9 Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island beach and horseback riders
(Photo: Deremer Studios/Amelia Island CVB)

Imagine the sunshine warming your face as you stroll along a sandy beach. Amelia Island, Florida, delivers on the daydream, with 13 miles of uncrowded beaches and an average of 222 sunny days per year, plus abundant outdoor activities to keep the whole family happy.  Located off the northeast coast of Florida, Amelia Island is close to both Jacksonville and  Georgia. There are so many things to do in Amelia Island: Visitors flock to for beach and boating activities, world-class golf courses, horseback riding, hang gliding, wildlife sightings, and a dash of history too.

Things to do in Amelia Island

Amelia Island is simultaneously laid back and packed with activities. From horseback riding to hydrobiking, and from golf to hang gliding, on-island activities range from sedate to extreme. Here are some of the best things to do in Amelia Island:

Ride Horses on the Beach

Turn that dreamy feeling of riding horseback along the beach into reality in Amelia Island. My daughter and I enjoyed this peaceful activity with Amelia Island Horseback Riding Adventures, and it was the highlight of our trip. Sunrise and sunset tours, on which you can enjoy the stunning pink hues cascading across the ocean, are most popular.

Play a Round of Golf or Mini Golf

Tee up on a course designed by some of the golf’s top architects (Dye, Fazio and Palmer). Amelia Island offers 99 holes of golf on courses fit for everyone from beginners to experts, with landscapes of oak-lined fairways and ocean backdrops. If mini golf with the kids is more your speed, try Heron’s Cove Adventure Golf at the Omni Resort, which features fun nautical facts at each hole, and Gregor MacGregor’s Mini Links & Drinks downtown, where they also serve cocktails and snacks.

Swim in a Pool or at the Beach

Plenty of time to play on the sand and in the water is often a non-negotiable for families on island vacations. Amelia Island delivers: The natural beauty of this barrier island shines as the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean lap up against the 13 miles of spacious beaches. Seashells or shark teeth can be collected, or simply savor memories of the kids making sandcastles and playing in tide pools. 

The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and Omni Amelia Island Resort are two of the most comfortable and luxurious places to stay on Amelia Island, and both beachfront properties feature stunning outdoor pools. Lounge by the heated pool while the kids swim or take a dip in the Jacuzzi. Private cabanas and outdoor restaurants bring even more creature comforts outdoors.

The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and Omni Amelia Island Resort, along with some additional Amelia Island hotels and restaurants, received the top sanitation and safety award from Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in December 2020, which is especially important in the current COVD-19 times.

Ride Bikes or Hydro Bikes

It’s fun to explore the Amelia Island area on two wheels. Rent a bike from one of the many outlets then pedal along the beach or around the historic downtown. My family of four biked around the Omni Resort after renting bikes from Amelia’s Wheels. Under a canopy of mossy trees, we pedaled past the golf courses before stopping for a tasty lunch. You can also rent Segways and four- to six-person golf carts from Amelia’s Wheels.

Test your biking skills on water with a hydro bike rental from Amelia River Cycle. People 56-inches or taller can pedal around the water, listening to their favorite tunes on the Bluetooth speaker.

Cruise on an Electric Skateboard

Teens and tweens are sure to love cruising around on electric skateboards from Amelia Island Board Rentals. These motorized skateboards have big wheels for easier balance, and also work on the beach. Amelia Island Board Rentals will bring rental boards to you, or you can join a tour of the historic downtown or American Beach. 

See Wildlife via Kayak or Cat Boat

Eco-adventures abound in Amelia Island. Paddle through creeks, salt marshes, and rivers with Amelia Island Kayak Excursions on two- to five-hour tours. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a great photo of the wildlife you spot, which could include turtles, otters and even manatees. Kids under age 12 ride with an adult in a tandem kayak. Or, skim across the water on a catamaran tour with Backwater Cat Adventure, and see dolphins frolic in the water and wild horses run free on Cumberland Island. Families with children ages five and up will enjoy zipping around on their own two-person boats, following a guide. 

Skydive or Hang Glide

Adventurers 18 years and older can experience the ultimate adrenaline rush while tandem skydiving with Skydive Amelia Island. Another way to quell that craving for adventure is by hang gliding with Florida Adventure Sports. Or, feel like a bird soaring in the bright blue skies in a power trike, taking in Amelia Island from above. 

Dine Al Fresco

One of the best things to do on vacation is eat out, and there are plenty of opportunities to dine outdoors in Amelia Island. Timoti’s Seafood Shak is a favorite because of the pirate ship playground, picnic tables, and wild-caught seafood. Shrimp is an Amelia Island specialty, as it’s the birthplace of American’s modern shrimping industry. Celebrate local history with blackened, grilled, or fried shrimp at Timoti’s. Or enjoy a poke bowl, taco, soup, salad, or sandwich.

Savor the oceanfront ambiance of Coquina at the Ritz Carlton, a spot where you can clink cocktails and enjoy Spanish-inspired dishes (reminiscent of Amelia Island’s history as a Spanish territory). Fire pits and swing chairs make it fun.

Another family favorite is Marche Burette Deli at Omni Resort. This French-inspired market and deli is the perfect place to grab a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A covered porch overlooking the lake offers sunshine or shade while you enjoy a French Dip or Curry Chicken Salad Wrap. 

Take in Some History

Amelia Island is known as the Isle of Eight Flags because it’s the only place in the United States where eight different countries’ flags have flown. Visit Fort Clinch to explore a Civil War fort and the 1,400-acre park where you can see gopher tortoises and fish. And Pippi Longstocking fans will be pleased to discover that the house featured in the movie is located on Amelia Island: the photo-ready green house sits just across from historic Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park.

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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries is a seasoned travel journalist, with her writing and expertise appearing in Redbook, MSN, Parents, Family Vacation Critic, Chicago Parent, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and several AAA magazines. Exploring the outdoors, learning, and trying new things are her favorite activities, best accompanied by family and friends. When she’s not hiking, sleeping in an ice hotel, or soaking up different cultures, she can be found cooking and creating with her husband and two children in the Chicago area.

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