Located on Florida’s northern coast near the Georgia border, Omni Amelia Island Resort is a luxury destination that has it all—stunning infinity pools, world-class golf and tennis, fine dining, and miles of walking and bike paths. Plus, the resort features 3.5 miles of pristine, private beach.
For anyone cruising out of Jacksonville, spending a few days on gorgeous Amelia Island before or after your cruise is the perfect way to extend your vacation.
Mr. SBC and I just spent a long weekend at the Omni Amelia Island Resort. Here’s my honest review of what we liked about the resort and what didn’t live up to our expectations.
A quick history of Amelia Island and the Omni Resort
In the early 19th century, Amelia Island was a notorious slave-smuggling center. In 1808, when Florida was still owned by Spain, the United States outlawed the importation of slaves. However, Spain didn’t have such a law, and it was relatively easy for slave ships to offload their human cargo on the island, and smuggle them over the border to the US.
Despite its cruel history, after the turn of the 20th century Amelia Island became one of the first Black resorts in the country. After the Civil War, many Black families purchased farms on the island, but even landowners of color weren’t allowed to swim with White people on the beaches.
But in 1901, A. L. Lewis, president of Afro-American Life Insurance Company, bought 200 acres of beachfront on Amelia Island. Lewis built houses for his top employees on American Beach, and thousands of Black families flocked to his beach each weekend during the summer.
Around 1970, developers Charles Fraser and Ian McHarg chose the southern end of Amelia Island to build an eco-friendly resort which they planned to call Amelia Island Plantation.
Fraser’s company purchased the farms—and the destination, designed for residents and visitors to live in harmony with nature, was completed in 1972.
Visitors might notice how similar the grounds are to Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island SC, another property that was designed by Charles Fraser.
In 2010, the popular resort was purchased by Omni Hotels & Resorts, and the property’s name changed to Omni Amelia Island Resort.
Arrival and check-in at the Omni Amelia Island
Driving onto the property for the first time, I was struck by how serene and beautiful it is. Mossy live oaks lined the roadway, and smiling people were enjoying the grounds, strolling along the walking paths or riding bikes.
You need to be a resort guest or have a reservation to pass through the security gate, and the friendly guard quickly found our name and let us through with a smile.
The front entry of the hotel is impressive, with lush landscaping and a large porte-cochère where you can leave your car while you check in. As soon as we pulled up we were greeted by a team of porters and valets who opened our doors and offered to help with our bags and valet parking.
We were traveling light and prefer to self-park, so we declined and headed to the lobby. Approaching the desk, we were greeted by the front desk clerk, a very robotic man who appeared to also be training a coworker.
Although the clerk was thorough and efficient—giving us maps and the resort’s weekly activity flyer, as well as explaining which restaurants were closed, he did this without a smile, any hint of warmth, or even eye contact, even when I asked him a question.
Not exactly the reception I’d expect from a AAA four-diamond resort! Thankfully, this was the only resort employee we encountered during our stay who wasn’t super-friendly. But it makes me wonder why this person was in a training role.
Taking the elevator up to the sixth floor, we were surprised to then exit to an external walkway to reach our room. All of the guest rooms opened to the walkway, motel-style.
We visited the resort in the off-season (mid-January), and Winter Storm Izzy was battering much of the east coast—though Amelia Island just had colder-than-usual temps and high winds.
In warmer weather I wouldn’t have given this setup a second thought. But the icy-cold wind whipped through the walkway as we made our way to the room. I was just thankful that the snow that was blanketing the east coast all the way to South Carolina had missed us.
Our hotel room at the resort
We chose a Deluxe Ocean View room with two Queen beds—the least expensive option on the resort. But we both thought it was spacious enough for the two of us. We especially enjoyed having a private balcony, the perfect spot to relax and watch the ocean.
The room had everything we needed—plenty of lighting, lots of outlets and USB ports to charge our devices, a mini-fridge, programmable safe, and a fairly large TV.
A small coffee station with a mini Keurig included K-cups with regular and decaf options, two bottles of water, a small selection of teabags, and plenty of sugars, sugar substitutes, and cream.
We had used the two disposable coffee cups that were originally on the coffee station, but housekeeping didn’t replace them (although they restocked everything else except the water).
Strangely, housekeeping didn’t provide us with any other cups or glasses, not even in the bathroom. So if you make yourself coffee in the AM and toss your used cups, there’s nothing else in the room that you can drink out of.
Since drinking vessels were so hard to come by, I recommend packing a few reusable cups, like these portable wine tumblers with lids, that you can use for water, wine, cocktails, or soft drinks in your room.
The bathroom was fairly spacious and very clean, with a full-sized tub and rainfall showerhead (the water pressure was fantastic). Two bathrobes hung in the nearby closet, which also had plenty of hangers, a luggage stand, and an ironing board.
For a full tour of the bathroom, as well as a walkthrough of our room (we were in room 639), be sure to watch my short video below:
As I mentioned earlier, our room’s oceanview balcony was our favorite place to relax. From sipping our coffees while finalizing our plans each morning to unwinding in the evening and watching the waves crash on the beach, it was the perfect spot with a gorgeous view.
The beds and pillows were also super-comfy, and we were able to enjoy restful sleep. I’ve noticed that most luxury hotels today offer triple-sheeting on the beds, so I was surprised that the beds here had the more old-fashioned (and much less hygienic) coverlets, which I immediately removed and placed on the chair.
The main pool area at Omni Amelia Island Resort
The resort has an impressive pool deck right off the main lobby—it’s actually northeast Florida’s largest poolscape! With two large heated pools (one is adults only) and a splash area for the little ones, along with several hot tubs, there’s plenty of space for the entire family to enjoy the water.
When we left our home in New Hampshire the temp was a frigid -8°F (-22°C). So transitioning to temperatures in the high 40s at night and low 60s during the day was a nice jump for us.
But I wasn’t expecting a tropical beach vacation—or even to swim in a heated outdoor pool in Florida! Most outdoor hotel pools are heated, but just barely.
So we were pleasantly surprised that the pools were heated to a much warmer temperature than you’d normally expect in the winter in Florida. The pools weren’t packed, but there were plenty of people enjoying the warm water or relaxing in the toasty hot tubs.
Although many hotels and resorts have strict rules about opening and closing times for their pools and hot tubs, the Omni seemed to be much more accommodating to people using the facilities after hours. Although hours vary based on season and sunlight, when we visited the pool area was officially open from 7:30 AM until 6 PM. But I didn’t see anyone enforcing this, and guests were using the hot tubs after dinner.
Another favorite part of the pool area was the large propane-fired fire pits that were dotted around the space. Although during the weekend the chairs ringing each pit were constantly packed with people chatting and roasting marshmallows, by Monday we were able to pull up some chairs and enjoy a peaceful hour warming ourselves by the fire.
The beach at Omni Amelia Island Resort
With over three miles of private beach, Omni Amelia Island would make the perfect getaway for beach lovers.
During our visit it was far too cold to swim in the ocean, and even relaxing on the sand wasn’t an option with the high winds from the storm. But we did enjoy a long walk along the shore to look for shark’s teeth (which Amelia Island beaches are famous for).
In the high season in spring and summer, the resort offers beach rentals including cabanas and chairs, upgraded umbrellas, and boogie boards. They also provide complimentary beach games. You can even learn to surf at the resort’s beach, with beginners’ lessons taught by surf pros.
Dining at Omni Amelia Island Resort
The Omni Amelia Island is home to several restaurants, from casual to fine dining. We were able to try two of them during our short trip—the upscale Verandah as well as the resort’s pizza parlor, Natural Slice.
On Sunday night for our first dinner on the property, we originally wanted to eat at Bob’s Steak and Chop House. However, it’s closed on both Sundays and Mondays. We were then torn between eating at Oceanside or Verandah, our next top fine dining choices at the resort.
Looking at the menus for both restaurants, I was pleased to see grouper on both lists. It’s one of my favorite types of fish, and it’s rare to see it on any menu back home—so I always order it when I have the chance.
Oceanside would have been a quick walk from our room, but they specialize in seafood. I’m a seafood fanatic, but Mr. SBC needs to be in the right mood for fish (and he wasn’t feeling it that night). Verandah looked to be Mediterranean-inspired, with more options, but we’d need to take the shuttle to the venue.
Omni recommends making a reservation for any of their table-service restaurants, so I was a little worried about the timing, since we’d be taking the shuttle to Verandah. But I made a 7 PM reservation and hurried us out to the shuttle stop at 6:40, just in case.
A van was ready for us, and our driver asked what time our reservation was for, mentioning that Verandah was just a quick four-minute drive away.
Even though we then waited in the heated coach for ten minutes for another couple who had asked for a ride to Verandah, it was a pleasant wait and we were able to chat with our driver about the history of the resort.
Arriving at the restaurant, we were seated promptly and our busser gave us the choice of still, sparkling, or tap water. He was attentive with refilling our water glasses throughout the meal, which I appreciated (I can easily drink six glasses during a meal. Gotta stay hydrated!)
Our server arrived with menus and took our drink orders, giving us time to look at the options before returning to see if we had questions. Although I had been set on the grouper, I noticed an option that wasn’t on the online menu. They offered a three-course prix-fixe Sunday Supper that we thought might be a good way to try some of the restaurant’s specialties.
But when we mentioned this option to our server, she quickly talked us out of it, instead highlighting the other dishes that the restaurant is known for, particularly the homemade pastas and the grouper. She was so knowledgeable about the menu (and was steering us to some less-pricey options like the pasta) that we decided to trust her judgment.
We’re so glad we did! I selected the grouper for $48, which was perfectly cooked (Mr. SBC even had a bite and enjoyed it). The fish arrived on a bed of heirloom carrots and polenta with cream and basil olive oil, and was topped with a decadent blue crab crust.
He chose the $27 linguine with Sapelo Island clams and pesto, which we both found delicious.
We decided to split a dessert, the chocolate mousse with blackout cake topped with pecan brittle for $12. Skip this dessert if you visit Verandah—it seemed like it had been frozen for a while and tasted identical to those cheap Pepperidge Farm frozen layer cakes I’ll admit I used to like as a kid.
Omni’s pizza parlor/surf shop/game room combo, Natural Slice, is open until 9 PM each night for dine-in and takeout. The pizzas are undoubtedly the best food bargain on the resort, with large 16″ pies priced between $13-$20.
They also offer a small selection of salads, as well as pizza by the slice, soft drinks, wine, and beer.
On Monday night, we decided to try a takeout pizza to bring back to the room, selecting the $13 Sandbar (Amped) with our choice of toppings—we picked chicken, onion, and bell peppers—for an extra $2 per topping.
The restaurant’s signature saltwater crust is made with locally-harvested sea salt and was delicious if a bit soggy in the middle (potentially due to the fact that I like to load my pizza with toppings!)
While you wait for your pizza you can play pool, air hockey, or other games including pinball, claw machines, and arcade basketball.
We also perused the restaurant’s small surfwear shop, with SoCal-style clothing and accessories for men and women (they were having an end-of-season clearance sale and I found a cute sundress for 70% off, perfect for my next cruise. Score!)
Not realizing that Marché Burette, the nearby market and deli (where we planned to pick up a bottle of wine to accompany our takeout pizza dinner) closes early each day at 5 PM, we backtracked to Natural Slice. Mr. SBC had noticed they had a small selection of wine by the bottle, so we selected a Louis M. Martini cabernet sauvignon to bring back to our room.
Knowing that this wine usually retails for about $15, I joked under my breath to Mr. SBC, “Watch this—it’ll be $30 for this bottle.”
I was wrong. It was $51.
Lesson learned! Next time we’ll grab a bottle of wine before we get to the resort to enjoy on the balcony or around the fire pit.
Other restaurants on the resort property include:
- Bob’s Steak and Chop House (a traditional American steakhouse)
- Oceanside (a seafood restaurant with ocean views)
- Falcon’s Nest (a family-friendly pub featuring burgers and shakes)
- Marsh View Bar and Grill (southern-inspired fare overlooking the golf course)
- Sunrise Café (buffet and à la carte breakfast, indoors or out)
- Seaglass (small plates featuring locally-sourced ingredients)
- Marché Burette (a French-style market and deli with indoor and outdoor seating)
- Sprouting Project Dinners (a unique hyper-local dining experience, offered monthly or by advance request)
Be sure to check the hotel’s website or the weekly planner for current restaurant hours. During our visit, some venues were temporarily closed or only open on select days.
It’s also a good idea to make reservations for any of the table service restaurants, which you’re able to do via OpenTable.
Sports and recreation on the property
The Omni Amelia Island is well-known for its world-class golf and tennis—Condé Nast Traveler named it a Top 121 Golf Resort in the World. We didn’t have a chance to play (or I should say Mr. SBC didn’t. I’m the world’s worst golfer.)
The resort has three golf courses: Long Point Golf Course, designed by Tom Fazio, Oak Marsh Golf Course, designed by Pete Dye, and the new Little Sandy Short Course, a 10-hole course for all ages and abilities.
There’s also Heron’s Cove Adventure Golf, a mini-golf course named after the island’s signature bird.
Omni Amelia Island’s tennis facility has hosted guests and pros since 1974, and was named one of the Top 50 Tennis Resorts in the U.S. by Tennis magazine. Many well-known tennis legends have played here, including Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, and Maria Sharapova.
The facility features 23 Har-Tru® fast-dry clay courts and offers a year-round tennis program catering to all experience levels.
If (like us) you’re always trying to reach your daily steps goal, there are plenty of walking paths throughout the resort. Just a short walk from the hotel, we were intrigued by the spooky name of the Sunken Forest trail and followed it to its end. There we found a picturesque observation platform with a great view of the beach and dunes.
If indoor recreation is more your speed, there’s plenty to do inside, from a game of pool or air hockey at Natural Slice, foosball and video gaming at Gamers, or enjoying a workout at the resort’s fitness center.
The Spa at Omni Amelia Island Resort
Sadly we didn’t have time to visit the resort’s spa on this trip, but it’s on our list for a return visit. The spa’s menu includes Swedish and reflexology massage along with some unique offerings like the Quartz Sand Table Massage and the Chill CBD Massage. Body treatments and facials for men and women are also on offer.
The spa also features a full-service hair and nail salon, offering haircuts and styling, manicures, pedicures, bridal party appointments, and kids’ and teen services.
Shopping on the resort
There are two small shops right on the hotel’s grounds—the Amelia Shoppe near the Sunrise Café carries sundries, reading materials, upscale resort wear and logo shirts. The Beach Shoppe on the pool deck features pool toys, sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, and beach cover-ups.
Omni Amelia Island also features a shopping village surrounding a pretty lagoon. Just a seven-minute walk from the hotel, shopping options include:
- Amelia’s Signature Shoppe (logo souvenirs, apparel, and gifts)
- Harrison’s Mercantile (casual wear and accessories by brands including Peter Millar, Tommy Bahama, Vineyard Vines, Southern Tide, Tribal, Lula Soul and Adore)
- Artist’s Guild & Gallery (work by local artists, also featuring workshops, demonstrations and lectures)
- Chico’s (women’s apparel and accessories)
- The Queen Bee (jewelry, handbags, women’s apparel and accessories featuring Susan Shaw, Fornash, Oia Jules and Towne & Reese)
- Natural Slice (artisan surfboards, skateboards, skim boards, body boards, vintage tees and Quiksilver apparel)
- Marché Burrette (wine, spirits, gourmet cookware, wine accessories, gifts)
Golf and tennis fans will also want to check out the resort’s Pro Shops that sell men’s and women’s apparel, equipment, and accessories.
Getting around the resort
Although the Omni Resort property is huge, you really don’t need a car, bike, or golf cart to get around. The resort provides complimentary shuttles that will take you anywhere on the property, and hopping on one is about as hassle-free as it gets.
Whenever we exited the hotel through the porte-cochère there was always a shuttle van waiting at the tram stop. You can take the shuttle to the resort’s restaurants, shopping, or any of the sports facilities. When you’re ready to return to the hotel, any of the employees can call the shuttle to pick you up. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for a shuttle to arrive.
We found all of our shuttle drivers to be super-friendly, as well as very knowledgeable about the resort and its history.
Tip: Although the shuttle service is complimentary, it’s a nice gesture to provide a small cash tip for the driver. One dollar per passenger per ride is just fine, and your driver will appreciate it.
Or, you can rent bikes, a golf cart, or even Segways to explore the resort’s grounds. Daily and hourly rentals are available at Amelia’s Wheels near the Nature Center.
Exploring the rest of Amelia Island from the hotel
You could easily spend a week just on the grounds of the resort without being bored. There’s so much to do! But if you’d like to explore the rest of Amelia Island during your trip, you might want to consider renting a car or hiring a car service by the day.
We had driven down in our rental car after visiting Savannah, Georgia, so we spent our days driving around the island.
There are tons of things to do on Amelia Island just a short drive from the resort!
The historic district of downtown Fernandina Beach is just 10 miles from the resort, where you’ll find restaurants, shopping, and several museums.
Another popular place to visit on Amelia Island is Fort Clinch State Park, where you can wander through its 19th-century military fort, look for shark’s teeth on the beach, and drive through three miles of oak canopy road dripping with Spanish moss.
The final verdict: Would we return to Omni Amelia Island Resort?
During our final evening, enjoying the warm glow of the fire pit overlooking the pools and the beach, our conversation kept returning to “the next time we come here”.
We were able to experience some of the most popular parts of the resort on our long weekend getaway, but not enough to have that been there, done that feeling.
Mr. SBC really wants to try the golf course, and we both want to check out the spa. I’d also like to experience the private beach during warmer weather (and hopefully when a storm isn’t whipping the sand in my eyes!)
That said, a full week at the resort during the high season would be quite a splurge—late spring and summer prices in our same room category average around $500-600 per night.
But the next time we cruise out of Jacksonville we’ll definitely consider spending a couple of days at this beautiful resort before we sail.
Omni Amelia Island Resort FAQ
The resort doesn’t offer an all-inclusive option. All meals, drinks, sports, and activities are charged on an à la carte basis.
The address for the resort for GPS navigation is 39 Beach Lagoon Rd, Fernandina Beach FL, 32034.
The resort is 30.8 miles (49.6 km) from Jacksonville International Airport, and is usually a 45-50 minute drive.
The resort is 24 miles (38.6 km) from Jaxport, and is usually a 35-minute drive.
Parking at the resort is $20 per day.
The resort hotel is directly in front of its own 3.5-mile private beach.
There isn’t an on-site airport shuttle for the resort.
Amelia Island Resort does offer free WiFi for guests. You can access the WiFi by entering the last name on the reservation and your room number.
The resort has four Tesla Connectors (up to 16kW) for resort guests. See the valet at the hotel entrance for access.
Amelia Plantation Chapel, an interdenominational community church, offers services each Sunday at 9 AM and 11:15 AM.
Have you visited the Omni Amelia Island Resort? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! Or, if you’re planning a visit, let me know if you have any questions I haven’t answered in the post.
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