If I tell you to think of Florida what comes to mind? Is it Miami ? The Key West? Or maybe Orlando and Disneyland ? I am definitely guilty of limiting my ability to recognize more geographic areas of Florida than the latter ones mentioned. In December, while doing my usual price browsing of weekend flights on Skyscanner – I stumbled upon $170 roundtrip ticket to Jacksonville, Florida. During the holidays, this was a steal. But what’s there to do in or around Jacksonville ?
That’s when I discovered Amelia Island. Nested on the northeastern coast of Florida, Amelia Island is part of a chain of islands that stretch along the east coast of the United States: from South Carolina down to Florida. In reality, Amelia Island turned out to be one of the most scenic areas of Florida and truly a hidden gem of the United States. Named after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II of Britain, Amelia Island has been under control of eight countries – making it rich in historical tales in addition to its scenic beauty. It’s actually not as unpopular as you may assume: think about it as the Hamptons of Florida, except with less partying. In fact, I met a family there that was completing their 56th stay at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island property. Yes, you read that correctly. That kind of loyalty says A LOT.
There is no place more luxurious on Amelia Island than The Ritz-Carlton. My appreciation for the Brand is unparalleled with and The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island certainly did not disappoint. While every Ritz-Carlton property is special – Amelia Island is exceptional primarily because of the vast number of unique activities that it offers, the noteworthy on-site dining experiences and, of course, The Lobby Bar, which I was lucky enough to experience at its grand opening.
Staying at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island during the holiday season was an absolute dream come true. I am a huge sucker for anything and everything related to the holiday spirit: from the food to the decorations – and The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island had it all. Throughout the property there was an uncanny juxtaposition of warm island accents and chilly decorations from the north pole.
The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is a very family friendly destination. The admirable attention to detail can be found through props all over the property. Every day there is something planned for the kids and activities are tailored to a very local experience: focusing on water, land, and environmental responsibility and culture. Feeding fish, storytelling, visiting sand dunes and ancient forests, kids night out, and a huge game room with a movie theatre are just a few activities available on the property.
I can’t help but to boast this incredible hand made all ginger ship docked in the lobby of the hotel !
The entire Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island property is beautiful and spacious; it’s actually quite easy to get lost in the 48,000 square feet of indoor space, the huge golf course and the 1.5 mile beach span. Despite being a very kid friendly resort, there are so many areas for relaxation and total privacy.
One of the admirable things the property takes pride in is its commitment to resource conservation. The resort partakes in two dozen initiatives aimed at preserving the local environment and conserving resources. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is also honorably dedicated to preserving the dunes; with their Footprints team working on American Beach, cleaning the dunes and planting new sea oats to preserve a treasured historical landmark in the town.
Some popular visitors from the dunes are the Gopher Tortoise & Sea Turtle’s !
I can’t forget Amelia, the property’s rescue parrot who greets guests by the pool area. When I say greet, I mean literally greet. She can talk and give you a high five in the air!
On the property there is an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, and a private outdoor pool for adults only as well as a beautiful beach. In late December, we were lucky to experience pool weather but it was certainly too chilly for the beach. Even so there are many complimentary activities that you can enjoy on the beach like looking for shark teeth and then making necklaces out of them!
For an ultra luxurious, private, and romantic experience you should pay a visit to The Ritz-Carlton Spa. The resort’s “salt” theme is evident everywhere and especially at the spa where you can enjoy a custom salt scrub or a luxurious couples massage with oil scents of your choice.
Every night at downtime, guests receive an itinerary for the following day. The vast variety of events on property grounds every day was so impressive, making The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island property a very special one. You can play tennis or take a historic bike ride. You can play golf or go searching for shark teeth. There are fitness classes and honey tasting available on site, too. Or if you’d like, you can go star gazing with a meteorologist and a professional telescope. The activities are endless.
One of my favorite activities was the seaside Fire in the Dunes! A very secluded and romantic pastime during which I was given binoculars, hot chocolate, and all the ingredients for s’mores by a designated employee who was available for all my needs throughout the entire time. Blankets were also provided. It was unforgettable!
Hands down I had some of the most memorable, mouthwatering and to complete the 3 M’s I’ll say an overall magnificent dining experience in four of the five restaurants on the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island property.
I was one of the lucky guests who was able to partake in the grand opening of The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island’s best kept secret: an aesthetically pleasing, sophisticated bar that focuses on a unique itinerary of fine liquors and freshly prepared sushi.
At the grand opening of The Lobby Bar it was quite obvious that the live music, the fireplace seating, and the fascinating cocktail experience would unquestionably make it a hotspot for hotel guests. My dining experience at The Lobby Bar was nothing short of extraordinary. In fact, I can say with confidence that I had some of the best sushi rolls ever & this is in comparison with Michelin starred restaurants that I’ve dined with in the past.
Before diving into the food, I want to give you a glimpse of the fabulous itinerary of liquors at The Lobby Bar. Bourbon and rare liquors are the main attractions at The Lobby Bar, with the signature cocktail being “The Smoked Old Fashioned”. Literally smoked (see below). The Lobby Bar also does a “First Call”, a rather social event where the barman rings a loud bell and opens a large case with a house infuser that slowly distills a signature spirit throughout the duration of the day. The mixologist then creates custom beverages with the distilled spirit. My favorite was the table side infusion, a very innovative and unique concept where a spirit is infused with your fruits and ingredients of choice, right at your table !
The dining experience was equally fabulous: freshly prepared sashimi, rolls and other variety of light bites to complement your custom-blend Bourbon and other fine specialty drinks.
The unique and innovative dining concepts at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island do not end at The Lobby Bar. In fact, they began at Salt, a AAA 5-Diamond restaurant which, like the property itself, focuses on the nature of Amelia Island; combining elements from the earth and sea. As the name suggests, Salt praises the coastal setting of Amelia Island by offering over 40 varieties of salt from all over the world. While the restaurant takes simple ingredients from the land and the sea, the unusual seasoning from the different types of salt and every unique presentation creates a truly unforgettable dining experience. In addition, there are over 400 wines on the wine list and a group of knowledgeable sommeliers who will pair your every dish with the perfect glass of wine. Chef Richard Laughlin undoubtedly created an unparalleled with dining experience at Salt.
I’d like to include all the wines from our pairing in this post because every single one was perfect. In fact, the bottle below is now one of my favorite Pinot’s. If you are big on wine, I strongly recommend jotting down some of these names and giving them a try.
I highly recommend getting Club Level access if it is available. The Club Level of the resort basically offers complimentary breakfast, hors d’oeuvre’s, other light snacks, and drinks virtually throughout the whole day. Personal concierge services are also readily available. Having the ability to eat and drink at any point in the day is definitely worth the money. The Club Level is typically very low key so you can take a moment to finish up some work or to enjoy a newspaper.