Amelia Island Plantation: A Garden of Beauty and Activity near Jacksonville

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

AMELIA ISLAND, FL - What can you say about Amelia Island Plantation that hasn’t already been said?

Located on the southern tip of Amelia Island, 20 minutes north of Jacksonville and five miles south of the Georgia border, Amelia Island Plantation is one of the most desirable, most pristine resorts in the South, and perhaps the most gorgeous golf and lodging property in Florida. It is a campus of condominiums, hotels, recreation and nature sprawled through over 1,300 acres of thick Florida vegetation, with 3½ miles of Atlantic Ocean beach to boot.

This is a garden of beauty and activity.

Garden is not too strong a word. Forest wouldn’t be either. Total communion with nature is the theme here as the Plantation is a place where every path and every turn gives way to a private forest-floor quality that imbues the setting with an enchanted aura. Entering the complex from Highway A1A, guests find themselves traveling into a type of secluded, shaded atmosphere. They check in at the isolated Reception Center and from there are assigned a disperse destination. Shuttles are continually available to carry passengers to their widespread places of dwelling, motoring quietly along the myriad of narrow roads.

The thick canopy of trees and rich ground vegetation provide a lush border to these avenues and narrow pathways that wind throughout the resort, linking together the numerous accommodations and retreats. Ancient oaks dripping with moss tower overhead and block the view of villas and recreation centers that suddenly appear from nowhere as corners are rounded.

Amelia Island Plantation is a national destination, but it is impossible to overstate its importance to the local area. The Plantation is virtually synonymous with Amelia Island itself and the town of Fernandina Beach. Though it has weathered difficult times, the resort is given credit for revitalizing the island’s sagging economy during the 1970’s.

It was conceived of and developed by the Sea Pines Company in 1974. At that point in time, the accommodations consisted primarily of condominiums and villas spread discreetly throughout the complex’s sprawling acreage, along with a small hotel on the site of what is now the large Amelia Inn & Beach Club.

As popular and scenic as the resort was, the Plantation was forced to go through bankruptcy in 1976 before it was purchased by one of the original property owners, Richard Cooper, along with two partners. Cooper, who later bought out his partners, has been the solitary owner of Amelia Island Plantation ever since.

The Plantation got its feet back under it in the 1980’s and has since grown into the magnificent facility it is today. The last five years has been a positive period of construction yielding the most dramatic and modern changes to date. A new nine holes of golf were added during this time, combined with an older nine that make the new Ocean Links course and bringing the resort’s total hole count to 54. Construction of the 249-room Amelia Inn & Beach Club, along with adjoining Conference Center, was completed as well. The Plantation now boasts 660 guest rooms in all.

“1998 was when we really went into our renovations period,” Public Relations Manager Bart Hiter says. “From 1998 up to 2000, we always had at least one nine of the golf courses closed, and the hotel opened in 1998. That was our renaissance period, you might say.”

The centerpiece of the property is now the aforementioned Amelia Inn & Beach Club, the eight-story hotel where the majority of short-term guests stay. Every hotel room opens to a balcony overlooking the beach below and the Atlantic Ocean. The outdoor entryways to these rooms see out the opposite direction, over the greenery that shrouds the Plantation to the east all the way to the Intracoastal Waterway. This view is surreal, peering over the cloud like treetops through which only a handful of buildings are able to muster enough height to protrude through their thick cover.

The construction period is not yet complete. The stylish, privately-owned towers of the Ocean Club Villas, to the north of Amelia Inn and overlooking the beach, and the 16th hole of Ocean Links, are nearing completion. These spacious abodes are already nearing full occupancy, selling for a mere $1.3 million per unit.

The final piece of the renaissance will be The Spa at Amelia Island Plantation, a 13,200 square foot facility due to open in July 2001. The Spa will have 25 treatment rooms and offer therapies ranging from massages and herbal wraps to facials and hydrotherapy. Specialty treatments will include the Ionotherapy and Watsu (water shiatsu) Treatment in a private pool overlooking Red Maple Lake, and various Bridal and Gentlemen’s packages. The Spa, one of the largest and most select in the South, will be open to both guests and the public.

Preserving the nature of Amelia Island was a mandate from the beginning. Press clippings from the March 1973 issue of Southern Living state that the development plans were “environmental balancing honed to a fine art,” and stated that “a sounder approach to planning a coastal development than that used for Amelia Island Plantation would be hard to imagine.”

The ecological theme never fails to be showcased in the resort’s many outdoor activities, from sports such as its nationally renowned golf and tennis, to walking and bicycling paths, the peaceful boardwalk stroll through the Sunken Forest, various ponds and lakes, a Nature Center providing nature tours, and the white sand beaches along the ocean.

Recreation Of course it is the golf for which Amelia Island Plantation is most renowned, punctuated by a collection of par threes that rivals any resort's in the country for beauty. Originally a 27-hole complex with three nines designed by Pete Dye in 1974, the Plantation now offers three distinct 18-hole tracks: Ocean Links and Oak Marsh comprise Amelia Links; and Long Point, a separate club that gives priority to members and residents.

The courses are also recipients of certification as “Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” sites from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Service, one of the highest awards given to nature areas. Amelia Island is the 31st golf course in Florida to attain certification to go along with only 214 other courses in the world.

“We’re as proud of the certification as we are with anything else we’ve done,” notes Hiter. “It’s about a six-year process (to get certified), so it’s really stringent. All three of ours are certified now.”

Click here for intensive looks at these three beautiful golf courses:
Long Point

Ocean Links
Oak Marsh

The wonderful golf is enough to draw a majority of guests to Amelia Island Plantation, but its tennis facilities also rank among America’s best. The Plantation’s Racquet Park, an impressive complex set deep in the shade of the omnipresent oaks, features 23 Har-Tru clay courts. It has been rated by Tennis Magazine as one of the Top 50 Greatest U.S. Tennis Resorts, one of the Top 100 Tennis Resorts in the World by Racquet Magazine, and one of the Top 10 Great Places to Serve & Volley by Bud Collins in USA Today. Many of the game’s great names, from Martina Navratilova to Martina Hingis to Andre Agassi, have trained and competed here. Complimenting Racquet Park is the expansive Health & Fitness Center, a modern recreation facility available to all guests.

The overall beauty and seclusion afforded by Amelia Island Plantation is difficult to adequately describe. If people travel to a resort for relaxation not just of the body but of the spirit also, then the Plantation is one of the rare breeds that can satisfy on all levels. Its serene quality of nature and comfort make it difficult to ever feel rushed or burdened.

Rates and Packages

Hotel room rates vary depending on the season. During the off months (May through September), rooms range from $135 to $175 per night. In high season they’ll be $275 to $335.

Villa rates also vary by season and size
(per night).
Season Off-Season
One Bedroom: $185-$195 $325-$405
Two Bedroom $225-$315 $465-$765
Three Bedroom $294-$404 $575-$945

There are a variety of themed packages available as well. Call 1-800-874-6878 for more details.

All Inclusive Recreation Package

—includes golf, tennis, health club privileges, nature tours, fishing and more:
Hotel: $264 to $424 per night
Villas: $314 to $1,212 per night

Golf Amelia Package

Hotel: $368 to $528 per night
Villas: $417 to $1,522 per night

Tennis Instructional Package

Hotel: $240 to $440 per night

Beach and Breakfast

Hotel: $199 to $359 per night
Villas: $249 to $1,016 per night

Romantic Amelia Getaway—includes deluxe accommodations, dinner, Champagne, and breakfast in bed. Hotel: $645 to $965 for two nights
One Room Villa: $745 to $1,105 for two nights


Amelia Island Plantation is located at the southern end of Amelia Island, turning east off of Highway A1A. The best access is from I-95, exit 129. Head east on Route A1A 11 miles, over the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, and turn right on Amelia Island Parkway. Follow the signs to the resort.

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in,,,, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.

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