by Lissa Poirot
Located on an expansive stretch of shell-covered beach, the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island doesn’t just provide a beautiful beachside setting, it bends over backwards for families through a number of amenities and services that quickly made this property one of our favorite places to take the kids.
Just a short jaunt from Jacksonville’s airport, as we drove over the bridge to reach Amelia Island, it was surprising to see a more Hilton Head or Outer Banks appearance than a “typical” envision of a Florida beach area. Sleepy, with moss-lined palmettos shading its twisting quiet streets, it was apparent this was going to be a place to enjoy. From the moment we were greeted, it was clear any child who may be behaving badly would not receive even an evil eye from the Ritz employees, as every staff member we encountered was friendly and had an offering for the kids, beginning with the pirate treasure maps at the reception area.
Pirates and a princess are big at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Pirates often came to these shores, and the island claimed for Spain was named for its Princess Amelia. Pirate and princess merchandise fill the gift shop, a pirate and princess explain the island’s history during the nightly Pirate Toast in the lobby, kids can be tucked in by the princess and the pirate with bedtime pirate stories and cookies and milk, and programs for kids are themed around pirates and princesses.
As is the case in all Ritz-Carlton Hotels, this location features the Ritz Kids kids’ program with camp-like activities offered to children ages 5 to 12 daily, and Our Space teen activities starting at 2 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Special evening programs and a family game room complete with a movie theater, Wii and Rock Band that converts into a teens’-only club, Our Space, at night ensure kids have plenty of activities — and mom and dad can enjoy some time at the spa, on the golf course, or lounging poolside.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island completed a $22-million expansion in 2009 to finalize its location overlooking a bluff of dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. The 444 guestrooms include 42 suites and 43 Club Level rooms with ocean views, as well as two Presidential Suites and four Deluxe Oceanview Suites with oversized patios. Four onsite restaurants, a 27,500-square-foot spa and 18-hole PGA golf course complete the package.
To learn more about Ritz-Carlton, please visit Ritz-Carlton.
Our Editor Loves
- Programs for kids and teens
- Special family/teens room and three pools for kids
- Expansive stretch of beach
- Horse Back Riding
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island features 444 oceanview guestrooms in a, eight-story horseshoe-shaped complex. Four Deluxe Oceanview Suites with oversized patios, 42 suites, two Presidential Suites and 43 Club Level rooms and suites are offered. A stay on the Club Level provides continuous "culinary offerings" throughout the day, including breakfast, snacks, beverages, hors d'oeuvres and desserts, included in the room fee. We found this level ideal, as we could stroll down the hall for breakfast, pop in when we needed a snack or drink, and lunch in this oversized and very comfortable room with balcony seating.
Club Level rooms, located on the eighth floor, vary from 406 to 1,073 square feet with coastal or ocean views. (Coastal means you can see the ocean if you go out on your balcony!) Standard rooms are 406 square feet, and suites vary from 840 square feet with a garden view to 1,073 for oceanfront or oceanview, and the super-sized Presidential Suites at 2,535 square feet. Standard rooms are available with two double beds or one king with a desk area while pullout sofas are available in the suites.
All rooms are outfitted with 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton and goose down pillows with marble baths and plush bathrobes. Snacks and a stocked mini-bar are hidden behind armoire doors. If you have curious children, you may want to ask the staff to remove the items prior to check in.
I can’t stop watching the video montage and looking at the photos that STEPHANIE took for our engagement session on yesterday. It was truly breathtaking and such a joy to work with her. As we have been sharing the link with our families and friends over the past few hours everyone has been like that video was amazing! Thank you so much for capturing such a special moment in our lives and for delivering the final product with such excellence
In less than 24 hours. We will have these pictures for forever. Thank you so much!
by Nan T
We did not want to leave!!! From the moment you arrive to the minute you leave you are surrounded by friendly, helpful staff. We were greeted with glasses of champagne and whisked off to our room. (We are blessed because we are lucky enough to have an oceanfront home here in FL. )We choose a ground level because we had my husband’s svc dog with us. It was spotless with the most comfy,luxurious bedding and a patio with a push button fire pit. And it still provided an ocean view.
If you have something special in your life to celebrate I highly recommend this hotel. Every single staff member treated us like family. attention to detail was everywhere and no request ignored. Plus they all loved our dog!!!! If I could I would give this hotel a 10 star rating. ????
Let the kids enjoy a private bedtime story with Captain Luis Aury, Princess Amelia and Amelia's Treasure, (a blue-and-yellow Macaw), who arrive to your room at your requested time bearing pirate booty and milk and cookies. The Princess reads the kids a story before showing them their chest full of loot -- a pirate activity book, beach pail and toys, and more. Of course they are happy to pose for photos before they leave. The tuck-ins are scheduled between 6 and 9 p.m., every half hour, Friday and Saturdays and require 24-hour advanced reservations.
Created for visitors of all ages, Our Space is a list of activities for families, as well as the name of the space that teens can call their own. During the day, teen concierges young enough to fit in with the teens 13 to 17 lead Thursday through Saturday activities, such as bike rides, tennis and golf lessons, beach games and more. Our Space becomes a nightly haven for teens from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly in two rooms featuring Wii, computer games, Rock Band, ice hockey and a beanbag filled movie theater. (Pop next door to Eight for free popcorn.) During the day, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., families can enjoy the space together.
For children 5 to 12, a private playroom and kids' program keep kids entertained for supervised morning, afternoon or full-day programs that include arts and crafts, swimming, visits to the beach and more, while mom and dad enjoy some alone time. Saturdays are Pirate Days with treasure hunts, cannon ball games and visits from pirates. Full-day programs include lunch and run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Half-day programs are 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. (Optional lunch for an additional cost.) Every Friday and Saturday night, from 6 to 9 p.m., the Kids Night Out program provides dinner and fun while mom and dad dine on their own. Additional costs and advanced 24-hour reservations are required for Ritz Kids.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island provides transportation and tour guides for a number of off-property excursions, with 24-hour advanced reservations. Additional costs may apply. Surfing Lesson on the gentle breaks is offered for 90 minutes. Salt Walking Kayaking three-hour guided tours are offered to all ages. The American Beach Bike Tour travels around the island for a two-hour tour of American Beach and Amelia Island's oldest neighborhoods. Two-hour tours of historic Fernandina Beach, Ft. Clinch, Talbot Island or Kingsley Plantation are also offered. Bicycles can also be rented by the hour at the fitness center for your own island exploration. The hotel can also arrange for deep-sea and backwater fishing, horseback riding on the beach and tours of neighboring Cumberland Island, Ga.
The resort's newly renovated clay courts are available for play as well as lessons and drill clinics. No racket? Rent one and balls for $7. Per hour court fees do apply. Individual lessons, semi-private and group lessons are also available at a cost. From 10 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., adult drill clinics are provided. There is also a full-service pro shop onsite.
The resort features four pools, although the Spa Pool is only available to spa visitors and ages 18 and up ($25 per day if not receiving treatments). An indoor pool is used mostly for adults swimming laps in the early morning but was mostly quiet during our visit. The Ritz Kids took the kids to the indoor pool and they loved it more than the main outdoor pool and adjoining children's pool. The children's pool is a wading pool with fountains next to a children's playground. The Ocean Bar & Grill serves up lunch, snacks and drinks (including smoothies for the kids wondering why mommy gets a daiquiri and they don't), and on weekends, live music such as steel drum bands or Jimmy Buffett-style singers perform during the day.
This casual bistro is open for all-day dining from breakfast through dinner with indoor and outdoor seating. The best bet for families, the restaurant offers a kids' menu with chicken fingers, burgers, pizza, grilled chicken breast, quesadillas, macaroni and cheese and hot dogs.
Ocean Bar & Grill
Overlooking the main pool and the sand dunes, the lively bar and grill serves up casual fare all day, delivering your meals, snacks and beverages to your pool chair, if you'd rather not dine on their outdoor patio. The grill serves up salads, sandwiches appetizers and tacos, as well as kid-sized portions from its Kids' Menu. The Ritz Kids' Treasure Box provides the best value at $10 for a burger, hot dog, quesadilla or taco with fruit salad, fries or tortilla chips, a cookie and drink.
The resort's fine dining restaurant, Salt seems to be situated for older children and adults. Not true: the Petite Gourmet menu is geared toward children 12 and younger. The restaurant features a prime oceanview location.
The new sports lounge is the place to go for a casual meal surrounded by a number of flatscreen TVs and Direct TV satellite to ensure you won't miss your team play while on vacation. Better for mom and dad, the lounge features a popcorn machine with all-you-can-eat free popcorn -- take some next door to Our Space and catch a movie. The Pub is open for lunch and dinner.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night menus are offered for in-room dining.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Kids' Meal Plan
Worth the investment is the Kids' Meal Plan for children 12 and younger. It includes breakfast, lunch from the kids' menu at the Ocean Bar & Grill, and dinner from the kids' menu.
The resort's kids' programs will occupy children 5 through 12 during the day, with special weekend night programs offering extended services. Babysitting and nanny services are also offered for children under 5, as well as during the evenings if you need adult time.
When the sea turtles are not in hatching season, a dune bonfire pit is a nightly gathering spot for S'mores and stories about Pirates.
Every evening in the Lobby Lounge, a pirate and a princess descend upon the resort to provide a brief history on the island and toast another day of good health. Kids get a special non-alcoholic shot glass, while parents can select the stronger version, the day's drink of choice with recipe cards provided to take home and recreate your own evening toasts.
The Art of Smart Timing
Located on the northern Atlantic tip of Florida, Amelia Island is prone to seasonal changes, with winter temperatures dropping into the 40s. In the heat of summer, temperatures can climb into the 90s with high humidity. This means spring and fall provide the best weather, although like any Florida destination, the resort is busier during school breaks and spring is busier than fall months. Save a visit for off-season specials in September and October, before the cooler temperatures make it too cold to enjoy a dip in the ocean.
Amelia Island is 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport and 10 minutes from the island's main town, Fernandina Beach.
Transportation from the airport can be arranged to the resort, and with the use of bicycles and the resort's transportation to off-property activities, a rental car is not necessary.
For Mom and Dad
The spa, constructed in 2006 for $16.4 million, is a 27,500-square-foot tranquil space featuring 26 treatment rooms, including couples rooms and spa suites. Services range from 30 to 90 minutes with prices starting at $80, including the spa's unique hammock treatment. You guessed it, the Heaven in a Hammock "zero-gravity" massage is performed while you "float" in a hammock.
The property also features an 18-hole PGA golf course, as well as access to five other nearby golf courses within a five- and 25-minute drive from the resort. There are also onsite golf pros and a Clubhouse Shop.
Save this restaurant special to pair with the Kids' Night Out program and treat yourself to the Seat in the Kitchen special: a customized 10-course, five-hour feast paired with wines for up to four people.