(This article was originally published on 7/16/08)
Florida has to be one of the most beautiful destinations in the U.S. for vacations. With gorgeous weather, sugar white beaches and friendly residents, Amelia Island Plantation is a sure bet for families looking for a resort that has it all.
There is just so much to do there that one can never get bored, and the best part is, once you are there, you don't need to go anywhere else. The resort is just 30 miles from the Jacksonville Airport – Continental Airlines flies six times daily for as little as $316. They will even send a van to meet you at the airport!
This is a wonderful vacation, where you can beach it, be active, enjoy serene views, play great golf, enjoy shopping, have some educational fun, luxuriate at the spa and have some memorable meals. It is amazing.
The resort has numerous accommodations, ranging from the Amelia Inn Hotel to condominiums and homes for rental or purchase. The island is so lush and beautiful that many residents are permanent. They are out enjoying the resort too – a testament to the truly valuable experience there. Their stunning homes dot the golf courses lined by ancient live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss.
The hotel has an inviting lobby with many sitting areas, surrounded by a wall of glass on one side and a roaring fireplace on the other. We enjoyed every moment spent on our patio gazing upon the Atlantic Ocean. Many packages are offered, but we recommend the all-inclusive plan. Rates for two adults (children slightly more) include meals (nine restaurants), green and cart fees, beach chairs, umbrellas, bicycles, nature tours, fishing, the tennis and fitness center, poolside hair braiding and more are as low as $3,300 for a week with an ocean view. Resort views and low season rates are significantly less.
The Resort is a gated property, so security is not a concern. Gracious guards offer directions and advice to get around. We rented an Island Hopper, basically a golf cart, that proved to be very convenient.
There is so much to do that you can't do it all even if you had an entire week. The Resort has gone to great lengths to anticipate guests' every desire. They have staff members devoted to the guests and, while some places advertise hospitality, these folks invented the concept.
Let's start with golf and why not? There are 72 holes of championship golf on courses designed by Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Bobby Weed.
The Resort says it best. “Amelia Links, designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed, is a 36-hole configuration including two signature courses, Oak Marsh and Ocean Links. Long Point, Tom Fazio's creation, is an 18-hole layout distinctly designed among primal marshlands and the towering sand dunes of the Atlantic. Long Point is the Club Members primary course; however, resort guests may reserve tee times one day in advance. Amelia River, is open to the public and located just three miles from the resort's main entrance, offers a Tom Jackson designed 18-hole layout, sculpted around a forest of majestic live oaks, sabal palms, pines and wax myrtles.”
You don't have to go to St. Andrew's to enjoy golf along a beach. These courses are beloved by many, and they are all available to guests.
The Shops at Amelia are great – so much more than tiny, nondescript touristy gift shops. I did some serious damage at the Chico's! Harrison's Mercantile, Colors by the Sea, Shoe Visions and so many more are all scatted around a pond in the Resort's center. Be sure to order lunch at the Marche Burrette, where wood-oven fired pizzas are to die for. They offer an incredible wine selection, as well as pastry and cooking demonstrations and wine tastings most weekends.
Amelia's Wheels offers bicycle rentals, baby trailers and joggers as well as the previously recommended Island Hoppers. Lessons are given for all forms of cycling. By far, the most fun we had was rolling along on Segways. The resort has a barn full of them, and, after a brief 30-minute orientation, we were off to enjoy the sights of the 1,350 acres that makeup the Resort. On our 90-minute tour, we explored the dark, tree-lined private paths and the expansive ocean scene. Segways are not difficult to learn, and within minutes, you will be zipping along like an expert. We loved it!
The tennis center is home to 25 clay courts and a club. It is also where you will find the state-of- the-art fitness center, indoor lap pool, and basketball and racquetball courts. There are 23 swimming pools on property just to entertain you!
Everyone will find something interesting at the Nature Center. The Center offers tours and educational exhibits including a pond filled with delightful creatures.
Guests can go crabbing, fishing or join an organized beach tour to discover the area's famed shells. Stargazing, hiking, seining and an 'owl prowl' are offered frequently. The Resort employs naturalists to lead flora and fauna tours and birding explorations. One of the most popular experiences is kayaking through the marsh. Birds, fish and wildlife can all be enjoyed by all skills levels. The Center can arrange off-property tours to the Okefenokee Swamp, Cumberland Island to see wild horses, turkeys and deer, and to several state parks. They also have a nice gift shop.
Head over to the Amelia Angler where you can charter deep sea, backwater and bass fishing charter excursions. The Resort's lagoons are stocked with largemouth bass, tarpon, redfish and snook. Surf fishing for sea trout, whiting, pompano, and flounder take place just off the Resort's beaches. Families can enjoy sailing, dinner cruises and sightseeing tours and in season, hunt for quail.
Kids will be pleased to learn that “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” was filmed in Amelia Island in 1987. The Resort has taken special interest in youth programs, hiring excellent staff members who lead their award-winning program. Everything from pool volleyball to ghost tours will keep the kids happy. This is no “dummied-down babysitting”– this is magic acts, paintball, treasure hunts, contests, build your own boat challenges, horseback riding, beach bonfires, hayrides and movies. Adults can come – sometimes!
The Spa is a lovely combination of its environment: the sea, lagoons, Southern magnolias and pampering. With 25 treatment rooms offering wraps, scrubs, hydrotherapy, manicures, pedicures, and massages – you will wilt from pleasure.
This spa rates far above average and is mandatory for all stressed-out moms.
Amelia Island Plantation resort hosts conferences, will teach you to swim, help you find rare seashells and tempt your palate with crab, lobster, fresh fish and luscious fruits. They will take you sailing, give you a facial and take you to fish for tarpon. There are personal trainers, golf instructors and if you're in the mood – you can get married in their oak-shaded chapel.
Amelia Island Resort is home to unspoiled natural beauty and breathtaking scenery. It is country club living ensconced with great food, lovely employees and fantastic wildlife.
For more information about the resort, visit www.aipfl.com.