Family Vacations to Amelia Island, Florida

Poolside at Amelia Plantation, Amelia Island, Florida
Poolside at Amelia Plantation, Amelia Island (courtesy, Amelia Island Tourist Development Council)

A laid back, quaint destination, Amelia Island offers both a pristine natural habitat and a charming village in a historic Florida location. Located off the Jacksonville coast, the island dates back 40 centuries and stars a diverse cast of characters including pirates, confederates, nobles, and Native Americans of the Timucua tribe. The Timucua inhabited the island for thousands of years until the 1500s when the French claimed it. Amelia Island changed hands eight times after that: falling under the control of the Spanish, English, Mexican Revolutionary, Patriot, Green Cross, Union, Confederate, and—finally—the United States. In the early 20th century, the island that had once been a haven to smugglers and pirates became a source of the modern shrimp industry, and to this day you can still watch shrimp boats coming in.

The island offers several camping and lodging options. A stay at the Amelia Island Plantation offers more than just a place to lay your head. Its nature center has family programs and trails you can bike or hike on, and you can enjoy watching wildlife you may not see at home—including birds like the great horned owl, snowy egret, osprey, purple sandpipers, and rare Jaeger marsh pelican. There are also three different sea turtle species living on the island in protected nests that ensure their safety. Spot whales, manatees, and dolphins playing in the Atlantic along the island's 13 miles of shoreline or search for treasures while combing the beach. If collecting seashells and spotting whales isn't cool enough, what could excite a child more than finding a shark's tooth? These fossilized remains, found in abundance on Main Beach, are 10 to 50 million years old and up to five feet long.

Amelia Island's rich historical resources include American Beach, developed in the first half of the 20th century as Florida's first beach resort especially for African Americans. On the island's north end you'll find Fort Clinch State Park, a 19th-century military post that played a part in the Civil and Spanish-American wars as well as World War II. The recently renovated Amelia Island Museum of History offers exhibits, programs, and docent-led tours of the island's historic district.

Published: 4 Mar 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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