I love Florida, and I’m not alone — our subscription records tell this story. Outside of the immediate Tri-State, more readers of this magazine live in the Sunshine State than any other state.
To me, it’s all good. The Panhandle is a favored destination with its gorgeous white-sand beaches and its ease of access; the weather in South Florida is predictably sunny, and the Keys offer a total and tropical escape. An area of Florida I had yet to explore was the northeast Atlantic coast. A trip with travel journalists last fall to Amelia Island Plantation introduced me to yet another reason to love Florida.
Amelia Island Plantation is a luxury resort located on Amelia Island, Fla., the southernmost barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean in the U.S. Amelia Island is 29 miles north of Jacksonville International Airport.
The island has a fascinating and little-known history. It is the only community in the U.S. to have been governed under eight different flags. The island’s city center, Fernandina Beach, once was a seaport village, and in the early 20th century, it became known as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. Today, Fernandina Beach is characterized by Victorian-era architecture and a remarkable historic district lined with local shops and eateries.
Nature embodies Amelia Island Plantation. Nestled among centuries-old live oaks, the majestic maritime forest, tranquil salt marshes, and the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, the resort promotes environmental sensitivity and a leisure lifestyle.
The 1,350-acre property includes a 249-room hotel, nine restaurants, four golf courses, and nearly two dozen Har-Tru® fast-dry clay tennis courts. More than 1,000 condominiums and 800 homes are located within the Plantation. All development is governed by protective covenants upheld to protect Amelia Island Plantation’s master plan.
If you’re familiar with Amelia Island Plantation, it’s likely through golf or tennis. The Amelia Island Plantation tennis program, led by Kelly Gunterman, a 25-year teaching professional, has hosted tournaments and events attracting tennis greats including Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova, and Venus and Serena Williams.
Amelia Island Plantation offers 72 championship holes on four courses: Amelia Links, designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed, offers 36 holes on two signature courses, Oak Marsh and Ocean Links. Long Point is an 18-hole layout designed among marshlands and the towering sand dunes of the Atlantic. (Its creator, Tom Fazio, designed another course closer to home: Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh.) Long Point is the primary course for club members; however, resort guests may reserve tee times a day in advance. Amelia River, open to the public, offers a Tom Jackson-designed 18-hole layout, sculpted around a forest of live oaks, sabal palms, and pine trees.
While I didn’t play golf or tennis on the trip, I did kayak the salt marshes and intercoastal waters, bike the trails, and explore the area on a Segway. Other journalists took advantage of fishing opportunities, explored the property on Island Hoppers (golf carts), and visited Fernandina Beach.
Amelia Island Plantation boasts its own shopping village filled with pleasant boutiques and eateries, including the Marché Burette deli, which reminded me a bit of the famous Modica Market in Seaside, Fla. I tried a great wood oven-fired pizza made with dough infused with a reduction of balsamic vinegar, garlic, and fresh herbs and rolled thin like a pita bread.
The Spa at Amelia Island Plantation is situated on a lagoon lined with tranquil oaks. A boardwalk connects the spa with the Tree House, a yoga studio where regular classes are offered; it also can be rented for wedding parties or events. The spa was lovely and very much green-focused. I enjoyed a very good sports massage after a morning of kayaking.
Florida fans are fortunate to have so many choices for fantastic family vacations. Don’t overlook the state’s northeast Atlantic coast and Amelia Island Plantation for a memorable vacation in a beautiful natural setting.
When You Go:
• Amelia Island Plantation- (888) 261-6161 – www.aipfl.com
• The City of Fernandina Beach – www.fbfl.us
• Amelia Island Tourist Development Council – www.ameliaisland.org