Amelia Island is the most northern beach destination on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It blends beautiful beaches that aren’t overcrowded with a fun downtown (Fernandina Beach) full of creative, hip restaurants and bars. It’s a great place to take family or to have a romantic getaway instead of just date night at Disneyland. Here are a few things to do if you find yourself there with that special someone.
Romantic Amelia Island Beaches
Amelia Island boasts miles containing several different beaches with varying levels of public access and amenities such as volleyball courts and bathrooms. If you’re looking for a romantic stroll on the serene beach, you’ll want to stay away from large crowds.
For a quieter, more secluded experience, head to the public beaches away from the center of the island. At both extreme ends are state parks with a very secluded, rustic vibe. These also require paying for parking. Head to the north for Fort Clinch State Park or Amelia Island State Park at the south end.
Just outside the state parks, however, are free public access beaches. Some of the more secluded ones include North Beach on the north end Peters Points (known for softer sand and good fishing) and Burney Park on the south end. A rule of thumb for picking a beach is that the better the parking situation and amenities (e.g., parking lot and bathroom), the busier it is likely to be, so you can decide which suits you better. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, many of the access points allow you to drive directly onto the beach, which can add some fun to your date. Don’t drive too close to the ocean, please.
Of course, the best option is to have your lodging be beachfront and just walk out the door. The condo we rented was at Amelia by the Sea and came with a private pier that we could walk on and fish from. This was incredibly convenient because we didn’t have to drive or find parking. While all the beaches are public, people not staying at beachfront properties tend to stay near the access points.
Romantic Upscale Restaurants in Amelia Island
Amelia Island has no shortage of great restaurants, and some of them create the perfect ambiance for an upscale date night. With an abundance of seafood options and very creative chefs on the island, there’s plenty to choose from. My favorite from my recent trip was España.
Located in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, España is a Spanish restaurant known for its incredible paella and creative tapas (with many fresh seafood options). It has an expansive patio and indoor area that transports you to coastal Spain. For drinks, they have homemade sangrias and a staff sommelier to recommend a wine that pairs with your meal.
We opted for the tapas and were not disappointed. The fig jam and goat cheese crostini were phenomenal. We also enjoyed the unique taste of the scallops and were blown away by the flavor of the Mozambique shrimp. The escargot had an atypical bitterness we didn’t care for. Some friends of ours went the next night and raved about the paella, which comes in an enormous bowl meant for sharing.
As far as drinks are concerned, the sangria was amazing, and they had a great local beer. All in all, España made for a great night, with great food and a romantic atmosphere.
Tip: If you are looking for something to do before dinner, head to Amelia Island Historic Museum also located in Fernandina Beach. Here you can learn about the Island’s extensive history from the original Native American inhabitants to the multiple era’s of colonial expansion from European countries and America.
Romantic Casual Restaurants in Amelia Island
If your idea of a romantic night at the beach doesn’t involve getting dressed up, but instead you prefer a more casual beach experience, Amelia Island has plenty of that to offer as well.
Sliders Seaside Grill sits right on the beach (give or take a few dunes). It has great outside seating and balcony seating that can see the ocean, and it has a stage with live music on certain nights. They serve typical seafood bar-style food (sandwiches, entrees, fish tacos), but it’s incredible, and the service is great. With great drinks and a great ambiance, this is an excellent choice for a more relaxed date night—beach, food, music, and drinks all in one. We saw our friend Patrick Haynes playing music there one night, so check him out if you’re into live music.
Romantic Resort Hopping at Amelia Island
If you want more of a resort atmosphere, the south side of the island has several upscale beach resorts with plenty of bars and restaurants. You can make one of these amazing places your accommodation for the week, or you can visit without staying there. Our favorite was the Ritz-Carlton.
The Ritz-Carlton resort on Amelia Island is a sprawling complex with several high-rise hotels, 6 restaurants, convention center areas, bars, pools, and of course, lots of beach access. While there’s no public parking at the Ritz, the valet will park your car for tips only. Tip them big since it’s free parking.
You can stop just inside the main entrance at the lobby bar for their signature smokey old-fashioned (I had two) or one of their many other custom cocktails. We even got a great chocolate cake. Just outside the bar was a gorgeous patio with a gas fire. It was perfect for a slightly cool fall night, and the waitstaff took our orders out there.
From there you can walk the paths around the pool or out to the beach. It made for a highly upscale but relaxing way to end the night while we waited for confirmation from the grandparents that the kids were asleep.
Miniature Bowling at Duck Pinz
For a truly unique date experience with a side of competition, head to historic, downtown Fernandina to a bar called Duck Pinz. Based on an unusual style of bowling that involves smaller balls with no holes, shorter lanes, and smaller pins, Duck Pinz has four bowling lanes for bar patrons to try their hand at. They also have an awesome walk-up bar outside the front of the restaurant, and a game room of sorts upstairs with a separate bar. In the middle of the upstairs is a gallery looking down onto the bowling lanes.
For a date night here, you can bowl against each other, compete in darts or snooker upstairs, or just enjoy a drink and some great bar food while relaxing in this unique atmosphere. This is also perfect as one of the kid-friendly activities on Amelia Island.
If your idea of romance is to conquer something together, charter a boat for deep-sea fishing. First, you’ll head out a few miles off the coast. Then, you’ll get to see the beauty of the ocean and try to reel in some majestic creatures like tarpon, bonnethead sharks, and stingrays. Captain Kenny helped us catch a bunch of enormous sea creatures, so look him up if this sounds like fun to you.
Ghost Tours on Amelia Island
Amelia Island has a long history compared to most of America. Originally settled in 1565, it’s seen its share of war, shipwrecks, pirates, and death. This means, according to the locals, there are plenty of ghosts! Nothing will make you hold each other tighter than fear of the paranormal, so go and check it out.
The most interesting tour I found, especially for a date night, was the Haunted Bar Crawl. When you sign up for this, you get to go to several historic Amelia Island bars and hear the stories of the tragedies and ghosts all around you—all while enjoying craft beers and cocktails (sold separately). Meet up with Colleen for this experience. But if you really want to be scared, do her regular tour in cemeteries and near haunted houses.
Horseback Riding on Amelia Island
There are few things more romantic than horseback riding on the beach. You can book a sunrise, sunset, beach, or park tour for you and your partner and enjoy the transcendence of these beautiful animals combined with the scenery. If you really want to go all out, you can book a private tour for just you and your sweetheart. See all the different options and book.
Twilight Cruise from Amelia Island to Cumberland Island
For a romantic experience that involves ocean, wild horses, crossing state lines, drinks, and sunset, check out the Amelia Island BYOB Twilight Cruise. If that’s not enough, each cruise has unique live music aboard. You’ll see the Amelia River, Old Town, Port of Fernandina, and Fort Clinch, and then venture over the Georgia state line to Cumberland Island, where wild horses roam. And of course, you’ll see the sunset on the water.
Beyond what I’ve listed here, there are plenty more things you could do on Amelia Island to create a romantic experience that you’ll find at any beach (e.g., sunset boat or kayak rentals, bike rentals, or swimming at the resort pool) or if you are looking for some family-friend fun on Amelia Island. So, if you and your partner or spouse head to Amelia Island, you’ll have plenty to do!