Amelia Island

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Amelia Island seems a million miles away from the rowdy shores of Miami. This family and couple-oriented haven is in the northeast of Florida, and is as serene and sophisticated as it gets. Think spotless beaches, a cute harbor-side town with historic buildings, wildlife and nature close at hand, and easy access from Jacksonville. No wonder Amelia Island ranks among the "Top 10 US Islands" in Condé Nast Readers' Choice Awards.

Fernandina Beach

The consistently popular Fernandina Beach sits just below the Florida-Georgia border. A dozen or so miles worth of pristine sand stretch along its Atlantic side, often fronted by lovely wooden beachside lodges, tasteful condos and quality spa resorts. Fernandina Beach also has beautiful Victorian architecture, a fine marina, and waterside cafés.

Oozing charm with its manicured sidewalks, Victorian houses and historic churches, Fernandina Beach is more than just a day at the beach. Check out the boutique–style shopping, the theater, and popular town museum, or take a boat ride from one side of the island to the other. There are championship golf courses here, too, and the Amelia State Park in the south makes you feel like you’ve gotten away from it all.

The island is fronted by one long stretch of sand, with the most popular being Fernandina Beach in the north. The sand is white and spotlessly clean, meticulously combed by locals and tourists. Amelia Island even has north and south facing beaches, with a huge arc of sand around the state park for sunsets by horseback. Fernandina Beach has most facilities.

Awards

Along with receiving frequent attention and awards from Condé Nast Traveler, Amelia Island has also made news in TripAdvisor’s 2013 Travelers' Choice Awards as well as Coastal Living in ‘Best Little Beach Towns’. Residents try to make a point of keeping the beaches of Amelia clean and urge visitors to avoid stepping on plants and sea turtle nests. These beaches are never busy and also have some surf.

This is a barrier island so the water is always close at hand; Fernandina city itself is flanked on two sides. As well as sunbathing and great swimming, there is excellent scuba diving and deep-sea fishing—tours generally run from the harbor in town. The southern end features the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort for kayaking, bird spotting or cycling, where tours are also offered to kids if they are interested.

Transportation

Jacksonville International Airport is north of the city. The drive is only around 30 minutes via the I-95 and A1A, with the latter extending the length of the Florida coast. You’ll need a car here since there’s no public transportation, though horse-drawn carriages are good for tours with Old Towne Carriage.

Climate

It’s sunny year-round, but noticeably cooler in the winter than locations in southern Florida. It’s still very comfortable for those heading here from northern states for an escape from the cold. While into the 90s in the summer, both spring and fall see respectable temperatures into the 70s.

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