A trip to Amelia Island is an escape to the “other” Florida.
It took a good 24 hours before I let myself slide into that relaxed, Southern state of mind. Everything is slower and quieter on Amelia Island.
On our first full night at the Omni Resort (we drove 5.5 hours from Fort Lauderdale the night before), we took the tram to Marché Burette for the resort’s weekly Friday night shrimp boil. The quaint French deli and market backs up to a small lake with an adjoining boardwalk. We immediately felt the gentle stillness of the area. You could hear the wind through the trees and the soft murmur of conversations. A guitarist played creative covers of childhood songs. It definitely brought us back.
It was during that dinner, peeling shrimp covered in Old Bay and gnawing on corn drizzled with warm butter that my fiancé and I decided to sit back and let go of our busy lives—to just enjoy being somewhere different for a moment. That night we played a round of mini golf (something we hadn’t done in years) and tucked in early for the night.
There’s a charm to the Omni Amelia Island that’s unlike anything else in Florida. Yes, it’s home to 3.5 miles of Atlantic shoreline and a beautiful pool with thirst-quenching cocktails, but it’s the island’s western marshland that makes you feel as if you’ve crossed state lines into Georgia or even South Carolina.
We explored the marsh, where it meets the Intracoastal Waterway, on a guided kayak tour paddling past unassuming waterfront homes and untouched wildlife—egrets, turtles, jumping fish. We learned that the island’s nickname is the “Isle of Eight Flags,” meaning it’s the only territory in the country to have been ruled under eight different flags of sovereignty. There’s a lot of history hidden on the island, from pirates to rum runners to confederates.
Our weekend visit coincided with the chef’s newest endeavor, The Sprouting Project. Each month, resort chef Daven Wardynski creates a five-course dinner based on a theme—roots, strawberries, asparagus—that showcases the aquaponic greenhouse. Fish swimming in barrels fertilize dozens of basil plants and other herbs for the meal. Our dinner focused on blossoms. We tried burrata garnished with oxalis flowers and quinoa squash with dragon tail. It was an exciting meal of many flavors in an unlikely setting—out in the woodlands under the stars where a clearing was covered in seashells. Wardynski brought in the shells to reminisce about the times he collected them with his parents and grandparents as a child.
Like The Sprouting Project, there are all sorts of surprises on the island—perfectly crisp pizza with crust made from filtered sea water; “Buddy” the parrot at the Nature Center; or the resort’s very own rum and tequila experience, which features flights of the spirits with a connoisseur guiding you through each sip.
We didn’t make it to every edge of the island during our short stay, but we did make a promise to return one day with our families. It’s the kind of secret that you want to share.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, 39 Beach Lagoon Road, Amelia Island / 904.261.6161 / omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation