May 20 2008

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Family time on Florida’s Amelia Island

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Ameliaisland
By Alistair Wearmouth

Following the effort of getting our one- and three-year-olds to Scotland on our last family vacation, my wife and I swore to dial back our prospective travel radius on our most recent trip this May. Wherever we decided to go, it had to be within a two-hour flight for us to contemplate taking the kids. That meant Brazil was out (besides, Grandma and Grandpa were too busy to babysit). Living in the Washington, D.C., area, we therefore trained our sights down the Atlantic seaboard, researching beach vacation options in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Amelia Island, a low-lying barrier island about 35 miles northeast of Jacksonville, was where we unpacked our beach toys. More specifically, we unloaded at the Amelia Island Plantation — and didn’t leave the property for five days (except one brief foraging run to a nearby grocery store; more on that later). This 1,350-acre resort offers a range of different lodging options, several challenging golf courses, a world-renowned resort tennis program, and great access to Amelia Island’s gorgeous, near-deserted beach.

Immediately, our beach vacation assumed a predictable and comforting pace: up at the crack of dawn for breakfast; head to beach for first waves; retreat from beach to heated outdoor pool for snacks and swimming; lunch and naps; back to beach and heated outdoor pool; dinner; walk back to beach; baths and bed (where the kids slept like zombies after a full day of fresh-air action). We were only gone a short time, but returned feeling as if we’d been away months.

Although we didn’t take advantage of its services for our two beachcombers, Amelia Island Plantation runs a well-recognized series of kids’ programs, including all-day camps, poolside activities, and even a themed kids-only dinner program during the summer season. The property is also threaded with shaded trails that are good for walks, lizard-spotting, and easy bike rides (you can rent kids’ bikes by the hour from the Amelia’s Wheels bike shop).

The 249-room Amelia Inn and Beach Club is located beachside with easy access to the pools, children’s play area, and beach, although families should consider renting one of the condominium-style villas scattered around the property. You may not get the ocean views of rooms in the main hotel building, but you will get loads of space plus a full kitchen where you can cook all your meals. As we’d opted not to rent a car and use the resort shuttle to get to Amelia Island from Jacksonville airport (29 miles away), I ordered a local taxi to help me do our one big grocery run. Not only did we eat better and more healthily, we saved money, avoided the stress of running the toddler-in-restaurant gauntlet, and maxed out our beach and pool time.

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Alistair Wearmouth is an editor at Away.com. With two young children now in tow, his travel perspective has shifted seismically from digging out the best backpacker hostel in Kathmandu to coping strategies for toddlers on a trans-Atlantic flight. His world travels have taken him through Europe, India, Nepal, Japan, Southeast Asia, the Canadian Rockies and beyond.

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