Florida Family Vacation: Amelia Island

Amelia Island offers family fun and adventure

School is out. Our gang decides on a Florida family vacation with four days on a sandy beach, but which one? We do not want predictable (sorry, St. Pete). We don't want to be over-run (you're out, Fort Lauderdale and Pensacola). So we drive to Amelia Island, near the Georgia-Florida border. We are about to claim, no exaggeration, miles and miles of beach to ourselves (yes, rain has something to do with that, but there's more to it).

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Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts
Amelia Island Plantation
It all starts here, near the center of an island village: Omni's Amelia Island Plantation. We score a key card to a beachfront villa, which in turn opens the door to 3.5 miles of private beach, golf practically in the surf, and the best popsicles in America.Courtesy Omni Resorts
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | infinity pool
The Infinity Pool
To the pool … now! A sliver of sun splashes onto the yard of our villa, and the forecast indicates it won't be around for long. The dilemma: do we walk to the pool outside our window, or drive to the infinity pool (shown here)?Courtesy Omni Resorts
Amelia Island Family Vacation
The sun sticks around for a drive north along the coast. We count beach access walkways, and we even use a few. Some are like this boardwalk. Others are just sandy paths through sea oats.Amelia Island
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Open Beach
Easiest Island to Find Open Beach
We count 42 beach access points over a five-mile stretch. Repeat: 42. The afternoon eventually turns so wet that even the boiled peanut stand along the road has closed. But the beaches don't close. They just become more vacant. This is our version of a yellow beach umbrella.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Parks
Friendly Parks
Is it bad parenting to allow your children to stroll past cannons and warning signs, en route to another beach? Nah. This is Fort Clinch. It looks ominous, but no shots have been fired from behind these walls in more than 160 years.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Shark tooth hunting
Shark Tooth Hunting
Because of Amelia Island’s position as a barrier island, and because of dredging, thousands of shark teeth wash up to the beaches. Some are as big as guitar picks. Others are the size of corn kernels — only sharper. We comb the beach for hours in the rain.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Fernandina
Fernandina’s Big Surprise
We find more than 100 shark teeth in one spot, at the cruise and charter dock in Fernandina. From here, Amelia River Cruises takes guests to catch shrimp, watch dolphin and see wild horses roam on nearby Cumberland Island.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Cruise
A Most Relaxing Cruise
Our boat captain looks like he just woke up. Pajama Dave Voorhees guides a 45-foot catamaran into Cumberland Sound for a two-hour cruise, one of the best moments of our Florida family vacation. Amelia Island, according to Pajama Dave, has 68 bars and two paper mills, stingrays up to 500 pounds, and … “Yes, I’m really wearing my pajama bottoms.” Boat tours: $16+, www.ameliarivercruises.comRobert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Surf and Pizza
Surf and Pizza
Natural Slice is a pizza joint and surf shop all in one (pepperoni and ukulele anyone?). The pizzas come out thin, crusty, and so hand-crafted that they aren’t quite round. We sit at a table that’s actually a surfboard. Something else about this pizza is different.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Surf and Pizza
The Secret Ingredient
The pizza crust literally makes our mouths water. “We use ocean water in the dough,” says one of the guys at the pizza oven. “It’s collected right out there.”Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Villas
Amelia Island’s Best Villas, Outside
Only the sand dunes separate the condo-style villas from the beach.Courtesy Omni Resorts
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Villas
Best Villas, Inside
Three bedrooms and three baths? Yeah. But the better sell is two balconies and two sunrise views over the ocean. Assuming there’s sun. Book a villa: $229+, www.villasofameliaisland.comCourtesy Omni Resorts
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Nature
Nature’s Umbrella
It could be 92 degrees in Florida. Or it could be raining. On the walking and biking trails, the climate is always cooler and drier because of a canopy from some of Florida's oldest oak trees, making Amelia Island one of the best destinations for Florida family vacations.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | popsicles
Best Popsicles in America
An ice bucket is carried out from the kitchen at Oceanside Restaurant (one of eight restaurants at Amelia Island Plantation). In it is the champagne of frozen desserts: peach-ginger and coconut-banana push pops, the heart of Floribbean food.Courtesy Omni Resorts
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | Poolside Fire
Poolside Fire
With shark teeth in our pockets and push pops in our bellies, we warm up at a ginormous fire pit next to a ginormous pool.Robert Stephens
Best Florida Island for Family Vacations | Amelia Island Plantation | Florida Beach Resorts | beach
Back to the Beach
Is that a glimmer of sunshine? Let’s take some boiled peanuts down to the beach.Robert Stephens