Just got back from a super relaxing and really mellow weekend in Amelia Island – which is the northern-most barrier island on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Georgia is literally within sight from the north end of the island.
The south end of the island is pretty upscale, with expensive resorts and humongous homes nestled on the dunes and between beautifully uncut live oaks. That’s where our little vacation condo rental was located. Right next to the Ritz-Carlton, if that gives you any clue as to the level of opulence to which I’m referring.
The north end of the island (Fernandina Beach) is a little more our pace, with an adorable historic downtown full of fantastic shops and restaurants. And a (very) few beach bar and grills.
Our favorite thing to do in a new place (besides running) is to just explore. We had literally nothing planned except to enjoy the beach and pool with our kiddo. Eat a few meals, drink a few rum drinks, shop and play.
We arrived Thursday afternoon and checked in, then headed out for a walk on the beach.
The sand is coarse and darker than what we have here in St. Petersburg. It was sloped fairly steeply down to the rough waters of the Atlantic (rough from a variety of tropical systems spinning around). It wasn’t safe for Piper to swim in, so we just played in the sand and walked a bit.
The dunes were really, really wide and beautiful, making for a wonderful barrier between the high-rise condos and the water’s edge. It’s a peaceful, fairly undeveloped beach. Next time we visit, we’ll be sure to hit the beaches at the state parks which looked completely pristine and peaceful.
On Friday morning, we headed to downtown Amelia Island to explore the little shops and see if we could find any must-do activities. There were enough shops and sights to spend a couple hours browsing, so we did just that before turning to Yelp for guidance on the best lunch spot.
It turned out to be a little cafe called 29 South – and as usual, we weren’t disappointed by our fellow Yelper’s recommendation.
The chef maintains a little garden in the back, full of fresh herbs, heads of greens and tomatoes galore. From what we read, they place a huge emphasis on local foods and farms. Of course, June in Florida isn’t the best gardening weather, but there was enough to impress us – and the food was absolutely amazing.
Built in a historic little house with a huge wrap-around porch, the ambiance is comfortable yet modern. We each ordered a local beer from their decently sized beer list, then decided on our lunches.
I went with the Shrimp and Grits, because everyone on Yelp told me too. I could’ve drank the sauce – it was so delicious. Big pieces of sausage, sauteed onions and shrimp in a creamy sherry sauce. Yum.
Adam had a fried chicken sandwich that was equally as impressive – in both presentation and flavor.
And what’s more is that even Piper’s food was amazing. The fries were battered and had a sprinkling of salt and garlic; the chicken tenders had the same batter as the chicken sandwich. They were cut small enough for little hands, crispy and flavorful enough to be devoured. We don’t usually expect (or ask) much of her go-to meal, so it’s always nice when she gets to enjoy her food as much as we do ours.
The end of the meal looked like this, on all three counts. So we considered this lunch a success – and it ended up being the highlight meal of our trip. We’ll definitely be back!
After our lunch, we headed back to the condo and relaxed for a while on the patio with books and magazines. Piper and Adam both fell asleep, which is what you’re supposed to do on vacation, right?
When they both got up (finally), we headed to the only beach-front bar and grill we could find, Sliders. The best part about Sliders? They have a playground and live music. The food and drinks were passable, if not good – but the location and did I mention the playground?!? made it super fun.
Late that night, my brother, sister-in-law and their two kids arrived to spend the rest of the weekend with us – which was more of the same. Lots of pool time, lazy afternoons, a few drinks and walks on the beach. We ended up back at Sliders for Saturday night dinner too – the playground appeal was that strong. We need a few playgrounds at favorite restaurants around here.
Driving home today was interesting, as Tropical Storm Debby spun slowly out in the Gulf of Mexico. Scary in a few places, but Piper is a true road-trip champ (as long as she’s got her iPad and plenty of snacks) and we muscled through the slow, rainy miles.
We’re home safe, with enough energy left to unpack and start laundry. It wasn’t an exciting vacation – or a particularly fun one – but it was mellow and relaxing and exactly what I needed. We’ll definitely be heading back to Amelia Island to try to explore more of the state parks and natural beauty of the area that we missed this time around.