Amelia Island

Florida’s northern barrier island sits closer to Savannah than Orlando, but suffers no identity crisis. The 13 miles of beaches here are classic Florida.

Amelia is the northernmost of Florida’s quirky barrier islands, where the golf is great but so too are lazy afternoons on the beach, food festivals, and heritage house parties.

Trip through the Fernandina Beach Historic District and you can almost hear the rustle of crinolines. Tall tales of island swashbuckling are manifold. Nowadays, however, it’s tricky to imagine even the most dastardly of scoundrels daring to do more than crush mint for a julep in this sedate neighborhood. If you are keen to uncover a possible scandal, join the Holiday Home Tour in December to see what lies behind the closed doors of historic houses.

The unmistakable hint of Southern belle is hard to ignore anywhere on Amelia; it is, after all, just a whisper off the border with Georgia. The island nurtures live oaks in local parks, keeps shingle mansions aplenty, and doesn’t stint on dainty porches. It also claims to have flown eight different flags over the centuries. Head down to the beach, however, and there’s no confusion about where you are: miles of glistening, quartz sand is 100% Florida to the core.

There’s no question of loyalty in sporting terms either. Only a true Floridian would cram dozens of golf courses on to such a tiny island, insist on sea views from all greens, and pack in several immensely grand resorts for good measure. Should a flicker of doubt about identity remain in your mind, find an oceanfront seafood shack, order the fresh lobster, and watch out for pelicans.

Fond of festivals? Amelia is too. Not to stretch a point, but there really is very little they don’t celebrate here. Arrive hungry for Restaurant Week in January. Catch the Book Festival in February. Hoist your colors to the mast at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in May, or hold out for Christmas and go full Victorian with the Dickens on Center festival in Fernandina Beach.