Written by Tess Eyrich.
Unforgettable experiences await families visiting one of Florida’s most historic beach towns
Perched amid 1,350 acres of tropical playground, Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is a family-friendly portal to northeast Florida’s diverse natural wonders. A highlight of historic Amelia Island’s coastline, the waterfront resort has earned a sterling reputation for its eco-friendliness and sweeping sustainability initiatives that protect and enhance surrounding habitats.
As part of a barrier-island ecosystem, the resort not only includes dunes and beaches, but also a tidal salt marsh and a maritime forest with gorgeous live oaks and tree canopies. This means you can experience a variety of changes in the natural surroundings, all within less than a mile of each other. Here, in a place seemingly untouched by overdevelopment, the journey begins with a languid stroll through towering palm trees and prehistoric-looking saw palmettos – and culminates in the vacation of a lifetime.
The island style experience – you could get used to this
Although the original Amelia Island Plantation made its debut in 1972, the resort enjoyed a grand $85 million reimagining in 2013. Its 404 guestrooms and suites now boast island-inspired interior details and décor – think crisp Egyptian-cotton linens, bamboo furnishings, and bold pops of teal and coral – as well as access to a multitiered deck with pools for both adults and children, oversize fire pits, and a state-of-the-art fitness center and wellness spa.
The visual splendor continues outside the resort’s doors, as you explore a landscape populated with all manner of wildlife native to Florida’s stretch of the 3,000-mile Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which cuts directly through the property’s wooded acreage. The resort’s Nature Center, which was launched more than 20 years ago by local resident and naturalist Christina Nelson, is an excellent starting point for those looking to engage with the scenery.
The Nature Center coordinates a variety of outdoor activities designed to give you in-depth looks at the surroundings and coastal neighbors, including bird-watching tours, crabbing and freshwater fishing excursions, and sea turtle conservation programs. But the most popular activity by far is a shark discovery program where you can learn about sharks and make necklaces with sharks’ teeth found by hunting for them on the beach. All of the sharks’ teeth found here are fossilized, and kids love them.
Of course, those who opt to go it alone will also discover ample opportunities to soak up the setting. You’ll find two really great parks on-property: Walker’s Landing, which is a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset, and Drummond Point Park, which is great for birding and viewing other local wildlife. Drummond is very wide open and features playground equipment for the kids and a three-story lookout where you can get a spectacular view of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Even the active living experience is relaxing here
It’s from the banks of Walker’s Landing that the resort hosts immersive programs like guided kayaking, paddleboarding sessions, and other unique activities that someone not from Florida or not from a coast will want to experience.
Early morning sunrises on the beach are magnificent and are frequented by passing pods of dolphins and birds flying across the waterway. Or enjoy your afternoons bike riding beneath Amelia Island’s lush tree canopy – yet another expert-led activity that’s open to guests on their own as well. In fact, you can rent bikes and ride the seven miles of trails, plus paved roadways. Guests are also welcome to rent golf carts and schedule Segway tours through a service called Amelia’s Wheels. Segway tours have been popular in bigger cities for a while now, but there’s something truly special about Segwaying under a beautiful canopy of oak trees.
The resort can assist with setting up sailing trips at nearby Fernandina Beach, friendly tennis matches on any of the 23 clay courts, and rounds of golf at one of the three on-site championship courses: Oak Marsh, Ocean Links, and Long Point. Designed by Pete Dye, Oak Marsh offers challenges for both casual and professional players, with tight fairways set among salt marsh creeks and moss-covered oak trees. Ocean Links is a Bobby Weed design that includes oceanfront holes and fairways that run parallel to the resort’s beach. Long Point, an award-winning course designed by Tom Fazio, features the Golf Channel Academy, 18 holes, and a unique look at the area’s diverse landscapes, as the course spans marshes, oak and pine forest, and oceanfront dunes.
You’ll cherish each moment, just as you’ll relive the memories for a lifetime
As with all Omni resorts, you’ll leave the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort a different person. That’s because you don’t just stay at an Omni, you experience it. You’ll grow, you’ll explore, and you’ll learn, not only about the magnificent surrounding area, but also about yourself.
This article originally appeared in its entirety in the Spring 2017 issue of ESCAPES magazine. You can view the extended format here.