So we're third generation Jacksonville natives and we're a little embarrassed to say that even though Amelia Island is just an hour north of us, we just took our first trip to explore the island this year! Being such a short distance away, you'd think we would have visited many times. We knew it was said to be beautiful, that the food was amazing on property - why in the world had we never been???
Well this spring break we took a quick trip to drive up the beautiful coast taking the scenic route via Heckscher Drive. We drove over many creeks of the St. Johns River, through Little Talbot Island State Park, across to Big Talbot Island State Park, past the fishermen and women at Amelia Island State Park with their cars on the beach, and on up to Fernandina Beach. When we came upon the round about at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort we got so excited at the beauty of the area!! After our day trip, we went home and started researching Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. We had a special milestone birthday coming up and we knew we wanted to be back on Amelia Island to celebrate.
During our stay we relaxed in the pool, visited the beach, and enjoyed a breakfast buffet in their amazing Sunrise Cafe. When it came time to leave, we had enjoyed our rest and relaxation so much that we wanted to stay, permanently! If you're looking for a new vacation spot within driving distance from Jacksonville, we think you should definitely try a stay at the resort! We can't wait to go back for another trip and we're excited to share eight reasons why you might want to plan a trip to Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort for your next family vacation!
Disclaimer: We received discounted rates and a complimentary brunch during our stay at Omni Resort Amelia Island Plantation in exchange for our blog review, however all opinions are my own. We truly enjoyed our stay!
1. The Pool Area is Perfect for Families and Relaxation
We arrived around 1:00pm and went up to our room on the 6th floor with a beautiful view of the pool area! My kids were excited to go down to the pool and after the short afternoon thunderstorm rolled in and past us, we headed down. The Omni has two pools - one serenity pool and Jacuzzi that you can visit to relax when your kids are in the kids club, and one for families. The family pool has a shallow area for the younger kids with a long step border so they can walk around, it has an area with fountain spray that kept them busy, and it has it's own Jacuzzi. They also have a flat splash pad area for toddlers and crawlers so they can stay cool, too. Don't worry about towels, they have many stations for fresh towels and they also have stations for fresh water.
The pool has plenty of room and most importantly to parents, there are plenty of lounge chairs with shading. Splurge on a private chalet with a TV for the ultimate in comfort and order pool side food and beverage service and you are good to go with family for hours!
2. The Beach is Beautiful With Wide Dunes
I don't know about you, but coming from the developed beaches here in Jax, we love seeing wide dunes with plenty of swaying sea oats and beach plants and breathing in the salty scent of the succulents on the dunes. The kids loved going back and forth from the pool to the beach. They played well into the evening on our first night on the beach and sat in the sand and let the waves wash over them. The beach also has chairs and umbrellas or canopies for rent to make visiting the beach and having shade easier with kids - anything we don't have to bring down is a big help! They also have soccer goals set up, two hammocks to rest in and sway in the salty breeze. You can bring your own chairs and towels to sit and relax to save some money there like we did.
3. Kids Night Surprise
When we returned from the beach and pool, our whole family was surprised by the kind gesture from staff! We walked into the room and found homemade granola made with honey made right on property at The Sprouting Project waiting for us with special notes from staff! There were also rice crispy pops, fresh milk from Wainright Dairy from just an hour west in Live Oak, Florida and also fresh hibiscus soda! This is a turn down service you can order that we were not aware of and we loved it! It was also perfect after just coming up from the pool and being able to feed the kids a snack while we researched dinner options. Special thank you to the staff for this special surprise!
4. Amazing Food
The first night we had some amazing burgers and tacos from Falcon's Nest which is walking distance from the resort, right on property. We enjoyed eating in our room and getting settled in for the night, however the restaurant was fun with airplanes on the walls if you want to go into the restaurant!
The next morning we walked south in the resort for an ocean side brunch at Sunrise Cafe. We reviewed the menu, but the best idea is to enjoy the brunch buffet. Peering through the door from our table we had no idea the delights that awaited us! There was fresh squeezed orange juice from a machine that squeezes the oranges right in front of you! There was a Chef taking orders for omelets (be sure to try the local shrimp in your omelet!), homemade muffins, homemade honey, huge cinnamon buns, fresh biscuits, waffles and fried chicken, meats, charcuterie items, southern cheese grits, and more. Our kids were in heaven and ate so much food, which is such a blessing to us parents who struggle to find things they will eat! We're thinking that they loved the taste of everything because it was so fresh and full of flavor. We were all so happy eating while looking at the ocean.
The kids loved the aquarium tank that held up the center area of the buffet! Our kids loved looking at the fish and taking photos.The staff allowed them to sit and watch the fish unsupervised, which gave us some time alone to eat in peace while they watched the fish, shrimp, and coral sway.
At one point the Chef who made my omelet visited our table to say hello and welcome us to the island. Then someone brought him a very special homemade donut holes dish to present to us! It was served on a wooden pallet displayed with roasted marshmallows and sweetened pecans with bananas foster. He presented it to us as a thank you for staying with them and as a southern hospitality gesture and we were just shocked and speechless! It was at that point the tears started flowing from my eyes. It was the most beautiful dessert we had ever seen and the kindness caught me totally off guard. It was a moment that made me appreciate and understand the deep LOVE for my job - meeting chefs, exploring destinations near and far, and reporting back to our amazing followers the adventures and culinary delights out there that are fun for families. It was a culinary moment and travel blog moment I'll never forget and I took a moment to let the happiness and kind gesture sink in. And yes, we took most of it to our room and ate it for lunch (vacation, y'all!!).
5. The Nature Center
Taking a break from the beach and pool, we headed over to the Nature Center. Entry is FREE and you can easily spend a couple of hours meeting the bird, looking at the aquarium tanks, and walking through the snake and gopher tortoise exhibits! They have plenty of nature gifts if you're shopping for family at home and you can also schedule tours to hike or kayak throughout the property.
There is also plenty of nature throughout the property! You'll love the coastal oaks that over hang the roads, the dunes, and the wildlife you might find walking by, like this friendly gopher tortoise out for a meal.
6. Activities at the Resort
Omni Amelia Island has plenty of activities on site! They have life sized chess and checkers along with ping pong at Heron's Cove that are free for guests. Also at Heron's Cove is mini golf. It's a golf cart community so rent a cart to explore the large property. Yes, yes we did drive around looking for homes to purchase (or dream about purchasing, anyways!). They have tennis courts, golf courses, Segway tours, and more!
Be sure to take a tour of The Sprouting Project during your visit! The space hosts a vegetable garden, bees and more as they work to provide fresh and local products for their restaurants and foodie events. Tours are typically on Saturdays and would be a fun family outing if you want a break from the sun.
7. Two Words: Kids Club!
Omni Resort has a kids club, folks! When you arrive at the front desk, they have cute bags for the kids filled with a plastic, covered cup, coloring book and crayons, playing cards and more. Take the plastic cup with you for free refills at each restaurant! Plus, they have a kids camp right at the pool area. Kids get to enjoy time away from parents with fun activities, nice counselors, and plenty of swimming while parents enjoy a relaxing meal or the adult only serenity pool.
8. Day Trips for the Win!
If you're staying for more than a few days, be sure to venture out for some amazing day trips!! While we were there we stopped at Black Rock Beach, which is part of Big Talbot Island State Park. It is host to old oak trees that have fallen over due to saltwater intrusion, making a great natural playground for kids! Boneyard Beach has the same trees, but Black Rock Beach has an area of black rocks that look like they are made of lava, but it's actually silted rocks made from sand. The kids loved catching crabs, walking on the rocks, and climbing onto the trees! To find it, just drive south and look for the second parking area just south of Amelia Island State Park entrance, south of the bridge. You can find directions, here.
Amelia River Cruises and Charters is another fun outing that you pick up in downtown Fernandina Beach! They'll take you on a family friendly sunset cruise, a shrimping ecotour in summer where kids get to help with a seine net and then touch and identify the catch before throwing it back. Or, tour the deserted Cumberland Island to try to snag a glimpse of the wild horses that inhabit the island!
We heard so much about Fort Clinch State Park that we made a quick stop here during spring break! It has a campground and the old fort that is overlooking the St. Mary's River, the campground is overlooking the Amelia River, and the east side of the property has Atlantic Ocean Beach Access. You can go in the fort and explore the old barracks (our kids thought the Florida Parks Service staff member dressed as a soldier was going to lock us up and keep us in the fort!), explore the museum and watch an educational video, or bring your beach gear and relax on the beach. This spot is actually one of the best places to find sharks' teeth, or so we've heard! This would be a great morning or afternoon trip while staying at the Omni Amelia Island.
Just to the south of Omni Amelia Island Resort is the historic American Beach. Now part of Timucuan Historical and Ecological Preserve, this beach a friendly space African Americans to relax when many of the Jacksonville beaches did not welcome African Americans for swimming. Today there is a large dune complex, one of the tallest in the state, preserved by a local woman with a plaque about her work. We stopped there to see the beach and take a moment to remember and understand the times and teach our children about the history.
And last, but not least, we stopped at the Pirate Playground at Fernandina Beach. From what we had heard, the park is a local legend, and it did not disappoint! It had a sand pit area with plenty of tools to work in, a music area, a moving boat, a wooden pilings pirate ship in which to play pretend, and more. There were restrooms, places for parents to sit, and plenty of shade. We highly recommend a stop here if you are headed out to downtown Fernandina for dinner!
Alas, we did have to return to civilization at the end of our trip. We visited the Sunrise Cafe one last time, we swam in the pool, and we said goodbye to the beach. The only good news about leaving was that we only had an hour's drive home! How nice that this beautiful and relaxing vacation area, surrounded by nature, beaches, and fun day trips, is not far from Jacksonville. Special thank you to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort for helping us celebrate my husband's special birthday!