by Wendy Irvine
Hampton Inn and Suites properties are famous for being reliable. And the Hampton Inn and Suites Amelia Island – Historic Harbor Front deserves an extra star or three. In short, this property rocks. Make a breezy drive from Jacksonville International Airport (35 minutes away, depending on traffic) over the Shave Bridge onto Amelia Island, and pull into a pale pink-and-lime hued hotel that sits very near the harbor, showcasing picturesque views of the Fernandina Beach Marina. Your family will walk into a lobby that manages to be both homey and breathtaking with a cozy fireplace, a coffee cart well stocked and always available, and a stunning spiral staircase that many a bride has snagged for wedding photo ops. Now look up. Painted on the ceiling is a ginormous clock. Bummer that it’s just for show, but it’s worth a second look.
Soon, you’ll enter your standard room or suite and — if you’ve arrived in the evening as we had — you’ll drop your bags and rush out into the insanely adorable Amelia Island Historic District to take advantage of the fudge — I mean – fun (Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge is amazing). No need to climb back into your car — the Historic District is sublimely walkable and packed with buildings built in the 1920’s and earlier. It brims with boutique shopping, fun dining, toy stores, an independent book store (leave bread crumbs; you could get lost for hours in here), and affordable jewelry shops. None of the stores are cheesy or faux-cute. The Historic District’s trees are strung in green twinkle lights and music pours from distant restaurants.
Next morning, plan to dig into the Hampton Inn’s excellent complimentary breakfast in the large, elegantly beached-out dining room. Then head for a day at Main Beach Park, which is 2 miles from the property (your car is necessary, but the drive takes about seven minutes) and play in the mild waves or explore Fort Clinch (a haven for history buffs). When you return to the Hampton Inn, let the kids splash in the small outdoor pool. Life at this property is truly Amelia Beach.
Note: There are actually two Hampton Inn hotels on tiny Amelia Island. This review features the Hampton Inn and Suites at the Historic Harbor Front versus the second Hampton Inn that sits away from the harbor and on the other side of the island.
For more information, read about Hampton Inn and Suites.
Our Editor Loves
- Charming harbor front and Historic District
- Complimentary hot breakfast
- Spacious suites and rooms with deluxe amenities
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Hampton Inn beckons families with 122 rooms and suites offering options galore. Want two queens and a whirlpool? How about a king bed with a fireplace? Prefer a standard room (to keep prices down), but would love a harbor view? Just make a request. The beds are wonderfully comfortable with just the right amount of firm and mountains of pillows. When requesting a view, consider asking for a harbor view, pool view or train view (depending on your interests.) Note: The Hampton Inn sits near the tracks and has a train rolling through once or twice a day, offering plenty of kid glee. We were unaware of the train inside the hotel, but rooms overlooking the tracks will receive train "music."
The Hampton Inn does not offer cribs, but does offer playards and cots at no charge to you. The high-speed Wi-Fi is also complimentary and the premium cable package is excellent.
The property offers a standard room with either one king bed or two queens and a large flat-screen TV. While standards do not offer a balcony, all have mini-fridges, microwaves and coffeemakers. Some standards even boast a whirlpool or fireplace (check for availability).
The Hampton Inn's suites have two spacious rooms. The bedroom comes with either one king bed or two queens, and a pull-out sofa in the living room. If you do the math, you can happily put six people, plus a baby (request a playard) in a suite. Hampton Inn is happy to make family arrangements work for you. The suites boast a full-size refrigerator, a dishwasher, large microwave, sink, dishes, flatware and more. A huge flat-screen TV sits in both rooms and many come with a balcony. Some suites even come with a fireplace or a whirlpool (check for availability).
Princess and King George Suites
The Hampton Inn's two high-end suites are the Princess and the King George. Both offer king beds, a full kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, a dishwasher, toaster, microwave, dishes and flatware. The King George also sports a two-burner stove. Both suites also have a separate dining/living room area, a small balcony overlooking the harbor and a whirlpool tub. The King George features a board room table with six chairs and a small bathroom next to the living room/dining room area, along with a full bathroom connected to the bedroom.
My friend and I can up for a girls birthday weekend. The hotel is in the perfect location for walking around the historic district.
They have just started a remodel, but it caused no disruptions. I’m glad to hear that they will be redoing all bathrooms, because that is about the only thing that I might have a negative input about. The door on our bathroom in 316 gets stuck a little bit, and makes it difficult to open from inside. New doors and walls should take care of that problem. Installing an vent fan would also be a positive thing.
Our room had a beautiful side view of the river, and downtown. We enjoyed and could see the occasional train go by, but we were never awakened or disturbed by it.
We had a 1 bdrm dbl queen room with a LR and kitchen with full fridge, microwave, dishwasher and coffee maker.
AC worked well. TV’s were ok, but they would go from having a crisp clear picture to being dark and sometimes fuzzy. This could have been the cable provider with bad signal, but if it was the TV’s, I understand they are replacing those as well.
Beds were okay, but the remodel timing is perfect in that the mattresses are probably ready to be replaced.
All the staff that we encountered were friendly, efficient, pleasant, and very helpful.
If we come back up here near Veterans Day, I might be inclined to book one of the (I believe) 6 rooms on the east side of the bldg that have an actually balcony that overlooks 2nd Street so that you can watch the parade from your room. Otherwise, I recommend the rooms on the north side, on the 3rd or 4th floors so you can look towards the west and see the river and to the north to see Centre Street.
Very enjoyable stay in this small downtown quaint setting, walked to very good restaurants and shopping. If they ever repair the wharf from the hurricane damage it will even be better. Worth the trip!
The Hampton Inn features a small outdoor pool that is not heated. While the pool is small, it's flanked in comfy chaise lounges and several tables perfect for dining poolside at breakfast. The pool also delivers great harbor views and is regularly visited by preening birds that are just plain fun to watch. Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Quiet guests have been known to talk the kind staff into keeping the pool open later. Shhhh!)
Main Beach Park
When we pulled into a parking lot for Main Beach, we were pleasantly startled to realize the price to park was free. Add an easy walk from the free parking to the beach, and we had toes in water in no time. Did I mention that a hamburger and ice cream stand is right there, too? We also loved that the tide regularly slips out to sea, allowing the little guys to romp and splash in the remaining sea puddles. We checked with locals and this receding-tide phenomena occurs daily during daytime hours -- perfect for kids of all ages, but very cool for toddlers.
Except in summer, dogs are welcome on the beach, so if you have canine lovers, they'll be tickled to see extremely happy, wet, friendly dogs. Your kids also love wild dolphins? Amelia Island has you covered. Look out to sea and several yards from shore, you may spot a dolphin pod gracefully arching in and out of the Big Blue, carrying forth with their busy lives. A local explained that the dolphins breed in the river on the opposite side of the island from Main Beach, so seeing dolphins is likely.
Main Beach is also popular with the locals and is a fun place to hunt for seashells. Showers and bathrooms are available and a lifeguard is on duty in the summer. A rental company is not around to rent out umbrellas and chairs so bring your own umbrella. Halls Beach Store, Driftwood Surf Shop, and Pipeline Surf Shop rent beach gear year-round, and all are within one block of the ocean front. A six-block walk from the Hampton Inn is Fred's Store, which sells swim diapers.
Beach Bikes of Amelia
Wished you'd brought the bikes? It doesn't get any easier than this. This wonderful outfitter delivers bikes, child trailers, helmets, locks and more directly to the Hampton Inn. Pick-up and delivery is free. Be sure to ask for the Amelia Island Bike Trails pamphlet that details the many biking trails on the island.
Need to get the monkeys moving? Exhausting the kids is a traveling parent's greatest survival tool. Check out Central Park, a mere mile or so from Hampton Inn (but a quick car ride would be smart). Lots of green grass and plenty of play structures will keep kids busy.
Totally cool and worth your time, the Historic District's farmer's market sets up wares on Saturday mornings and sells fresh fruits and veggies with a side of live guitar or flute. The farmer's market is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round, rain or shine.
Fort Clinch State Park
This park is less than a 2-mile drive away from the Hampton Inn and an educational, worth-it experience for kids. Go in the morning before the heat hits.
The Hampton Inn's dining room is decked from top to bottom in ocean decor. A flock of iron gulls soar against a blue sky with cotton-candy white clouds. Two comfy couches flank a large TV, tables for four abound, and a granite bar with seating in the center of the room holds many. Want to dine poolside? Just take your coffee and plate outdoors to the pool, where more tables await. Highchairs are on hand for the little guys.
Food wise, you're covered. You'll find a second large hot coffee and tea station -- the first is in the lobby -- single yogurts on ice, four juices, little cereal boxes, fruit, oatmeal with tasty "fixings" like raisins and brown sugar, and two waffle makers with whipped cream and dessert syrups to top a finished waffle. Plenty of English muffins, bagels and pastries are available, too. The Hampton Inn displays a different hot dish every morning, such as French toast and cheese omelets. Other hot dishes include bagels topped with eggs and meats.
If you're in a rush to get to the activities on Amelia Island, alert the Hampton Inn the night before and staff will pack an On the Run breakfast bag for you and the family (weekdays only).
24/7 Suite Shop
The Hampton Inn also has a 24/7 Suite Shop that sits in the hotel's lobby and sells frozen dinners, snacks, ice cream, and candy.
Three minutes from the Hampton Inn sit two eating spots for families. Tasty's Fresh Burgers and Fries is akin to a yesteryear burger joint with all the fixings, including hand-cut fries, veggie burgers, ice-cold root beer floats and hand-spun milkshakes. If you love Mexican food, give Pepper's Mexican Grill and Cantina a whirl. It serves great chips, salsa and kid food. The lunch prices are good, too.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Playards, a hot breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking are complimentary.
Bring $2 for one large wash load and $1 for the dryer -- just ask at the front desk for quarters. There's no need to bring soap because the updated washer dispenses soap automatically.
The Hampton Inn has a sparkling -- albeit small -- fitness room with a treadmill, an elliptical and a bike. You'll also find free weights, medicine balls, a giant-screen TV, cold water and neck towels.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
As you might expect, the Hampton Inn is busiest from mid-May through mid-September. October is a lovely time to visit, purely for the low crowds and beautiful weather, and November, January and February are quiet. Also keep in mind when you're planning your Amelia Island visit that there are always events or festivals happening each month. Take the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, for example. This super popular May event has been going on for several decades. Almost every month -- except summer (being an event all by itself) -- something fun is happening like the September's Blues Festival or December's A Christmas with Southern Elegance, when the entire island is decked out for the holidays and welcomes the popular Holiday Home Tour.
Hampton Inn sits on the northwest side of the 13-mile-long Amelia Island and is located approximately 35 minutes from the Jacksonville International Airport (JAX). A rental car is needed both to get to the Hampton Inn and for tooling around the island. The Hampton Inn does not offer a shuttle, but shuttle companies not associated with the hotel operate out of the JAX airport.
The Amelia Island Trolley takes guests on an absorbing 75-minute tour through Amelia Island. You'll learn about island history, see gorgeous antique homes, get the scoop on island activities and more. Rates start from $20 for adults, $10 for kids ages 5 to17 and children under 5 are free. Note: The trolley is a tour trolley only and will not allow passengers to step on or off at various stops.
For Mom and Dad
If you're able to give the kids the slip for an afternoon or evening, these spots deserve your attention:
Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island Spa
Does mom (or the couple) deserve some spa time? Look no further than the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, which sports a "destination spa." Do you have to be a guest at the Ritz-Carlton? No ma'am. If you purchase a spa treatment, you're free to use the full spa facilities. The spa facilities includes a steam room, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, gorgeous men- and women-lounges stocked with teas, magazines and- silence. Coolest of all? There's a spa-pool (a.k.a. no-kid-pool) that boasts underwater music! If you don't want the cost of a treatment, a mere $50 will give you an all-day (until 7 p.m.) respite in the luxurious facilities.
Espana Restaurant & Tapas
For a sunset view you'll never forget, enjoy a drink at Brett's Waterway, but dine at Espana Restaurant & Tapas. Choose to sit in their quaint main dining room, enclosed patio or pretty outdoor garden. The menu is stocked with dishes from Spain and Portugal and includes drunken clams, shrimp dishes, calamari and tenderloin. Reservations are a smart idea.