Amelia Island: An un-Florida Winter Getaway

Tropical storms take their licks at peninsular Florida. Jammed-up traffic and real estate chaos also take a toll. It’s enough to shift a vacationer’s sights to Amelia Island Plantation, a resort with its own, un-Floridalike ecosystem and a ton golf to go along with it.

Located 29 miles east of the Jacksonville airport, Amelia Island Plantation is a low-key meld of tastefully deployed, generally understated residential real estate, some corporate meeting facilities, a new spa, recreational facilities aplenty, the lodge and assorted accommodations, and an inviting town square to tie it together. Undeniably family friendly, the atmosphere includes couples, guys on buddy trips, and seniors, too.

The tennis center has a couple dozen nicely groomed clay courts and a tournament court made famous by the WTA event the resort has hosted for nearly three decades, but the golf is even better: Seventy-two well-maintained holes of intriguingly varied character, the most-distant of which is a 10-minute shuttle ride, plus a world-class golf academy.

Closest to the lodge are Oak Marsh and Ocean Links. Both tight tracks, the former is a Pete Dye design dating to 1972 and may in places remind some of his Harbour Town Links, from the same period. A par 72, it is just 6,500 yards but is a perpetual presence of “best resort courses” lists. It traverses several salt marshes, has 14 water hazards, and passes between some gorgeous, moss-draped heritage oaks, but the most striking feature is the seemingly endless marsh abutting the 9th and final three fairways.

Ocean Links, designed by Bobby Weed and opened in 1972, starts in the same maritime forest as its neighbor, but features five oceanfront holes. It measures 6,108 yards, par 70.

Long Point is a private course with access to resort guests, a Tom Fazio contribution opened in 1987. The course’s rolling fairways measure 6,775 yards from the back tees, par 72, and pass through marshes, oak and pine forest, and seaside dunes.

Amelia River, designed by Tom Jackson, is the latest option for Plantation guests. Actually a daily fee, it is, at 6,823 yards, par 72, the longest but also the most forgiving. One exception: the island-green 17th, a par 3 whose length makes its counterpart at Sawgrass look easy.

Nearby Fernandina Beach offers some worthwhile restaurant alternatives to the resort’s generally good eateries, but the real attraction here is the barrier island environment. Covering roughly the same area as Manhattan, it truly is a world unto itself.

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