Amelia Island, Florida
By Ann Nelson





Amelia Island, Florida is a place my friend Stacey wanted to visit, and she wanted me to go along with her.Amelia Island is also a place I had never heard of before. Always ready for a new adventure, I packed my bags, made the easy flight from San Diego to Jacksonville, Florida, and then drove 30 minutes east from the airport and crossed over the bridge to our destination. We arrived in the early evening.

My goal for this trip was to warm up in the Florida sun, catch up with Stacey, and read a few books. After three days, I thought I would probably be a bit bored, and want to go home. I had no idea what was in store, or how truly special this place would be.

Amelia Island, located just off the coast of northeast, Florida, turned out to be one of the most fascinating and intriguing places I have ever visited. Part of the intrigue is simply how this tiny thirteen-mile-long island is put together. The long, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife, and pristine waters have made Amelia Island a favorite destination for outdoor adventure. 

The island has been named one of the Top 10 North American Islands by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Luckily, this island remains a treasure because developers saw it as a treasure, and insisted that it stay that way.

The buildings on the island fit into, not over, the existing environment. When you fly over the island, you see tree tops, not buildings. Considering how valuable this real estate is, it is remarkable and promising that it looks like bull dozers have never touched the earth here.

The island is named for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George ll. In the early 1800’s, it was a rough-and-tumble town, attracting smugglers and pirates. The crown jewel, Fernandina Beach, was a thriving seaport, the birthplace of the modern commercial shrimping industry and the only U.S. city to serve under eight different flags, including France, Spain, England, Mexico and the Confederacy. 

The “silk stocking” neighborhood is where the wealthiest residents once lived, and today their homes are beautifully restored and maintained. More than fifty blocks of the homes and buildings on Amelia Island are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Upon arriving at our destination, Stacey and I settled into our cozy, quiet room and headed for the balcony with a glass of wine and watched the sunset over the ocean. We didn’t talk. We sat in relaxing silence. The smell of the ocean, the whisper of the wind, and watching the ospreys dive for a final meal of the day felt exhilarating. After enjoying a light meal in the lounge downstairs, we tucked ourselves into bed, and slept like babies.

After our breakfast the next morning, we headed off to rent a golf cart. This would be our main mode of transportation during our stay. We experienced many moments of joy and simple pleasures over the next few days, and riding around in the golf cart was one of them. The feeling of not needing a car was an incredibly freeing experience.

When we weren’t driving the golf cart around, we rode bikes. There are miles and miles of designated paths that wind through the tree-lined roads, up and down hills, and over wooden bridges. The paths were built for bikes, golf carts and Segways. 

A Segway is actually a battery-operated “human transporter,” and you will see quite a few of these on the island. Even after a group lesson, riding the segway was a bit scary at first. It felt like I was riding on top of a speeding lawnmower, but in actuality we were only going eight miles an hour. I felt immensely proud for trying something new and would do it again in a second!

I have never spent much time playing “conventional sports,” but decided spending a few hours at a golf and tennis clinic would be fun. Amelia Island is known for its fabulous golf courses and the Amelia Island Plantation has held the Baush and Lomb Tennis Tournament for 29 consecutive years. The tennis program is recognized as one of the finest in the world. Twenty three clay courts are shaded beneath majestic live oaks.

The golf course is designed on environmentally-sensitive terrain dominated by oaks, palmettos, massive sand dunes, crashing surf and large lagoons. Ocean Links and Long Point Golf Courses are the winners of numerous prestigious awards, including Golf Magazine’s “Silver Medal” as one of the best golf resorts in the nation. Together these courses provide seven seaside holes — more holes directly on the ocean than any other Florida resort. The resort courses are ranked number eleven in the U.S. by Golf for Women Magazine.

There are endless reasons to visit Amelia Island. It is a perfect place for peace and quiet. There are also plenty of things to do. Amelia Island Plantation offers marsh and swamp boat tours, scenic bike rides, kayaking through the marshes, spectacular birding expeditions, and native plant walks, stargazing, and natural history walks.

There is a nature center on the property, staffed with experienced naturalists. Programs such as Sunset with the Birds, Owl Prowl and Woodland Walks are offered.

The Spa at The Plantation offers a wonderful array of treatments, including a Chocolate Romance Ritual for Two, and a Pumpkin Enzyme Facial. A complete health and fitness center offers aerobic classes, personal training, and a fitness assessment or nutritional session.

Meditation and Amelia Island truly do go hand in hand. This is the perfect place to achieve serenity and well-being. Cindy Murphy, owner of a healing center on Amelia Island, says “when the mind reaches stillness, chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin are released.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in the brain that reduce pain, which can help in dealing with things like arthritis, back pain, headaches, and high blood pressure. Low levels of serotonin are associated with problems such as depression, obesity, insomnia and sleep apnea. Meditation will calm pain and can help make anyone feel better.”

Several restaurants are located on the property and all are spectacular. The Verandah dinner menu includes a terrific Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp and Cumberland Crab Cake with Mango Chutney and Crayfish Sauce, or a Baked Red House Grouper with Lump Crab Crust and Sauvignon Blanc Sauce. The view from The Ocean Grill Restaurant is breathtaking.

The culinary offerings are extraordinary, and on par with the view. The Ocean Grill features Almond Crusted Lamb Chops with Granny Smith Apple Spoon Bread, English Pea Puree and Minted Lamb Jus, or Togarishi Grilled Ahi Tuna, with Mango Jasmine Rice.

Considering what The Amelia Island Plantation has to offer, I felt the rates were quite reasonable, starting at $166.00 a night. All-inclusive packages may be the best bargain, offering meal plans and lots of activities.

When I look back on my visit to Amelia Island, it feels as though I was wrapped in a blanket of serenity the entire time. No traffic, no honking horns, no stress. My dream is to carry that feeling with me everyday, wherever I am.

The phone number for Amelia Island Plantation is (800) 874-6878. Or visit: www.aipfl.com

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer, presently residing in San Diego, California.




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