The Best Things To Do On Amelia Island

a wooden boardwalk is in the center of the photograph. There are wooden handrails. The boardwalk leads down to the beach and the sun is setting in the back right just above the ocean. The clouds are wispy and tinged with gold and blue.

We recently had the chance to spend 48 hours on the east coast of Florida at a place called Amelia Island. It’s a small island about 30 miles north of Jacksonville. And it’s one of the places that regularly makes Condé Nast’s “Top 10 U.S Islands.” Keep reading to see our picks on the best things to do on Amelia Island. We’ve also got a few of our top spots for places to eat and drink while there!

Check Out Downtown Fernandina Beach

Downtown Fernandina Beach is home to several buildings on the National Historic Register. You can walk or ride your bike in this cute little area that has a ton of independently-owned local shops and restaurants. It reminded us a little bit of Beaufort, South Carolina, but bigger with more streets and places to check out. Before you visit, be sure to check out Amelia Island’s online calendar as it often has several activities happening in the downtown area.

Go Horseback Riding With Kelly Seahorse Ranch

Caroline Whatley and another woman are riding two brown horses on Fernandina Beach. Caroline is in front. The water gently breaks on the shore in the background.
Photo by Kelly Seahorse Ranch. Caroline’s looking easy in the saddle!
A woman in a red t-shirt and hat walks away from two horses, one which is white and one which is brown. Both are weraing saddles and harnesses and are tied up to a metal pole. There is part of a barn on the left hand side of the photo and trees in the background. Tire tracks are in the sand in the foreground.
The Kelly Seahorse Ranch is located in a maritime forest on Amelia Island.
A red barn with a bunch of open horse stables is in the photograph. There are tall palmetto trees in the background as well as live oaks.
If you love horses you must put this on your list of the best things to do on Amelia Island.

If you’ve ever wanted to ride a horse on the beach, now’s your chance! Picture yourself riding on top of a beautiful horse, sun on your face, and a sea breeze keeping you cool…If this sounds like you, Kelly Seahorse Ranch will help you cross this item off your bucket list. We think it’s one of the best things to do on Amelia Island. It’s certainly a unique experience. Your adventure will start at the ranch which is located in Amelia Island State Park and will wind through a beautiful maritime forest on a private trail until you get to the hard-packed sand beach where the majority of your ride will take place. And while you can’t take cell phones or cameras on the ride, the staff will make sure to snap several photos of you and your group that you can purchase for a small fee later. Kelly Seahorse Ranch is Florida’s only ranch on the beach so this is a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t want to miss out on while visiting Amelia Island!

Ride Bikes on Egans Creek Greenway

A black bicycle leans against a green fence posts with the number 20 on it. In the background is a green creek and lots of bushes and brambles. A map is also on a post in the photo.
Getting our bearings on Egans Creek Greenway.
A black bicycle leans against a wooden boardwalk and handrail. The sun is dappled on the boardwalks and there are green trees with Spanish moss hanging from them.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the Greenway. Locals say a 10 foot alligator lives and frequents the area!

Just behind the Residence Inn, you’ll find Egans Creek Greenway. It’s a wonderful spot for taking a walk or riding a bike. A few locals told us to keep an eye out for gators but we never saw one. This trail is great for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts as it’s flat and well-marked. There are also a bunch of interpretive signs along the way to help you learn about the ecosystem along Egans Creek. Bring your camera if you have one as the opportunities for spotting wildlife are numerous!

If you have your own bikes, this is one place you will want to bring them. But if you don’t, there are several places to rent. We had our own because we’d just finished up a 214-mile bike ride from Key Largo to Key West and back but Caroline’s rear brake was messed up. Still, we made a quick stop to see the team at Fernandina Beach Cycling and Fitness and they got us fixed up right there in the parking lot. We can’t say enough good things about this bike shop. While they don’t do rentals, they do make repairs and they have a big fleet of bikes for sale.

This is a photo of the Fernandina Beach Cycling store. There are bikes in the big glass shop windows and several bikes parked outside. There is an open sign on the door and a Christmas elf as well. Above the glass windows and doors are red letters and the logo of Fernandina Beach Cycling.
Riding a bike around Amelia Island is one of the best ways to explore the area.

Take a CraigCat Catamaran Tour with Riptide Watersports

A yellow and red CraigCat with a white engine is parked on the shore of a desolate beach. A few clouds are in the background as well as a small strip of land. The sand is untouched and the scene is serene.
The CraigCat is easy and SO fun to drive!
There is a small brown horse in the center of the photograph. Most of the foreground is white sandy beach with some dried grass and dead vegetation.
One of the best things to do on Amelia Island is to take a tour on a CraigCat where you may get to see wild horses!

To be honest, we’d never heard of a CraigCat before. Turns out it’s a small catamaran with two surfboard-like hulls that makes adventuring on the water super fun. The CraigCat can get going to speeds up to 25 miles an hour and yet it’s stable and easy to maneuver. No prior experience is required. Note: You will have to have a boater’s license or complete an online temporary boaters’ safety course prior to the excursion. But it’s easy. We took it and both of us passed on the first try.

Each CraigCat can hold two people-a driver and a passenger. Drivers need to be at least 18 but it’s a great outdoor adventure for all ages.

And when you go with Riptide Watersports, you’ll have a guide. The tour lasts 2.5 hours and will take you, via boat, to some of the most beautiful spots on Amelia Island. If you’re lucky you may also make a stop like we did on Cumberland Island, Georgia where there’s a high chance of seeing wild horses. We saw numerous dolphins on our tour and learned a ton about the local history while out on the water. We’d do this trip again in a heartbeat.

Ride Bikes on the Water with Amelia River Cycle

The black handlebars of a River Cycle is blurred out in the foreground. Between the handlebars is a sharp photo of dark water and a dock with nice boats and a blue umbrella, a dock, and four yellow boats with orange life jackets tied to them. A man crouches down next to them.
Get a workout while sightseeing beautiful Amelia Island.
A photograph of a calm water scene. There is a small island with three sailboats moored neared it to the right and one smaller one in the distance to the left.
It is so peaceful here on Amelia Island – we will definitely be back.

Ride bikes on the water? Say what? Yep! The team at Amelia River Cycle has a bunch of bikes that will help you get a workout in while seeing some amazing scenery. Both single rider and double rider bikes are available and neither require experience or a boaters license. You just hop on, pedal, and away you go.

We thought the bikes were a solid workout. It’s a lot like pedaling a cruiser in the toughest gear but we loved every minute of it. For those of you, like me, who have a soundtrack for everything, you’ll be stoked to know the bikes come with Bluetooth speakers. We rented the bikes mid-morning but you can also opt to take them out at sunset for gorgeous photo ops.

Visit Fort Clinch State Park

By now y’all know that we love the outdoors so it was a no-brainer to go explore Fort Clinch State Park. You can hike, camp, cycle, picnic, and even kayak at this 1,400-acre park. But one of the most unique things to do at Fort Clinch State Park and on Amelia Island, in general, is to look for shark’s teeth. The best time to hunt for shark’s teeth is right after a storm but they are in abundance and can often be found even amid calm weather.

Van lifers will appreciate the two campgrounds at Fort Clinch. It’s a great spot to visit year-round but especially in the winter because the temperature is typically mild if not downright sunny and warm. (The average temps in December are a high of 66 and a low of 48. Not bad!) That said, sites fill up very quickly so if you want one, book well in advance!

Where to Eat and Drink on Amelia Island

When you’ve only got a limited amount of time in a place, you want to find all the best spots to eat and drink, yeah? It can’t be only us. To that end, we’re sharing our top picks for the best places to eat and drink on Amelia Island. Starting with…beer.

The Tavern by Amelia Island Brewing Company (AIBC)

A beer pyramid made with AIBC beers rests on a slate gray table. There are three beer cans on the bottom, two in the middle, and one at the top. There is a brick wall in the background and two chairs at the table.
Amelia Island Brewing Company, aka AIBC, will make you to-go crowlers of your favorite craft beers.
The inside of Amelia Island Brewing Company. The photo is centered on the tap handles for AIBC, which are black with gold trim. The background is blurred out and is brick and has a few poinsettas hanging from wooden planks that host round lights.
Every beer we tasted was fantastic. If you go to Amelia Island and you love craft beer, check out AIBC.

Y’all know we love beer. One of the first things we research when in a new-to-us place is the breweries. How many are there, what are they making, DO THEY HAVE IPA’S? As luck would have it, Amelia Island has a couple of breweries! But if you’ve only got time for one, we recommend Amelia Island Brewing Company. They’ve got two locations in Fernandina Beach and both have outdoor seating.

We’re big fans of their beers and as such brought home a bunch of big to-go cans aka crowlers. If you’re a fan of IPA’s you’re going to love AIBC because they have a large selection to choose from. And though their beers are constantly rotating and changing, when we were there they had 6 IPA’s on tap.

They have an Imperial IPA that clocks in at 8.5% but they also have some in the 4.9-5.2% range. The bartenders will help you pick out a tasty brew so if you’re undecided, just ask.

A photo of the inside of the Amelia Island Brewing Company. Two people are at the bar and are leaning over looking at a phone. There is a tv on in the top right hand corner of the photo. There are tap handles on there sides of the bar.
“The Island That Time Forgot.”

Timoti’s Seafood Shack | 21 North 3rd Street

A photo of the outside of Timoti's Seafood Shak. The sign is made on old wood and has a crawfish on it above the word Timoti's. There are palmetto trees on the street and an American flag on the building. The door to the building is open and there are a few people indoors.
Timoti’s – we’d heard a lot about it and it did not disappoint!
A small hand holds an orange beer can on top of an old wooden picnic table. There is another orange beer can in the bottom left hand corner. There is a white cardboard dish holding two lobster rolls with a lemon wedge and another dish with salad greens, avocado, and grilled salmon in it. A plastic ramakin with dressing is upside down in the same dish.
Beer and seafood, what more could you ask for at Timoti’s Seafood Shak.

Timoti’s has three locations but the one on Amelia Island is located in the downtown historic district. It’s just a block off Main Street and has outdoor dining and even a small playground area that’ll help keep kids entertained while the grown-ups enjoy food and a beverage or two. The vibe is casual and the food is delicious. We ordered an order of the lobster rolls (it automatically comes with two lobster rolls) and it was super fresh. The lobster itself was served chilled, tossed with mayonnaise, and came on a lightly toasted bun. We also ordered a rice box with grilled salmon that came with avocado, sesame seeds, pickled onion, fresh greens, and T’s poké sauce. Both dishes were excellent and we will definitely return the next time we are in town.

Erin McGrady is sitting at a wooden picnic table. She has a lobster roll in her hand and there is a cardboard dish in front of her. There are two orange beer cans on the table and brown tray with a ketchup bottle. The picnic table is on uneven brick and there are tropical looking plants all around.
Outdoor island dining? We’re in!

V Pizza – Fernandina Beach

A small round pizza is served on a silver tray, also round, and there is a serving utensil under a slice. The pizza is on a reddish wooden table and a glass of bubble water and red pepper flakes rests on the table.
Next time we go, we’d order two. They were that good.

Pizza is one of our favorite things to eat so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try it on Amelia Island. After scouring some of the online reviews and photos, we finally decided on V Pizza. And it was awesome. The dough is on the slightly sweet side, it’s thin with a thick and chewy crust. They use wood-fired grills to make the pizza and as a result, it has the flavor that only this kind of pizza can create: a little char on the bottom, some on the crust, and a smoky flavor that adds a layer of complexity to every mouthful. There are six other locations in Florida but this is the only one on Amelia Island so check it out if you’re craving some pizza goodness. While we typically don’t endorse chains, V Pizza gets the nod cause it’s that’s good.

Best Place to Stay on Amelia Island

There are numerous options when it comes to lodging on Amelia Island. We opted to stay in a hotel rather than the van for this trip because after a few weeks on the road we were ready for a proper shower and some creature comforts.

Residence Inn Amelia Island | 2301 Sadler Road

The exterior of the Residence Inn Amelia Island is decorate for Christmas and is in white lights with red bows. There are two round wreaths on the door.
The LGBTQ+ friendly Residence Inn – Amelia Island. Would recommend.
The inside of the room in the Residence Inn. There is a sofa on the right hand side and a kitchen in the background. The room is clean and tidy. There is a photo of the Amelia Island lighthouse above the sink.
Not only was the room clean and spacious but it had a full kitchen!
A photo of the king size bed at the Residence Inn. The headboard is a rich red wood and the side bed lights are on. The pillows are fluffed and the bed is made.
The bed was so comfortable…

The Residence Inn Amelia Island was a great fit for us. It offered easy and free parking for the van, check-in was swift, and they didn’t mind that we brought our bikes into the room. They also offer a 24-hour fitness center, 55-inch flat-screen TVs, and free wi-fi. Plus, it’s pet-friendly!

The room itself was super clean. There was a full kitchen with a range, stove, sink, dishes, and silverware. It also had a super comfortable king-size bed that we were told upon check-in that the entire hotel just received new mattresses. And we can attest that they were wonderful.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Location is key! And in this instance, the location of the Residence Inn Amelia Island was awesome. It’s within two blocks of the beach and there is a bike path called Egans Creek Greenway just off the hotel property (mentioned above). The hotel has bikes that you can rent for half a day or a full day. It’s also just a short drive from the downtown historic area.

But wait, it gets even better. The hotel is also a proud sponsor of Fernandina Beach Pride and is LGBTQ+ friendly.

Fernandina Beach Pride

For those of you wondering if Amelia Island is LGBTQ+ friendly, the answer is yes. Though it’s not a huge place, it does have a pride event! Fernandina Beach Pride is set to have its second annual Pride event in June of 2022. It was originally scheduled for October 2021 but organizers decided to postpone it due to COVID. To stay up to date with the latest information regarding the parade and festival, give them a follow on Instagram.

Best Things to Do Amelia Island Recap

If you’re looking for a great getaway, especially in the wintertime, point yourself towards Amelia Island. It’s a slower pace of life, the food is great, there are outdoor dining options, there’s awesome craft beer and there are tons of outdoor adventures just waiting to be had. We’re already looking forward to revisiting. Have you been to Amelia Island? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Please let us know in the comments below.

More Florida posts:

72 Hours in Crystal River, Inverness, and Floral City (hint: manatees!)
Best Springs in Florida
Best Places to Run in Florida

Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

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