Omni Amelia Island Plantation will open new guest rooms and will sport a new entrance and lobby in March.
Last fall I spent a long weekend with a small group of writers at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, located at the tip of a barrier island off the coast of Northeast Florida. The sprawling property has 579 guest rooms and a beautiful 1,350-acre “campus” sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean—there are 3.5 miles of beach for guests to explore and enjoy—and the salt marshlands to the west of the island. It is dotted with lush green foliage and moss-draped live oaks, some centuries old.
There are three championship golf courses (seven holes have ocean views, the most of any resort in Florida). The courses are all part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System. Also on property: world-renowned Racquet Park, where the likes of Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, and Venus and Serena Williams have played, and home to the Cliff Drysdale Tennis School. One evening our group dined outdoors under the live oaks at Racquet Park, overlooking the tennis courts—an amazingly beautiful setting with soft white lights hung from the trees. Another evening we sat under the stars at the Marsh View Bar & Grill (pictured below), watching the sun set over acres of marshland—yet another stunning location for a reception or dinner.
The resort is now undergoing a major $85 million expansion it dubs a “Re-Imagination project.” Of note to meeting and conference planners, the expanded conference center will open March 1, 2013, measuring in with 30,000 additional square feet at 80,000 square feet. A 16,500-square-foot ballroom and additional pre-function space are part of the project. And a new event lawn will mean planners can take advantage of the island’s often-balmy weather. Also part of the February opening will be 155 additional guest rooms (including 27 suites) in a brand-new tower. As one enters the stunning new lobby, views open up to the two-tiered, infinity-edge pool and the Atlantic beyond.
The resort has more than golf and tennis to offer. During my all-too-brief stay, my group took a Segway tour on sunshine-filled morning. After a thorough briefing on safety at the Segway rental center, we all headed out for a closer look at the sprawling property. It’s a great activity for a small group, and a fantastic way to get a feel for the property.
Also on property are The Spa and Salon at Amelia Island Plantation, with 20 treatment rooms; and nearby, the fascinating Omni Island Nature Center. The Shops at Amelia Island Plantation, ripe for exploration, have boutiques; art galleries; and Marché Burette, a restaurant and grocery store and a great place to grab a bite or enjoy a cocktail al fresco. On Saturday mornings, a wonderful farmers market is based there, offering artisanal cheese, breads, and local produce.
In case those 1,350 acres are just not enough for your group, go for a jaunt off site to Fernandina, a charming, historic little Victorian-era town on the island. Take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the downtown area for some interesting insights into the history of the quirky little town. And if you need lunch or refreshments while there, plan a stop at the blue-clapboard-sided 29 South, and try to score a table on the porch. Fried green tomatoes, anyone? Yummy.
The Omni Amelia Island Plantation is 29 miles of Jacksonville International Airport.