What would you expect from 1,350 acres of pristine beachfront property on a barrier island just off the northeast coast of Florida. Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it? Almost too good to be true? Thank the golf gods (and the travel gods) it isn’t.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort presents a unique challenge to objective visitors, especially travel writers. It’s a challenge to be unbiased, hard to not get a little too excited and proclaim it as one of the best places you’ve ever stayed anywhere on Earth. Such unbridled enthusiasm often reads as promotional. And sometimes it is. But not here.
To a person, all five voting members of our family (ages 8-plus) ranked Omni Amelia Island Plantation as one of the Top 5 places we’ve ever stayed. And that’s coming from someone who has stayed at more than 200 different hotels and resorts in the past decade.
It’s not just the balcony rooms with 100-mile views. Not just the infinite stretches of uncrowded, soft, golden-white, basically private sand (nor the 274 shark teeth we found there in one day). It’s not just the world-class spa. Not the incredible kids activity center with ice cream socials, nor the miniature golf course where one of my twin daughters had consecutive aces, nor the shopping outlets where my wife got her favorite sweatshirt. Not just the array of culinary hubs, the insane Sunday Brunch nor the impeccable service. Not just the spacious (and plentiful) 24-hour pools and hot tubs, breathtaking sunrise and sunsets, paddleboarding, fishing ponds, biking, beach cabanas, campfires, movie nights in the pool, stunning “must be models” in swimsuits, tennis courts, art galleries nor wedding settings extraordinaire.
None of those assets individually makes this paradise exceptional.
It’s all of those things — and more.
If all this sounds like I’m gushing a little too much to be taken seriously, consider this: That list of wondrous amenities was written from memory and personal experience. Except for the wedding part. But if my wife and I were getting married all over again, we’d definitely find a way to do it here at Omni Amelia Island Plantation.
It’s rare that I don’t need golf to seal the deal to golfers, but that’s the case here. And yet Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers 54 holes of high-quality golf — golf that doesn’t compete with the ocean for glory but shares it. A third of the resort’s holes either line the ocean or the open expanse of surrounding marshes, making for some pretty fantastic scenery.
Let’s start with the Bobby Weed-designed Ocean Links, not just because it creeps along the fescue-lined Atlantic dunes with five stunning surfside holes, but because my son was literally 3.5 inches from a hole-in-one on the signature hole (and I have it on video). I thought it was in. We couldn’t see the ball until we got to the green and it was behind the hole. The course was memorable without the ace, but with it … wow, that would have been something. Ocean Links is as playable as it is beautiful, with Golf for Women nominating it as a “Top 50” track for the ladies.
Perhaps the greatest challenge isn’t actually the course itself but rather in making adjustments to the shifting sea breezes. Ocean Links also has 10 holes featuring lagoons and wetlands areas, including a par-3 green that feels like it’s floating in Red Maple Lake. It’s a relatively short course — only 6,300 yards and with a par of 70 — but the ocean winds, numerous hazards and emphasis on strategic shot placement pump up the challenge factor.
Oak Marsh is a Pete Dye design and in many ways the polar opposite of Ocean Links. Featuring mostly tight fairways, small greens and more length if you want it (6,500 yards with par of 72), Oak Marsh offers a different type of challenge. My son, Dylan, and I arrived at Oak Marsh with just six golf balls between us. And we left the course with 124 (Dylan has turned golf ball hunting into the family business), thanks in large part to the 342-yard, par-4 No. 8 hole. Yes, we let five groups play through us, but with an ulterior motive besides fishing for lost Pro-V1s — I was trying to slow our pace so we could catch the remarkable sunset on the 443-yard 17th. Insanity has its rewards.
Oak Marsh has 14 holes that feature in-play water hazards, many of those with Dye’s signature bulkhead greens (pure heaven to a ball-retriever-wielding 12-year-old.) The coquina cart paths and moss-draped trees make the course feel like it’s on a completely different property even though it is adjacent the Ocean Links routing.
The third championship course associated with the resort, Tom Fazio’s Long Point, is a little more exclusive — Amelia Island Club members are given priority tee times and public reservations are limited — and Long Point rewards players with views of the Amelia River and surrounding salt marshes.
Conde Nast Traveler ranked Omni Amelia Island Plantation a “Top 121 Golf Resort in the World.” And Golf Channel brought its mega-hit “Big Break” here for a season. So you may not have heard it here first, but you’ve heard it here foremost — the Amelia Island golf scene is authentic.
In fact, everything here is legit. The resort has seven diverse dining draws, providing a zero-percent chance you’ll need to leave the property to eat — or really for anything else. There’s pizza, a French market, oceanfront fine and casual, the Marsh Bar & Grill at the golf course, a slick beverage lounge (and family favorite) called The Falcon’s Nest. All on property. And we sampled them all.
So once you take everything into account — the amenities, the food, the golf, the beach, more amenities — hopefully we’re on the same page. You’d be hard pressed to find a larger and more luxurious coastal resort in America to lounge or golf or kayak or eat away your vacation days. Few other places even have the property to possibly compare. But throw in the seclusion, the encyclopedia that is the Resort Activity Guide, and the nearly year-round sun … believe me, your family will never want to leave Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.
I know mine didn’t.
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Where It’s At: 39 Beach Lagoon Road, Fernandina Beach. Off the coast of Northeast Florida, essentially touching the Georgia state line. 30 miles from the Jacksonville Airport.
Ideal Stay & Play: 3-5 nights. 72 holes of golf, with two rounds on each course: Ocean Links and Oak Marsh.
What It’s About: Amelia Island offers infinite activities on (and off) many of their great Atlantic and St. Mary’s River beaches, including fishing charters, cruises, paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking, horseback adventures, Segway tours … and shark tooth hunting. But arguably none of them tops watching the sunrise.
Family Focus: Fernandina Beach is Amelia Island’s heart and soul with almost every activity less than 10 miles from the resort. Highlights include looking for deer at Fort Clinch State Park (9.0 miles), Pirate’s Playground (9.1 miles) and one of my Top 10 national mini-golf properties: Island Falls (7.0 miles).
Local Food & Drinks: (High End) Le Clos, (Social) Hammerhead Beach Bar, (Casual) T-Rays Burger Station or Tasty’s, (Hot Spot) The Galley Bar.
One-day GolfGetaway: 36 holes of golf at TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. Play both the Stadium and Dye’s Valley courses (47.7 miles).
Eric N. Hart is the GolfGetaways Course Ratings Editor for GolfNewsNet.com and freelance golf journalist writing for multiple regional and national publications — and specializes in exploring the world with his wife and children in tow. This story is part of his ongoing series exploring Family Fun Golf Resorts in Florida.