A Babymoon in Amelia Island
By Kara Franker
Kara on the Coast
You know how they say that a baby changes everything? Well, since my favorite thing to do is travel to coastal towns (especially in Florida), I figured I should get in one more trip before the arrival of baby Lola. As I write this, my husband and I are excitedly expecting our first child and we have only about a month before she arrives.
Over the course of the last few years, we’ve crisscrossed the Sunshine State exploring as much of the coastline as possible—which is no small feat. There are 825 miles of drop-dead gorgeous beaches in Florida. Of course, once Lola arrives and we get settled in, we plan to take her with us wherever we go. But since I’ve heard that the first few months require time at home to gradually introduce the new baby into the world, I knew I had to pick one last vacation spot that could count as the ultimate babymoon destination.
Amelia Island: The Perfect Destination for a Babymoon
Nestled on the northernmost part of Florida’s east coast, Amelia Island offers a combination of pristine beaches, abundant natural wildlife and plenty of that warm Southern hospitality. Picture large Spanish moss-draped live oaks trees, saltwater estuaries teeming with marine life and, of course, golden stretches of uncrowded sand.
There are many reasons why I love Amelia Island. There’s no other place like it in Florida. Having lived in Miami for the past decade, trust me when I say that Florida’s northeast coast couldn’t be more different than South Florida, or even the rest of the Sunshine State.
My list of must-haves for this trip included: perfect weather for a stroll through town, beach views at an upscale and pet-friendly resort, delicious food (I’ve been craving down-home Southern cooking like fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese… oh, and chocolate) and plenty of rest and relaxation. Amelia Island proved to be the perfect fit for all of the above.
Explore Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach
Situated on the northern part of Amelia Island, on the west bank of the Amelia River, you’ll find Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach. This cozy seaport village spans about 50 blocks and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s much to explore in this enchanting downtown area, filled to the brim with Victorian era architecture and pirate folklore.
We enjoyed strolling along tree-lined Centre Street and wandering in and out of some of the local shops. One of my favorites, Pearl, is an upscale women’s boutique featuring colorful resort wear and accessories. There was even a section of adorable Lilly Pulitzer dresses for children. (I can’t wait to dress Lola in Lilly!)
Head to a store called Christmas on the River for festive keepsakes year-round. We found a red crab ornament with “Amelia Island” written on the outer shell. Other fun stops include The Book Loft, Twisted Sisters and Ship’s Lantern Gift Shop.
Remember that Southern cuisine I was craving? I found exactly what I was hoping for at 29 South Restaurant. Chef Scotty Schwartz can cook up an impressive plate of fried chicken, grits, mac ‘n cheese and fried green tomatoes. It was delicious and I highly recommend this spot! Another great eatery is Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro. It’s also a chef-owned upscale restaurant and offers an impressive menu of steaks and seafood.
To cure your sweet tooth, head over to Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge shop. With a secret family recipe that dates back to 1887, they make all their fudge the old-fashioned way, using a copper kettle and marble slabs. Plus, you’ll find plenty of specialty chocolates and ice cream, too. And let’s be honest, there’s really nothing more satisfying during pregnancy than loading up on chocolate.
Where to Stay in Amelia Island
I had heard amazing things about Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, so I couldn’t wait to spend our babymoon at this gorgeous beachfront property.
The resort is quite expansive. It’s situated on 1,350 acres and 3.5 miles of pristine beach. We rented a golf cart from Amelia Wheels to get around the property.
This is one of those hotels that truly has something for everyone: multiple pools, a kid’s splash and play park, nine restaurants, golf, tennis, yoga, water sports, 14 shopping boutiques, a jam-packed weekly event calendar with tons of activities and so much more.
We booked an oceanfront room with a balcony and a view of the water that stretched for miles. Each morning I would get up early for sunrise, just so I could soak up those stunning vistas.
One of our regular hangouts included the open-air verandah outside of the lobby. There you’ll find plush rocking chairs under swaying palm trees.
And because the Omni is pet-friendly, we were able to bring our miniature schnauzer, Ponce de Leon, along. His favorite spot was the bubbling fountain that overlooked the adult pool.
Usually I’m very active when I travel, so I like to stand-up paddle board and explore via bicycle. But since I am at the end of my pregnancy, I really just felt like kicking back and putting my feet up. So we booked treatments at the spa. Situated in a lush meditation garden, complete with a wooden bridge over a picturesque tranquility pool, the spa inspires complete relaxation. And they have prenatal massages for mothers-to-be, like yours truly.
Another spot that inspires serenity is the resort’s Walkers Landing nature preserve area. There you’ll find brightly colored kayaks that you can take out and explore the salt marsh. And because it faces west, it’s also one of the best places on the island to watch sunset.
Top off a perfect day by asking the concierge to set up a romantic beach fire pit for you. They’ll set up two chairs in the sand and bring out all the ingredients to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. We loved this!
Amelia Island is a Natural Paradise
Since my favorite activities happen to include photographing nature, especially sunset and sunrise, we made a point to visit some of the island’s beautiful state parks.
One of the few remaining undeveloped barriers islands in Northeast Florida, Little Talbot Island State Park is a great place for beachcombing and spotting wildlife.
Or head to George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park, where you’ll find a one-mile long pedestrian-only fishing bridge. We caught an incredible sunset at this locale.
At the northern tip of the island and just across the channel from Georgia, you’ll find 1,400-acre Fort Clinch State Park. The beaches here are picture-perfect and there’s a historic Civil War-era fort that dates back to 1864. Volunteer soldiers march around the grounds and even shoot off an old cannon. My husband, the history buff, enjoyed exploring the old fort.
In my opinion, Amelia Island is the perfect place to escape for a babymoon before your bundle of joy arrives. We had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to take little Lola back to our favorite spots someday soon.