Good morning! The bright sun is already warming up the white sand. Puffy cumulus clouds float across the sky. A happy Golden Retriever trots down the beach. Seagulls search for breakfast along the waterline. And you’re enjoying the view from a rocking chair on a wide porch. It’s already a beautiful day.
You’re at the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Amelia Island awaiting your own breakfast. You’re usually not an early bird—you’ve turned off many alarms that have tried to wake you for sunrise—but you had a feeling this morning would be different. It was worth it. The sky turned orange, the water looked purple, and then a fireball started rising over the horizon. Six-thirty in the morning never felt so good. And now, the smell of dill scrambled eggs is wafting from the kitchen.
Amelia Island is Florida’s northernmost barrier island on the Atlantic coast. It’s located 30 miles from Jacksonville, and just 13 miles from the Georgia border. The French, the Spanish, and the British all fought for control of the island that was originally the land of the Timucua people. Fernandina Beach, on the northern end of the island, was filled with Victorian homes, casinos, and brothels in the 19th century. Today, people come to visit the gorgeous, 13-mile beach.
That’s exactly where you’re heading after you finish eating. You run up to your maritime-themed room, change into your bathing suit, slather yourself with sunscreen, and grab the newspaper that was left by your door earlier. Chairs, umbrellas, and towels are already waiting outside. You practically skip through the dunes en route to the beach. From here, the shingled hotel looks like it belongs on Nantucket. You walk along the edge of the water, take a dip when you get hot, and fall asleep in the shade. You were up quite early, after all. When you eventually open your eyes, lemonade is being delivered to cool you off.
When you’ve had enough sun for the day, return to your room to soak in the huge jacuzzi tub. Join other guests on the verandah for hors d’oeuvres and a glass of chilled rosé. Head into town to walk through the historic district, browse the little shops, and have dinner overlooking the harbor at Brett’s Waterway Cafe. Not quite ready to call it a night, walk to the Palace Saloon after dinner. The dive bar, which opened in 1878, is the oldest bar in Florida.
Tomorrow, after sleeping in, you plan to visit Fort Clinch State Park. The northern tip of the island is home to a Civil War fort, loggerhead sea turtles, and lots of pelicans. Kayak through the marshland. Visit the Amelia Island Museum, an oral history museum, to hear about the island’s first settlers, the Spanish missionaries, and the Civil War battles. See tombs from the Revolutionary War, the Spanish-American War, and the Civil War at the cedar-filled Bosque Bello Cemetery. Go fishing for redfish and drums, but enjoy the sight of manatees more than your catch. And take lots of breaks to hang out on the beach. Sunrise isn’t the only time it’s beautiful here.