I often say that traveling with kids is not a vacation. It’s fun, sure, and we make plenty of memories together. But as parents, we are not relaxing or getting a break from our caretaking tasks.
Every once in a while, though, a trip hits the sweet spot of being appealing to both children and adults with an unhurried pace and an atmosphere that lets kids be kids without judgment.
That was our family’s trip to Amelia Island, a 13-mile long barrier island in northeast Florida. Our time there was leisurely and refreshing, and I truly think every family needs an escape (dare I call it a vacation?) to Amelia Island.
Where to Stay
The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is one of two luxury resorts on the island, and the perfect spot for families to unwind, whether it’s for a weekend getaway or a weeklong holiday.
Our family of 5 checked into a Premier Oceanfront Room and we couldn’t believe how spacious it felt. Every room in the resort has a private balcony with a stunning ocean view. Thanks to the recent Daylight Savings time change and kids who never sleep in, we found it to be the perfect spot to enjoy watching the sun rise over the sea.
Several factors will entice you to stay at the resort during your entire stay on Amelia Island, one of them being the fabulous beachfront pool area. There are two large pools, one of which is an adults-only infinity pool. The kid-friendly pool below is spacious and heated, and only a few steps away from a splash pad.
Our kids would have stayed poolside the entire day if we had let them. That wouldn’t have been a problem with the casual poolside restaurant Oceanside, which serves Floribbean cuisine straight to your lounge chair. There are plenty of activities to keep families busy, too, including playing on the beach, seashell and shark tooth hunting in the sand and even a kids’ craft area.
If you’re staying at the resort with young kids, have no qualms about dining at the Falcon’s Nest restaurant. It was laid-back and family-friendly, and our server even offered to put the kids’ meals in at the same time as the drinks so they could eat right away. Definitely try the 12 Hour Beef Brisket Tacos or the Old Skool Burger, which my husband claims was the best burger he’s ever had.
With amenities like mini golf, an outdoor game area, a nature center, golf carts and bicycles for rent, adventure tours and tennis courts, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is definitely a great place for families.
But what made this place really stand out to me was the attentiveness and kindness of the staff toward my children. Each worker stopped to chat with the kids and ask them about their stay. Plus, my kids will never forget their very own turndown service of milk and cookies. This resort doesn’t just tolerate families; they welcome them!
Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach
If you do make it off the resort, make sure to plan an afternoon exploring Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach. You’ll enjoy the Victorian feel of the neighborhood and kids will love ducking in and out of ice cream shops and toy stores.
Located off Centre Street on 2nd Street, we especially loved the nostalgia at Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store, which carries hand-selected toys that inspire imaginative play. I found many favorite toys from my own childhood there and enjoyed exploring the shop just as much as my kids.
Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park is another great spot for families to visit. There are beaches, hiking trails, wildlife and activities like kayaking and canoeing. You can also visit the historic fort that’s been around since before the Civil War.
Kids will love exploring the barracks, kitchen, laundry room and jail cells as well as walking on top of the wall for a closer look at the cannons that point across the Cumberland Sound. Check the event page on Fort Clinch’s website to find out when living history demonstrations take place.
Egans Creek Greenway
Experience nature up close at Egans Creek Greenway, a 300-acre preserve on the north end of Amelia Island. As you walk the trails, you might even see some wildlife that includes birds, snakes and alligators. If you’re more comfortable with an expert, wait for the scheduled free, guided nature walks held on the third Saturday and fourth Tuesday of each month.
Across from the Greenway entrance, you’ll find Pirate Playground, a nod to Amelia Island’s history as a haven for pirates. The park includes a giant sandbox, water table and music area in addition to the traditional playground features. There is plenty of shade and seating where adults can relax while kids get their wiggles out.
A Destination for Relaxation
There are plenty of destinations where you can spend your whole trip on the go, seeing something new every day. Amelia Island, on the other hand, encourages quiet time in nature, slow days on the beach or by the pool and plenty of quality family time.
If your family is in need of a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of your daily lives, you’ll find it on Amelia Island. It’s a place where you can truly let your kids run free and maybe, just maybe, let yourself relax and enjoy a vacation.
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