Head to This Island for Top-Tier Golfing and Florida’s Oldest Bar

Here's your cheat sheet to Amelia Island, which once played host to pirates

October 18, 2022 7:32 am
The Palace Saloon, the oldest bar in Florida, which is located on Amelia Island
No visit to Amelia Island is complete without a stop in at The Palace Saloon.
Courtesy of AmeliaIsland.com

Amelia Island is a charming destination in north Florida with a storied history: it was once home to pirates like Blackbeard, who stopped here on his way to the Caribbean for safe haven. Nowadays, pirates are in short supply, but you will find the state’s oldest bar and countless golf courses, as well as a gateway to Georgia’s Cumberland Island. If you’re headed there for a weekend getaway, here’s where to stay, what to eat and drink, and how to while away the hours.

Where to Stay

Amelia Island’s accommodation options are spread between historic Fernandina Beach and the rest of the island and include hotels, inns and vacation rentals. The Amelia Schoolhouse Inn opened in 2018 as a 17-room boutique hotel in the island’s former 1886 schoolhouse. The property is steps away from the shops and restaurants, with its own bar (called the Principal’s Office), a courtyard putting green and charming rooms inspired by the building’s former life.

The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island has direct access to Fernandina Beach and is the most luxurious resort in the area. Stylish rooms have private balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Guests can also take advantage of the onsite spa and an 18-hole championship golf course. The hotel also has six restaurants and five cocktail lounges, including the AAA Five Diamond Salt and The Lobby Bar’s world-class sushi.

The Omni Amelia Island Resort in the Franklintown area spreads across 1,350 acres with over 400 guest rooms, making it suitable for groups. Guests can make use of over three miles of beach, an adults-only pool, 36 holes of golf, 23 Har-Tru tennis courts and nine onsite restaurants. 

An overhead shot of Gregor MacGregor's Mini Links & Drinks in Amelia Island
At Gregor MacGregor’s Mini Links & Drinks, you can pair your putting with a cocktail.
Courtesy of AmeliaIsland.com

Where to Eat and Drink

Start your day at Aloha Bagel And Deli, a tropical shop with a variety of bagels and toppings with locally roasted coffee. The island’s location means fresh seafood is in great abundance: Timoti’s Seafood Shak is a casual spot for tropical flavors like ahi tuna poke and blackened shrimp with coconut rice. Open for lunch and dinner, Cafe Karibo’s menu pulls from across the globe, with jerk chicken and Thai noodles.

Make a reservation to avoid a long wait at Cucina South, a cozy Italian restaurant with decadent pasta dishes, paired with an extensive wine collection from around the Boot. Come for happy hour and Asian street food at Wicked Bao, known for its Taiwanese-style bao buns filled with shrimp and pork belly.

You may no longer see pirates roaming the streets of Amelia Island, but there are still places to grab some grog. The Palace Saloon is the oldest bar in Florida still in operation. Opened in 1903, it still retains its stamped tin ceiling and the world famous “Pirates Punch.”

The island has its own craft beer scene, too, with multiple brewpubs and taprooms. Grab an IPA at Mocama Beer Company, the Munich Helles at First Love Brewing or the blonde ales at Amelia Island Brewing.

If you don’t want to spend an entire day on the greens, Gregor MacGregor’s Mini Links & Drinks, named for a Scottish explorer, offers a grown-up take on mini-golf with drinks and snacks to enjoy as you putt. Duck Pinz is another fun spot, with duckpin bowling and craft cocktails with locally distilled spirits.

What to Do

Golf is a big draw on the island, with the big-name resorts and their courses. But Amelia Island’s natural surroundings are even more impressive. Join one of the charter trips out to the Atlantic Ocean in search of fish like grouper and red snapper. 

Paddle the creeks and waterways that surround the island with Amelia Islands Adventures, a local kayaking guide company. The island also has multiple state parks, including Fort Clinch and Big Talbot Island, home to the incredibly photogenic Driftwood Beach.

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