Have you ever heard the statistic that over half of Americans don’t use their paid vacation days? Yup, well, I’m definitely one of those people.
It’s not that I don’t want to use them…it’s usually that with Jon’s schedule we don’t have time to go anywhere. But about a month ago, when I mentioned my work anniversary was coming up, Jon asked if I had any vacation days left. “Erm…hmm…I’m not sure?” He said, “Well you should check on that because if you do we should use them!”
Low and behold, I had 4 vacation days left…oops. And only a few weeks to use them up…double oops! After talking to Jon we decided to get out of dodge for a quick getaway somewhere. Insert super quick planning mode here.
I wanted to go somewhere where we’d have enough time to actually enjoy ourselves. Flying anywhere was out of the question so I started looking into places that were within a driving distance from us. I also wanted some place where we could actually relax and not worry about what to do each minute of the day.
I have heard about Amelia Island for years and it’s one of the few places in Florida that was still on my “must see” list. Only a four hour drive, beautiful beach, cute downtown area, good restaurants…sold!
I’ve put together a bit of a guide to Amelia Island so you can take a glimpse of our trip, and hopefully it will inspire you to use YOUR vacation days and take a getaway somewhere!
Where We Stayed
Having worked for a resort I tend to be picky about places I stay when traveling. The main things I look for in a place to stay are location, style and amenities. The Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Fernandina Beach hit all of these points. I love the intimate feel of B&B’s, but don’t like ones that are too kitschy. I love the luxury of hotels, but they can feel a bit too generic at times. The Elizabeth Pointe Lodge was a nice mix of both.
Elizabeth Pointe Lodge’s location is perfection. They have their own private beach that is literally just steps from your room and it’s less than a 5 minute drive to downtown Fernandina Beach, where all the cute shops and restaurants are.
You can choose to stay in the lodge, or they have a small house adjacent to the lodge called Ocean House. Ocean House is separated into four separate rooms and offers a bit more privacy and roomier rooms.
Amenities included are things like beach chairs and umbrellas; a nightly happy hour with complimentary wine, beer and appetizers; and complimentary breakfast. I was thoroughly impressed with their breakfast as it was not your normal continental breakfast. They had a variety of options each morning including eggs, pancakes, grits, bacon and sausage, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits and more! Each morning they had a different kind of mini muffin and they were all SO good. On the last morning they had a chocolate chip coffee muffin that made me want to dump the bowl basket into my purse.
And having this as your view each morning wasn’t too shabby either.
Where We Ate
Surprisingly, I didn’t catch a ton of photos of our eats, simply because I was trying to “unplug”, especially at dinnertime. But we did eat at some fabulous places.
Our first night we ate at Luca’s on Centre in downtown Fernandina. It has an eclectic setting, as well as an eclectic menu. Dishes range from Italian to Asian influence. We started with the Antipasto and for entrees Jon had a pork special and I had the Roast Duck. The Antipasto was good, but a bit random. Not much seemed to go together, but everything was tasty nonetheless. Both of our entrees were absolutely delicious. My duck was some of the best duck I have ever had. No kidding. It was cooked perfectly and the sauces that it came with were delightful.
The owner, Luca himself, visited our table and we chatted for a bit. We noticed how he had been walking the restaurant the whole night with a big smile on his face. He was clearly taking a hands on approach at making sure his diners were enjoying themselves. Later on he brought us out some extra desserts and some limencello. He was the perfect example of true hospitality and it was truly refreshing. A great way to start the trip!
4th Street Deli
On our way to Fort Clinch we stopped by 4th Street Deli to grab some sandwiches for a picnic lunch. This deli was small and super cute. The man behind the counter took everyone’s orders while his wife made the sandwiches. The man talked fast and kept everyone moving, but was also friendly and welcoming. He even stuck a few free cookies in our bag. And later when we opened up our lunch we noticed he gave us an extra salad as well. Which we were glad of because it ended up being our favorite!
We split the Roast Beef and Turkey and an Italian. The sandwiches were good, but the salads were amazing! Besides the Broccoli Salad I don’t remember the names of the others, but they were kimchi based. One had dried ramen noodles in it that gave it a unique consistency…I thought that was so neat!
On our second night we ate at Le Clos, which was one of the cutest restaurants I’d ever been too. It’s in an old bungalow style house and was very intimate. The perfect date night place.
Our server could have been more personable, but she was very knowledgable about the menu and wine list. We started with the Clams and the Pate. For entrees Jon had the Duck and I had the Salmon. All of the food was very good, but not our favorite. Maybe it’s because we’re such foodies, but we can tell when there’s a lack of love in food and the dishes we had definitely needed some love.
When at the beach, eat all the seafood!
I was super pumped to try Timoti’s since it had great reviews and seemed like a chance to get some REAL good seafood. The service was a bit of a hot mess while we were there, but our food made up for it. I got the Fresh Catch Sandwich, which was Corvina that day. It was YUMM-Y. Jon had the Oyster Po’Boy, which he claimed was good, but not great. But he’s picky when it comes to po’boys so I’m going to assume it was pretty darn good. The sides of seaweed salad and hush puppies we got were also excellent. Very cute little spot for a sunny day lunch.
For our last night we had reservations at a tapas place, but when we pulled up we didn’t really like the look of it (it was kind of attached to a hotel?) So after some quick Yelp searching we ended up at The 801, which turned out to be the best meal of the whole trip.
Our server was fantastic. Funny, personable, the right amount of attentive and knowledgable about the menu.
We started with the Pimento Cheese (at my request…LOVE pimento cheese!) and Fried Green Tomatoes appetizers. Thanks to one of my fav restaurants in St. Pete I automatically added the pimento cheese to the tomatoes for the ultimate appetizer. Both were delicious on their own too. Loved the cornmeal breading on the tomatoes!
For entrees Jon had the Pork Chop and I had the Scallops (I seriously ate so much seafood on this trip). I LOVE scallops and these scallops were absolutely divine. Cooked to perfection and was a great dish as a whole. Jon’s pork chop was also perfect and I kept stealing bites of grits that came with his dish.
Turns out this place only opened just recently. They have a cool, spacious bar area at the front and the dining room feels like an art gallery donned with lots of local art. It’s in an old Victorian style house and it seems like they have a lot of back rooms for events. Out of all the places we ate at in Fernandina I would say The 801 is a definite must!
Travel Tip: Make reservations!! Amelia Island and downtown Fernandina were surprisingly popular and at the end of February they were just on the cusp of their busy season. Some places (like Luca’s and Le Clos) were on the smaller side and had we not made reservations we would have not been able to eat there.
Where We Drank
Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach definitely don’t have a hopping nightlife, but we did check out a few bars on our “night out on the town”.
Green Turtle Tavern
This is your locals bar by far. There were a few tourists there that stuck out like sore thumbs (as I’m sure we did too). This is clearly where all the hospitality works come post shift to let loose. The place has a great, laid back vibe. A local jam band was playing on their porch and the patio area had a ping pong table. Oh and um, the bartender definitely has a heavy hand when pouring drinks. This was a one and done kind of place for sure.
Speaking of tourists I’m sure this is where they all go. The Palace Saloon is Florida’s oldest bar (established in 1903), which is pretty cool. They still have the saloon style doors at the front and have kept that saloon feel. They had some good music while we were there and ok drinks. We ended up next door at a connecting bar that was smaller and had pool tables. A little more our style.
What We Did
Well, we didn’t do much! It was a short getaway, plus I wanted it to be a laid back, relaxing kind of getaway so tried not to plan too much (for once).
We spent a few hours at Fort Clinch State Park on our first full day on the island. I love seeking out any historic parts of a city and this place was definitely cool to see. The drive in is really neat as well. You drive a few miles under canopy trees! The fort looks out onto a beach and we realized that the land across from us was Cumberland Island in Georgia.
After exploring the fort we hit the hiking trails at the park. I don’t think I have ever seen so much Florida wildlife on a hike! Armadillos, deer, tortoise and lots of alligators were seen.
Downtown Fernandina Beach
On our second day I let Jon sleep in while I explored downtown some more (a.k.a. went shopping). Downtown has a variety of cute shops…some were a bit touristy and some were a bit pricey, but I did find a few that were hard to leave. One of my favorite shops was Twisted Sisters. They had a huge space and a wide variety of clothing, jewelry and homeware.
And that was our trip to Amelia Island! It really was the perfect place to go for a quick, relaxing getaway. I definitely want to visit again and maybe next time make it a girls getaway!
Have you ever been to Amelia Island?