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Fall getaway: Florida's Amelia Island offers plenty of sunshine

If you catch a direct morning flight, you

If you catch a direct morning flight, you could be on Amelia Island Beach by midday. Photo Credit: Gina Pace

For a last bit of beach weather this fall, leave the city for another island about the size of Manhattan. Florida’s Amelia Island, the southernmost island in the Sea Island chain on the Atlantic Coast, is a quick 35-minute drive from the Jacksonville airport. If you catch a direct morning flight from New York, you could easily be on the beach by noon. The summer crowds will have cleared out, but the weather will still be in the 70s most of the fall with loads of sunshine.

FRIDAY

Head to the very walkable downtown Fernandina Beach, the city that comprises most of Amelia Island. Stop by the Palace Saloon (117 Centre St., 904-491-3332, thepalacesaloon.com), Florida’s oldest continually-operating drinking establishment, dating back to 1903, and you might catch the mayor, Johnny Miller, bartending. Belly up to the handsome bar designed with the help of Adolphus Busch, the founder of Anheuser-Busch, check out the impressive Mahogany caryatids (female sculptural figures for non-architecture nerds) and order a local beer or the fruity, signature pirates punch.

After, walk over to España (22 S. Fourth St., 904-261-7700, espanadowntown.com), a spot Miller says Mick Jagger ate at twice while performing in Jacksonville this summer. They have hot and cold tapas, but also seafood entrees like local snapper in a spicy shrimp and poblano cream sauce.

SATURDAY

Meet up with Amelia Island Kayak Excursions (various locations, 904-557-5307, ameliaislandkayak.com) and get active. The company offers a variety of guided kayak and boat tours, including ones that explore the estuary of Egan’s Creek where paddlers can see roseate spoonbills, herons and egrets chowing down on the fish and crabs that live in the grasses.

After you’ve worked up a sweat, head over to Timoti’s Seafood Shak (21 N. Third St., 904-310-6550, timotis.com) and order a shrimp basket at the counter to enjoy outside on picnic tables. Then walk a few blocks to catch a tour at nearby Marlin & Barrel (115 S. Second St., 904-556-3837, marlinbarrel.com), which makes vodkas and rums flavored with local fruit. Bloody Mary fans shouldn’t miss the smoked pepper vodka.

The island claims to be the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, so try Southern staple shrimp and grits at Lagniappe (4810 First Coast Hwy., 904-844-2634, lagniappeamelia.com). The ones here are made from heritage corn and smothered in a tasso and andouille gravy.

SUNDAY

If it’s too nippy to swim at the beach, another option to soak up the sun is paddleboarding. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers paddleboard and pedal board tours of the nearby estuary open to the public led by naturists who can point out local wildlife.

If you have time before your flight, head to the Salty Pelican (12 N. Front St., 907-277-3811, thesaltypelicanamelia.com), an open-air seafood restaurant, for brunch as well as an Instagram-worthy loaded Bloody Mary with skewers of pickled veggies, meat and shrimp.

GOOD TO KNOW

Getting there: JetBlue, Delta and United all offer nonstop flights between New York and Jacksonville.

Getting around: It’s possible to only use taxis and ride-share apps, and many places downtown are within easy walking distance, but to explore further afield it’s easier to rent a car.

Where to stay: The Fairbanks House (227 S. Seventh St., 904-277-0500, fairbankshouse.com) is a Victorian home turned bed-and-breakfast that caters to couples and girls trips, and is within easy walking distance of downtown restaurants and bars. For the resort-on-a-beach experience, check out the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort (39 Beach Lagoon Rd., 904-261-6161, omnihotels.com).

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