Scouting: Amelia Island, Florida

I’ve mentioned on about 1,000 occasions that this has been a particularly long, brutal winter here in the Northeast (and pretty much everywhere else in the US too.) I know it’s not just that three years in Texas have weakened my constitution, because independent sources confirm that they are freezing too!

So, when my in-laws invited us to tag along on their trip to Florida for a few days I was ready to pack my bags immediately. A short, 2.5 hour flight from LGA to JAX and we were there. Our destination: Amelia Island.

Amelia Island Beach; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Amelia Island Beach; Image: Laura Messersmith

We stayed on the southern end of the island, about 15 minutes from the town of Fernandina Beach in a great ocean front townhome my mother-in-law located on VRBO. Hotels have their place for a night or two, but for longer stays I really love having a home away from home. We had so much fun cooking in the giant and well-appointed kitchen, taking walks along the beach (too cold for me to swim), and reading books with the sound of the ocean in the background.

Amelia Island Beach; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Amelia Island Beach; Image: Laura Messersmith

We also really liked exploring the town of Fernandina Beach, which has a charming, walkable historic district. The best way I can describe the vibe is Key West by way of Savannah.  It’s a sedate low-country, easy living, wandering encouraged sort of place with generous dash of pirate-y, Jimmy Buffet kitsch. 

Historic Fernandina Beach; Images:  Laura Messersmith

Historic Fernandina Beach; Images: Laura Messersmith

In our three days there we just scratched the surface of discoveries (all the more reason to go back!) but I do have a few favorite spots to pass along for when you’ve had enough beachcombing.

1.     Merge: The menu is filled with new versions of classic dishes, and we loved the casual setting matched with attentive, but unobtrusive service. Dinner highlights were the French Onion Bisque, Shrimp Caesar Salad, Seared Sea Bass with Beurre Blanc Sauce (natch), and the Crème Brulee with White Pepper.

2.     Fantastic Fudge: People (including us!) were literally lined up out the door for treats from this old-fashioned sweet shop and ice cream parlor. Extra bonus – you can watch the fudge tempering process take place on the giant slab marble islands while you wait.

3.     Eight Flags Antique Market: This place is a GOLDMINE if your idea of a vacation souvenir trends toward vintage typewriters, Depression glass, cast iron bottle keys, or antique furniture. I'm still wishing I had brought that pipe-smoking sea captain print home…. It’s a huge place, so be prepared to spend some time exploring the different stalls.

4.     Lemongrass: Forget your sunglasses? Blow out a flip flop? Want a straw hat for the beach, or a cute sundress for a night out? Lemongrass is the place. Their selection is a cool mix of surfer, Coachella boho, Brooklyn-hipster and a hint of coastal prep.

With activities for all ages I can see Amelia Island as a place families could come back to year after year. I know I'd love to visit again!

Amelia Island, Florida; Images:  Laura Messersmith

Amelia Island, Florida; Images: Laura Messersmith