Always Something New At The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida - My Family Travels

Our family chose to vacation at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island resort, on an unspoiled barrier island on Florida’s Northeast coast, for many reasons.

This 446-room, AAA Five Diamond resort provides just the right balance. Like any family traveling with teens, we need plenty of activities, lots of space to explore and the excitement of discovering something new. I also wanted the four of us to enjoy activities and quality time together. Teens Maddy and Alec were amenable to traveling as a family, but made it clear that they do not want to spend 24 hours a day with their un-cool parents.

The Ritz Kids team encourages families to get out and explore the beautiful beachfront environment. Photo c. Ritz Carlton Amelia Island.

As we drove from Jacksonville International Airport in our rental car, we felt a million miles away from the still-blustery early April weather that we had left behind. (Winter can be chilly in this northermost part of Florida, but our spring trip boasted picture-perfect beach weather.) Amelia Island feels remote, but is only a 35 minute drive from the airport, so getting there is a breeze. As we approached, we drove under a lush canopy of thick vegetation that was typical of the deep South, but with a sprinkling of palm trees reminding us that we were in Florida.

What impressed me on arrival was that we were clearly not at any Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island hotel lobby was as elegant and refined as one would expect. The 13-mile-long beachfront is magnificent and the lobby shows this off. There is a wonderful indoor-outdoor feel to the public spaces, with glass-paneled doors that lead out to a relaxed patio. Comfy sofas and plush over-sized chairs abound, some grouped around a large fire pit that is lit each night. The patio overlooks the beautiful, unspoiled dunes that this barrier island is famous for.

Settling into the Distinctive Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Property

Deluxe guestroom with two queen beds, fresh white sheets and an oceanview through the balcony windows of the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.
A Deluxe guestroom can sleep a family of four, though the kids may prefer to sleep on the balcony. Photo c. Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.

A series of wooden boardwalks cross over the dunes and led to the ocean. The sound of the waves beckoned. As we crossed over the dunes, we were thrilled to see turtles craning their heads under the boardwalk. The soft, sugary sand felt summery on our bare feet. The nearly empty beach was an oasis of calm.

Our room felt like a guest room in a friend’s beautiful home, as it did not have the cookie cutter decor that even high-end hotels often do. I loved that the two double beds featured wood carved headboards with palm trees on each side, and the desk echoed this theme. All of the hotel’s guest rooms have balconies, so we could see and hear the crash of the waves from our 5th floor room.

Family Kayaking Trip

Two kayaks out on the marshes of Amelia Island, Florida.
Take out kayaks or Standup Paddleboards to explore the marshland and barrier island shoreline of Amelia Island. Photo c. Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.

The hotel offers many activities, such as golf, spa, swimming and a kids club. The resort’s curated Ecology Field Trips — a new program — are customizable to meet guest interests. We all were excited to book the guided kayaking trip through the island’s inter-coastal waters. Stand up paddleboarding excursions are also available.

Our guide for the trip was Casey from Kayak Amelia, about a 10-minute drive from the hotel. We agreed that as novices, individual kayaks would be easier to maneuver than tandem ones. The scenic waterways led us through picturesque salt marshes, where the only people in sight were a few fishermen. We ended up on a sand bar, about two hours from our starting point. This is the place to walk barefoot on a deserted beach, just like Robinson Crusoe.

Casey embodied the eager to please spirit that we encountered with much of the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. This can-do attitude was evident when we wanted to have a picnic dinner on the beach one evening. We shopped for provisions at a local supermarket, and the staff provided us with a basket, blanket, and linen napkins, everything we could possibly need for a casual yet elegant al fresco dinner.

Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Activites for Teens

Surfers carry their boards across the sand to the Atlantic coast at the Amelia Island beach.
Novice surfers will find gear, instructors, warm relatively calm surg and lots of enthusiastic support for the sport at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.

Now the kids were ready for some teen-oriented fun. We booked a surfing lesson and the gentle waves proved just right for two first-timers. Brad, the surfing instructor, was yet another young staff member whose true desire to be helpful was what made our family vacation at the Ritz-Carlton such a stand out. He got the teens in the group outfitted with wet suits and surf-boards. Brad demonstrated on land before the group waded out into the surf.

Maddy was a bit anxious, as she had seen quite a few jellyfish in the ocean the previous day.  Brad explained that the local marinelife has seasonal patterns and jellyfish rarely sting anyone. It did the trick, and the group paddled out on their surfboards. Everyone in the group managed to stand up and ride a wave for a few seconds. Alec rode several waves, and really got the feel of surfing. All the teens in the group said that they had a great time.

Alec and Maddy, tired after their foray into the world of surfing, wanted lunch. They spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool. After a visit to the poolside grill, they raved about the burgers and fish tacos. Then it was hanging out in the Our Space lounge, billed as a place that teens can call their own. Aiming to please this most discriminating age group, the sleek space is equipped with all the modern technology that a teen could ask for.

Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Activites for Tots

Younger children are also well-catered to. In fact, my teens liked the Our Space air hockey and foosball equipment but commented that the “teen” space itself was full of younger children.

The supervised Ritz-Kids program introduces ages 5-12 (no teens allowed!) to the natural wonders of the island with educational games. Environmental programs inspired by explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau feature different themes throughout the week. Kids interact with their surroundings in fresh and exciting ways, such as watching sea turtle hatchings. The Ritz Kids schedule operates seasonally; rates begin at $100 for half days.

The Ritz-Kids Night Out evening program Friday and Saturday night is very popular with families. Enjoy an adult night out as kids have dinner, watch movies, and do activities.

Mom and Dad Time on Amelia Island

Pretty corner of pool with central seating area at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort in northeast Florida.
Ritz Carlton Amelia Island’s beautiful oceanview pool and deck have a central seating area with a firepit to watch the sunrise on chilly mornings. Photo c. Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island.

Confident that the kids would be happily occupied, my husband and I decided to indulge in side-by-side massages at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island. This state-of-the-art facility is justifiably rated one of the top spas in the country. The calm atmosphere was immediately medicinal. Separate men’s and ladies wet lounges feature a whirlpool, sauna and steam room. We rthen eunited in the coed relaxation lounge over a refreshing herbal tea and fruit infused water.

Feeling calm and tranquil, we opted to change into our swimsuits and head out to the spa’s private pool. This peaceful oasis had a lovely outdoor lap pool and Jacuzzi with a soothing waterfall. After our swim, we didn’t feel quite ready to part, so we each returned to the single-sex wet spa, to luxuriate in a last steam/sauna/whirlpool. We both agreed that this luxurious experience was the best spa that either of us had been to, and was well worth the splurge.

We also had a tour of Salt, the resort’s gourmet eatery. It is considered one of the best seafood places in north Florida. When we inquired about the menu (which was too pricey for us to dine with the kids), the chef came out and happily revealed some of his favorite recipes. He shared that the variety of salts available in his kitchen was what made his cuisine so special.

Families Together Time at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island

Large contemporary resort on the dunes of Amelia Island is the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.
The contemporary resort dominates the Amelia Island shoreline but once you’re there, your family will never want to leave. Photo c. Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort.

Your family might enjoy the daily activities cooked up by the resort’s Pirate Captain. At your visit, expect Pirate Toasts, Princess Amelia treasure hunts, Pirate Tuck-Ins and more that feature the island’s 400 years of pirate lore. Young guests at our visit donned pirate hats while adults sipped complimentary rum-cocktails and our teens had a non-alcoholic punch.

Families with younger kids should ask about in-suite camping setups with portable tents, crafts workshops and more.

The rest of our Ritz Carlton with our teens vacation passed all too quickly. We did participate in many of the hotel activities. We tried do-it-yourself s’mores and drinking hot chocolate while listening to the crash of the waves at the evening bonfire. That’s because we wanted to be close to the ocean.

Spending time on the nearly deserted beach, relaxing on padded lounge chairs facing the Atlantic Ocean, was wonderful.

Exploring Fernandina Beach

Beginner surfers practicing at the Amelia Island beach outside the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island.
Surfing lessons in the calm Atlantic off northeast Florida are part of the allure for teens visiting the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island.

Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach is about a 10-minute drive from the hotel. We enjoyed strolling its pedestrian-friendly streets in the evening. A town favorite restaurant is Arte Pizza, with an authentic wood fired oven. Located just off Centre Street on Third Street, it was well worth the 45-minute wait for a table. The pizza, pasta and salad were terrific and very reasonably priced. We saved room for rich ice cream at the also crowded Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge on Centre Street, and bought some yummy salt-water taffy to bring home.

We also had a great time at The Surf, a local restaurant and watering hole that sometimes has live music. Only a few minutes drive from the Ritz-Carlton, it is also a small beachfront motel that feels a world away. Families with adult kids will enjoy a stop at the Palace Saloon, once a favorite of the wealthy Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers who summered here. Opened in 1903, it’s said to have been designed by Adolphus Busch, founder of Anheuser-Busch and long-time friend of original owner, Louis G. Hirth.

Many of the guests that we met during our stay were repeat visitors, some whom return year after year. An overwhelming number of guests were families, who sang the praises of The Ritz-Kids programs and the staff.  A tip from one family: “Florida schools go back into session in early to mid-August, so finding lodgings will be easier for families seeking a late summer Florida vacation when the uncrowded beaches of Amelia Island will be even more carefree.” Another tip: Winter can be chilly in this northermost part of Florida, but our spring trip boasted picture-perfect beach weather.

Combine the natural, remote beauty of this barrier island and a stunningly appointed hotel to get one of the best family vacations yet. For information on booking, visit Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island.

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4 Replies to “Always Something New At The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida”

  • This resort is totally top notch. It's great there. And Amelia Island is one beautiful relaxing place. Love Fernandina Beach and also visiting Fort Clinch. All the best.

  • jerry Myers

    I really do love this resort.. My daughter is spa supervisor there and developed the "Heaven in a Hammock" massage… Say hello to Stacy Myers one of my two wonderful daughters…

  • wanja

    Gosh, my husband and I feel jealous! Sounds like just the type of relaxing family holiday (this often being a contradiction in terms) that would work for us and OUR hard-to-please teenage cubs. You've got us looking towards Florida for our next holiday, probably the Amelia island Ritz Carlton!

  • camilla

    Great article!!

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