Amelia Island (45 minutes N of Downtown), Jacksonville
A heavily wooded barrier island boasting broad beaches of white quartz sand, Amelia Island is a quaint blend of the very old, the very exclusive and the very natural. This northernmost island in all of Florida is often grouped with Jacksonville's beaches due to its close proximity. About a 45 minute drive north of Downtown Jacksonville, the historic pirate town of Fernandina Beach occupies the northern third of the island. Birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, much of the town’s red brick architecture along Centre Street reflects the 1800s and early 1900s. Today, a number of interesting shops and restaurants add to the street's allure. Bed & Breakfasts are also plentiful in Fernandina Beach, occupying grand Victorian homes in the Historic District and a variety of cottages along the beach. Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach is a large, well preserved, red brick Civil War fort surrounded by beaches and nature trails. It sits at the very northernmost tip of Amelia Island, looking across the wide harbor that marks the state line.
South of Fernandina much of the island's mid-section is an exclusive playground of the rich lined with posh oceanfront resorts, high rise condos and well respected golf courses. Here, posh Summer Beach is home to the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, one of the world's top rated hotels and a favorite retreat for visiting celebrities. Concours de Elegance, the largest antique, rare and celebrity-owned car show in the Eastern U.S., draws the rich and famous to the Ritz Carlton every year. Meanwhile, the Bausch & Lomb Championships attract some of the biggest names in women's tennis to Amelia Island Plantation, a large resort area that first put modern day Amelia Island on the radar screens of wealthy travelers. Amelia Island State Park, at the southernmost tip of the island facing Big Talbot and the ocean, stands out as one of the few places in Florida where visitors can ride horseback along the seashore thanks to the Kelly Seahorse Ranch.