The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman // Photo by Joe Pike

Fire and Water: The Atlantic is the backdrop to a cozy evening on the resort’s Great Lawn.

Fire and Water: The Atlantic is the backdrop to a cozy evening on the resort’s Great Lawn.


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The wildly natural setting of the oceanfront Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island in northern Florida will suit the tastes of couples, children and corporate travelers. A short 30-minute drive from Jacksonville International Airport, it’s easily accessible from most major gateways; from New York, the flight is a mere two hours.

Here, the deeply set beach is made even broader by miles and miles of dunes. At times you can feel as if you’re the only one around as you run your toes through the white sand. But follow the trail back up to the hotel’s tiered pool area and you’ll find you’re in a relaxed, sophisticated setting with all of the luxury offerings a Ritz-Carlton is known to deliver.

We visited in January, when the weather can be crisp and chilly, but we lucked out with glorious sunshine and temperatures high enough for management to reopen the pool bar and return a live band to serenade us as we sunned.

Even if the weather hadn’t played in our favor we’d still have spent time outdoors, enjoying the warmth supplied by the many gorgeous fire-pit seating areas equipped with deep Adirondack-style chairs set artfully throughout the hotel’s vast landscape. 

If sitting still isn’t your style, consider this: Head Concierge Cathy Henderson ([email protected]; 904-321-5019) can set you up for some horseback-riding on the beach, deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic, kayaking or sailing lessons. If getting close to nature for you means settling into a horse-and-carriage ride through nearby Downtown Fernandina Beach (think historic ambiance, boutique shops and great restaurants), she can arrange that, too.

Each Guest Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island affords beautiful views of the Atlantic.Pictured: Each Guest Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island affords beautiful views of the Atlantic.

On property, she can set up a couple with a bottle of wine and a cozy fire in the dunes from October through May (the time period when the local sea turtles are not hatching on the beach). If you’re thinking such a lovely setting could lend itself to a pretty swell wedding, you’re right. The resort does a brisk nuptials business on the beach and indoors for up to 500 guests and touts itself as an ideal destination wedding location that provides easy access to travelers. Reach out to Sales Manager Amanda Lavin ([email protected]; 904-277-1015) for venue options. She can also provide information on arranging ethnic weddings and special menu catering needs.

Wedding parties should also consider the spa as part of their itinerary. Of the 26 treatment rooms, there’s one suite set aside for small groups who want to be pampered ensemble. Private salon services can also be arranged for the betrothed and their entourage. Here’s a tip or two: We hear that Justin Murphy is the therapist to book a “Heaven in a Hammock Massage”; Stacy Myers excels at the “Surrender Massage”; and Gretchen Dorch is a star when it comes to providing manicures and pedicures. Reserve all treatments at least two weeks out via the Spa Supervisor Melissa Warren ([email protected]; 904-277-1087). 

Gary Virden ([email protected]), the spa’s director, can also assist with unique needs. Note that those 18 and older are allowed in the spa; those 16 and older can get a manicure and pedicure if accompanied by an adult.

You can’t go wrong with the accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island; all rooms and suites have private balconies and views of the Atlantic. Noteworthy options are the Oceanfront Suite, the Amelia Suite, the Atlantic Suite and the best of the best, The Ritz-Carlton Suite, all of which have 180-degree oceanfront views of the coastline.

The Main Pool with tiered seating provides panoramic ocean views.Pictured: The Main Pool with tiered seating provides panoramic ocean views.

Club Level accommodations should be considered by families and groups, since a dedicated lounge serves five food and beverage offerings a day, and there’s also a private concierge. Connecting rooms for clans that like to stick together abound throughout the hotel; configurations include one-bedroom suites that connect to rooms with two double beds and guest rooms with one king bed that connect to rooms with two double beds. Note: All rooms have double sinks and bathtubs.

Luxury travel advisors can use Patrick Millard ([email protected]; 904-277-1009), the travel industry sales manager, as their go-to person for any special arrangements. Note: If you’re flying in via private helicopter, you’re in luck: Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport is just three minutes from the resort.

The hotel’s fine-dining restaurant is the Five-Diamond-rated Salt and the best reservation you can nab is a “Seat in the Kitchen” where Chef Richard Laughlin tailors your menu to your tastes. Make reservations as early as possible to get this premium booking. For drinks, there’s The Lobby Lounge with live entertainment on weekends and an extended seating with an outdoor terrace (fire-pit included). 

The resort also has an adults-only lounge called Eight, filled with TVs dedicated to game-watching of all sorts. The specialty drink of the house is the Freckled Turtle, a tribute to a 30-year-old gopher tortoise in the adjacent dunes. (Combine 1.5 oz. Absolut Mandarin, .75 oz. Midori, 3 oz. Mango Puree and 5 to 6 mint leaves in a blender, adding ice as desired. Pour into 12 oz. glass. Garnish with a strawberry and top with 1 oz. pineapple rum floater.)

About those sea turtles: Their nesting season on Amelia Island is May 1 through September 30 and guests can be privy to observing their activity with guidance from resort officials. 

Book well in advance for festive season and for the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance, the world’s third largest antique car show. In 2014, it will be held March 7 to 9.

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