Last Updated on July 6, 2023
Wondering what to do on Amelia Island? Start at THE BEACH! Of course. But there’s more than that, take it from a local. I moved here in 2012.
Amelia Island, the island which the City of Fernandina Beach, FL calls home, offers dozens of free beach access points with parking all along its 13 mile Atlantic Ocean coast. Wide, natural and clean, rarely crowded, perfect for families and sunbathers, the beaches of Amelia Island are the reason most people visit the area.
Dolphins are regularly seen just off the beaches and this is one of the most important sea turtles nesting sites in the world. Critically endangered North Atlantic right whales uses the area just off the beaches here for calving grounds.
Amelia Island offers the only on-beach horseback riding at a state park in Florida at Amelia Island State Park on the south end of the Island. The George Grady Fishing Pier here is also a destination for fisherman from around the area. Because Amelia Island State Park is out of the city limits for Fernandina Beach, beach driving is allowed there.
Camping, however, is not. The only place for tent or RV camping on Amelia Island is at the other end of the Island, Fort Clinch State Park on the north end. This Civil War era fort offers historic interpretations as well as biking, beachcombing and walking trails. The beaches around Fort Clinch are the best place on Amelia Island to find shark teeth.
Fort Clinch and the Egan’s Creek Greenway across Atlantic Boulevard are also top places on the Island for birdwatching. The best place is Spoonbill Pond just over the bridge off the south end of the Island. More Amelia Island birding tips can be found here.
If you’re wondering what to do on Amelia Island on the water, fishing charters (flounder, tarpon, redfish, shark!), kayaking and paddleboarding and sailing lessons are all popular choices. Buzz across the water on a CraigCat boat tour – it’s like a go-cart on water!
Electric bike tours of Big Talbot Island State Park, just south of Amelia Island, are another great introduction to the area’s natural beauty.
What to do in Fernandina Beach
Downtown Fernandina Beach presents travelers with a charming Victorian Era historic district full of locally owned boutiques and restaurants. Fernandina Fudge is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth; they have ice cream too. Fine dining options include Le Clos (French), Espana (Spanish) and Burlingame (steakhouse). Fresh oysters and the best sunset views in the downtown can be found at Salty Pelican. Arte Pizza is a great choice for families.
More detailed information about dining on Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach can be found here.
The Amelia Island Museum of History makes for a good introduction to the robust backstory of “The Island of Eight Flags,” and offers pub crawls, ghost tours and walking tours. Speaking of pubs, don’t miss Florida’s oldest bar, the Palace Saloon, located on Centre Street, the main pedestrian and vehicle thoroughfare through downtown Fernandina Beach.
Book your Fernandina Beach historic walking tour HERE!
A new addition to the downtown is duckpin bowling. This import from the northeast features smaller balls, skinnier pins and shorter lanes. Duckpinz Fernandina offers lanes for play by the hour along with a full bar and limited food menu. Gregor McGregor’s putt-putt mini-golf across the street from Duckpinz caters to kids and adults alike. Island Falls Adventure Golf is the long-time favorite. Just down Sadler Road from Island Falls is the Fernandina Beach Pinball Museum.
Check out the farmer’s market every Saturday morning on Centre Street.
Take a break from the sun – or get out of the rain – and make candles.
Looking for an affordable vacation rental one block from the beach on Amelia Island, here’s my recommendation.
Too often overlooked and not to be missed on every visit to Amelia Island is American Beach. This is my top recommendation for what to do on Amelia Island.
Between 1935 and 1964, American Beach welcomed thousands of African American visitors each year as the only resort in the Deep South catering to Blacks during legalized segregation and another previous era of racist terror in America. Many visitors to American Beach traveled hundreds of miles seeking “a place for recreation and relaxation without humiliation.”
As police officers were storming into the surf with batons in St. Augustine, Florida, 60 miles south, dragging Black protestors engaging in “wade-ins” out of the water at whites-only beaches, American Beach offered a beacon of hospitality.
Walk through the historic district. Chances are, you’ll be the only one. Park anywhere along the side of the road and just get out. Visit Nana Dune – the largest dune in Florida. Learn about MaVynee Betsch. Look for gopher tortoise and butterflies. Walk on the beach. Walk past Evans Rendezvous, once a staple of the Southern “Chitlin Circuit,” where Duke Ellington and other legendary Black performers played. Where Zora Neale Hurston and Hank Aaron visited.
Kid-friendly electric skateboard and e-scooter tours are available.
Listen and Learn! This episode of my “Welcome to Florida” podcast, I learn about the history of American Beach from a resident who has seen it all.
Beer and Spirits
Fernandina Beach has recently gotten into the craft beer and spirits movement. First Love Brewing, Mocama Beer Company and Marlin and Barrell Distillery are all located within walking – stumbling – distance of each other on 8th Street – the main road into Fernandina Beach from Yulee and Interstate 95. First Love is my favorite for the beer and excellent food menu (try the pizza).
Shopping, golf and spas
Story & Song Bookstore on 14th Street is a delightful locally owned shop which also has a nice café and is the best place on the Island to pick up a souvenir from your visit. The store features a full schedule of author readings and book signings.
Looking for golf in the area, start here.
The best spa can be found at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.