Fall in love on Amelia Island

Fall in love on Amelia Island

By Sydni Ellis

Champagne and chocolate are always a good idea, but this month give your Valentine a little something more. Skip your regular restaurant reservations and escape to an island straight out of your dreams instead (but don’t worry, you can still bring a bottle of bubbly!). Located off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is filled with gorgeous beaches, a rich history, relaxing couple’s activities, and cozy lodging designed to make sparks fly. Cupid can save his arrows — you won’t need help falling in love in this paradise!

While the weather outside may be mild, with average highs around 65 degrees this time of year, romance heats up on Amelia Island. How could it not with salt-kissed air filling your lungs, golden sunshine grazing your skin, and cool blue water refreshing your spirit? Consistently ranked as one of the top islands in the U.S., the island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Intercoastal Waterway, Nassau Sound, and Cumberland Sound that provide pure water views everywhere you turn.

There are plenty of places to relax along the 13 miles of Appalachian quartz beaches here. The soft sand is perfect for cuddling with your sweetheart or going for a long walk hand in hand. Later, go shopping at one of the many local stores located throughout the island, eat dinner at a delicious seafood restaurant, or take a romantic sunset boat ride. The possibilities are endless! And with plenty of intimate bed and breakfasts and upscale hotels to choose from, you’ll never want to leave. 

To get to Amelia Island, fly to Jacksonville International Airport then take a 30-minute drive across the scenic Intercoastal Waterway. Or hop on the Mayport Ferry and cross the St. Johns River to get to the island. Once you arrive, you can take trolleys, rent bicycles, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride to get around. 

Next, check in at The Hoyt House, an adults-only bed and breakfast on Fernandina Beach with just 10 bedrooms inside a 1900s Victorian mansion. Each room is tastefully decorated to combine elegance and comfort, complete with cozy fireplaces and private balconies as well as daily gourmet breakfasts. Book a romance package with roses, wine, chocolate, horseback riding on the beach, a couple’s massage, a $75 dinner credit, desert for two, and a two-night stay for $1,600. In February, you can also add the Valentine’s special to your existing reservation for $229, with a gourmet dessert board of chocolates and berries, a bottle of wine, and a dozen roses. Learn more at hoythouse.com

The Omni Amelia Island Resort, also on Fernandina Beach, offers a luxurious experience where guests are treated to amazing ocean views, refreshing resort pools, championship golf courses, and a full-service spa that is the definition of relaxation. Rooms include private balconies or patios overlooking the water, spa-like baths, and comfortable beds you can sink into after a long day of exploring the island. For an extra fee, you can upgrade to a luxury suite with panoramic views of the ocean, a large furnished balcony, and an oversized bathroom with soaking tub. Be sure to book an appointment at the onsite spa with your significant other. Each visit starts with a drink of organic citrus water and a stroll through the relaxation area and garden. Popular services include a couple’s massage, facials, quartz sand table massage, and the tropical blossom ritual. omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island

Start your day by soaking up the sun at Amelia Island State Park, home of beaches, salt marshes and coastal maritime forests. This is also the only state park in Florida where you can go horseback riding. Reserve your spot with Kelly Seahorse Ranch for a beautiful way to connect with horses, enjoy the exquisite natural scenery, and admire the water with your beau. Tickets are $125 per person (ages 13 and up only) at kellyranchinc.net. Other activities at the park include riding on coastal cycling trails, bird watching, wildlife viewing, paddling, picnicking, fishing, and shellfish collecting. Learn more at floridastateparks.org/amelia-island.

Experience history on American Beach, part of the African American Heritage Trail and the first African American beach in Florida. The beach was founded by a millionaire investor and philanthropist A.L. Lewis in defiance of segregation and Jim Crow laws in 1935, and it has its own museum (although it’s currently closed due to the pandemic). 

Other historic locations on Amelia Beach include the Maritime Museum of Amelia Island, which tells the story of shipwrecks, pirates, French and Spanish treasure fleets, divers and treasure salvers, the U.S. Navy, and more. maritimemuseumai.org.
Or visit the Amelia Island Lighthouse, which is the oldest operational lighthouse in Florida built in 1820 while the area was under Spanish rule. After Florida became part of the U.S., the lighthouse was dismantled and rebuilt across the river on Amelia Island. It still stands today, guiding boats into the channel toward Fernandina Harbor. Schedule a tour at fbfl.us/474/Amelia-Island-Lighthouse-Tour.

For more about the island’s roots, stop by the Amelia Island Welcome Center in the old train depot on Centre Street. You can learn about the eight flags that have flown over the island throughout history, the story of David Yulee (whose statue sits right outside the welcome center), and more about this fascinating place — including plenty of things to do now.

Ready for more romance? Head to Fernandina Beach to grab a drink at First Love Brewing, a local brewery built around the idea of “pursuing your passions and dreams.” It was founded by lovers Kevin and Jessie, who are passionate about bringing people together with delicious beer, great food, and a cozy atmosphere. firstlovebrewing.com. If you get hungry, grab some fresh seafood at the Salt Life Food Shack, where you can eat outside under the shaded patio, inside by the custom-built saltwater aquarium, or upstairs on the roof-top bar. Enjoy sushi, oysters, street tacos, sandwiches, clam chowder, salmon, burgers, and more while live music plays in the background. Check out the menu at saltlifefoodshack.com. For a more upscale dinner, make reservations at Le Clos, a French restaurant inside a charming re-decorated cottage from 1906. It’s led by chef/owner Katherine Ewing, who was trained at Le Cordon Blue and in formal restaurants in Paris, France. Guests are treated to a curated menu focused on fresh seafood, along with an eclectic wine menu that is designed to pair perfectly with your cuisine. It’s a dreamy dinner date to take someone special. leclos.com.

Your island getaway wouldn’t be complete without going on a Sunset Nature Tour by the Amelia Island Private Boat Charter. On this intimate two-hour boat ride, guests have a chance to see manatees, dolphins, birds, wild horses, fiddler crabs, and pelicans, while enjoying a picnic dinner and wine you bring from home. This highly rated tour is sure to be the highlight of your trip — just don’t forget to bring your camera to capture every magical moment!

Whether it’s your first year together or your fiftieth, a weekend getaway to Amelia Island is exactly what your relationship needs. But fair warning: a regular Valentine’s Day at home will never feel the same after spending time on this island of love!