Our favorite: Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach

Kristi and I have called Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach home since 2012. She’s been vacationing here her whole live.

In that time, we’ve discovered many “favorites” in our little corner of the world which we adore. Hopefully you’ll be able to experience them for yourself one day.

Art gallery – Art on Centre

Art on Centre is the only gallery in town selling fine art paintings of a quality that would not be out of place with what we’ve seen in better galleries in Breckenridge, CO, Vail and St. Augustine, FL.

Pizza – Moon River / Arte Pizza

I prefer Moon River for a doughier, chewier slice; she likes the crispier, well-done Arte Pizza.

Bread sticks – Pi

The mega-doughy, cheese-covered bread sticks appetizer at Pi downtown is meal enough without any pizza. Their marinara sauce goes beyond the ordinary. Pair your weighty bread sticks with one of their delicious salads.

Gym – Club 14 Fitness

At one time, I was a competitive powerlifter and not bad for my weight class and age group when at my best. I did my training largely at Club 14 Fitness which has power cages, competition benches, specialty bars and everything necessary for serious training.

The gym also supports serious enthusiasts so chalk, dropping weights, and being (a little) aggressive won’t be frowned upon.

Breakfast – Beach Diner

Kristi likes Beach Diner because she prefers their bacon to Miss Carolyn’s and it serves Coke Zero – those are seriously her reasons. I think Beach Diner and Miss Carolyn’s are comparable, both good; Beach Diner does have outdoor seating which can be nice.

Home décor – Coastal Cottage

Everything and anything necessary to make your house feel like a beach home.

Sporting event – Florida-Georgia game

It’s not called “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” for no reason, and while the game is played in Jacksonville, the revelry spills over to Amelia Island with thousands of Georgia fans staying here as their headquarters.

Florida-Georgia game at Everbank Field.
Florida-Georgia game at Everbank Field. (Photo credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Steak – Baxter’s

Kristi’s favorite restaurant on the Island where she always orders the filet. Great dinner rolls, soups and fish as well.

Sangria – La Mancha

Everything at La Mancha is good, the sangria transports you to Spain.

Spa – The Ritz-Carlton Spa

Kristi’s happy place.

Tamales – Cantina Louie

Astonishingly good for a small island in Florida.

Experience even locals don’t know about – White Oak Conservation Center

White Oak, in next-door Yulee, defies description. A world-class conservation center for exotic animals. Yes. Luxury getaway for celebrities. Yes.

There’s nothing like White Oak and if you can make it there for a tour, you’ll have a memory to last a lifetime.

Antique Jaguar at Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance auction.
Antique Jaguar at Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance auction. (Photo credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Event/festival – Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance

Amelia Island’s international claim to fame. This may well be the top classic and antique car competition in the world. A golf course at the Ritz-Carlton is turned into a judging field where rare, exotic, sometimes one-of-a-kind cars from around the world are displayed for judging. If you have any interest in cars whatsoever, you owe it to yourself to attend Concours at least once.

Ferraris, Porsches and Jaguars can be seen motoring around the Island with regularity during this week in March which brings out high-society and big spenders from around the world. Amelia Island’s tiny airport probably does as many private jet takeoffs and landings that week as it does the rest of the year combined.

The Concours D’Elegance has spawned a variety of other events that week at the Ritz-Carlton and around the Island, some of which are free to the public, others of which are invitation only.

This will give you some sense of what kind of event Concours week has become: in 2016, Jerry Seinfeld, yes, that Jerry Seinfeld, sold 15 Porsches out of his personal collection at a Gooding and Company auction during Concours week for $22 million. Seinfeld attended.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in classic cars are bought and sold in the various auctions taking place on the Island with the jet-set in town for Concours. You can press your face up against the glass for a peak inside for free if you know where and when to look.

Complimentary bread – Barbara Jean’s Restaurant

An odd category to be sure, but once you try the pumpkin bread, dinner rolls and cornbread served before meals at Barbara Jean’s, you’ll know why we included it.

Bulldog-themed fudge at Fantastic Fudge during Florida-Georgia week.
Bulldog-themed fudge at Fantastic Fudge during Florida-Georgia week. (Photo creidt TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Sweet treats – Fantastic Fudge

You can find Fantastic Fudge downtown by looking for the corner storefront with the perpetual line out the door. The fudge handmade on premises rivals any in the world. Working Cow ice cream along with a variety of candies are also sold on-site.

Beach-combing – Little Talbot Island State Park

The beaches of Amelia Island are not great for finding shells. The north end of the Island and the state park on the south end are better than the middle, but, all-in-all, Amelia Island is not a beach-combers paradise. If that’s your reason for being, go to Sanibel and Captiva near Ft. Myers.

However, just off the south end of the Island you’ll find Little Talbot Island State Park which puts anywhere on Amelia to shame for shelling. Drive to one of the more distant parking lots and arrive as soon after the park opens at 8:00 AM as possible to beat the rush. You’ll be glad you did.

Still, don’t expect to be finding foot-long conch shells, nautilus shells and shark teeth by the handful. Sand dollars, cockles (which can be large and colorful) and whelks will be found in abundance.

Ribs – Happy Tomato

I’ve lived here for five years and I still don’t totally understand their hours; they aren’t open for dinner, it’s a little tricky to find, but once you do, the ribs are meaty, flavorful and succulent without being drenched in sauce. As good as I’ve had anywhere.

Oysters – Salty Pelican

Along with out-of-this-world oysters, Salty Pelican has the prototypical Florida beach bar vibe tourists crave and it’s as good as any place on the Island to watch the sun set.

Bar – Green Turtle Tavern

Speaking of “prototypical Florida beach bar vibe,” the Turtle adds locals and live music to the mix.

Place to see alligators – Egan’s Creek Greenway

No matter which end of the Greenway you enter from, you should be able to find alligators – close enough, almost, to touch, but plenty safe as long as you act responsibly. Remember, alligators live in fresh water, so the brackish water, tidal areas won’t have them. Look for small ponds and canals.

For a “sure thing,” park in the back at the Residence Inn on Sadler Rd. and enter the Greenway from there. You may find one right in the pond in front of you.

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