 13 miles long and two miles wide, this northernmost barrier island of Florida offers much to visitors. Luxury accommodations, sophisticated dining and historical attractions make for a relaxing and interesting getaway.
Stay at The Ritz-Carlton
The luxury hotel exudes Southern charm and sits on a stretch of the island's 13 miles of stunning coastline. Book the hotel's namesake suite on the top floor, which offers three oceanfront balconies, a spacious master bedroom, living room with fireplace, formal dining room, kitchen with microwave and fridge, and 2 1/2 baths. The Ritz-Carlton also boasts 18 holes of private championship golf, an on-site spa, and Salt restaurant, winner of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award. Reserve the Chef's Table for a unique dining experience, which will offer views of the staff preparing Chef de Cuisine Richard Laughlin's seasonal specials. Located at 4750 Amelia Island Parkway, daily activities also include guided walks along sand dunes and tours of nearby Kingsley Cotton Plantation. Visit ritzcarlton.com for more information and reservations.
Eat at PLAE
Short for People Laughing and Eating, this name aptly describes the vibe at this restaurant, located at 80 Amelia Village Circle. Chef Robert Camp began working in island restaurants at the age of 16, but left to eventually attend culinary school and return to run the kitchen at PLAE. Highlights of the eclectic menu with French and Mediterranean influences include Cedar Plank Salmon with Caramelized Grits and Granny Smith Apple Jam, Duck Breast with Wild Rice Cake and Cherry Gastrique, and his seasonal cheesecakes. Visit plaefl.net for more information and suggested reservations.
Explore Fort Clinch State Park
Built to discourage the British and occupied by both the North and South during the Civil War, this 19th-century fort offers tours through restored buildings and living-history reenactments. The park itself spans 1,068 acres and features camping, nature trails and spots for swimming and fishing. Bring your binoculars to spot brown pelicans and green sea turtles, just to name a few of the species of wildlife that make the park, located at 2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, their home.
Relax at Amelia Island Spa
Simply staying at The Ritz-Carlton gains you access to the spa's adult pool, saunas, steam rooms and relaxation lounges, but you will want to book a treatment or two. The Amelia Island Honey Butter Wrap features an aromatic scrub and rich emollients that come together to exfoliate and soften skin. Paraffin hand and foot treatments, a warm-oil scalp massage and shea-butter body massage complete the indulgent experience.
Florida serves as a year-round destination, but April and May offer waters just beginning to warm up and less-crowded beaches. Visitors in early April also can take in the Springing the Blues festival in Jacksonville, less than an hour away by car.