Eat + Drink

Ready to Raise a Glass? Where to Toast the Sunset on Amelia Island

Amelia Island stretches alongside Florida’s east coast, so you might not think sunset’s a big deal there. You’d be wrong. Like other Florida islands, including Key West, Treasure Island and Siesta Key, sunset is just one more reason to soak up a few more rays of fleeting sunshine and raise a glass to the end of another perfect day in paradise.

Whether you prefer to savor those last minutes of daylight ensconced on a lounge chair with your partner, surrounded by lively locals or in natural splendor, Amelia Island has plenty of places to say “Cheers!” at the end of the day. Pick one of these Amelia Island bars, waterfront restaurants and activities for each day of your island getaway and see the sunset in a whole new light.

The Salty Pelican

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When you’re not watching the setting sun, dig into tasty bites. (Photo: Holly Kapherr)

Locals love to gather on the upper deck of the Salty Pelican for some college football and crazy-good food and to watch the sunset over the St. Johns River harbor, where shrimp boats and river cruisers come and go.

Turn one block off Centre Street, historic downtown’s main drag, and find yourself in front of a giant pelican statue looking out over the water. That’s how you’ll know you’ve made it.

No matter the weather, head upstairs (it’s heated in winter) and grab a highboy table. Order a Pelican Punch spiked with coconut rum in a yellow souvenir cup and a shrimp po’boy stuffed to the brim with local crustaceans.

Brett’s Waterway

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Arrive early for clutch seating at Brett’s. (Photo: Alamy)

After you’ve strolled Centre and peeked into shops, head to Brett’s Waterway when it opens for dinner at 5:30 to get the best seat on the veranda. The overwater restaurant juts right into the harbor for unobstructed views of the setting sun.

The restaurant specializes in seafood-forward comfort classics like shrimp and grits, crab cakes and Cajun-spiced mahi mahi, but a glass of champagne and a few quiet moments of reflection are on the menu, too. In the winter the dining room’s panoramic windows ensure you won’t miss a minute of that pink-peach sunset, even indoors.

Fort Clinch State Park

At the north end of Amelia Island is Fort Clinch and its surrounding 1,400-acre state park. The masonry fort was occupied in combat during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II, and is definitely worth a visit — check the website for special tours and events, including a candlelight tour and Civil War reenactment.

Bring a picnic dinner to the beaches at Fort Clinch State Park and spread out a blanket for a solo sunset-watching session. It’s possible you’ll be the only ones on the sand as families visiting the fort are likely to have left by sundown. Take a stroll along the strand looking for shark’s teeth and shells. A guide to identifying the most common shark’s teeth is available at the ranger station at the front of the park.

Amelia River Cruises

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Take to the water to watch sunset and catch a glimpse of the fort on a river cruise. (Photo: Courtesy of Amelia River Cruises)

Cruising the St. John’s River, Florida’s main waterway other than the Atlantic Ocean, and Cumberland Island National Seashore is a must-do when visiting Amelia Island. Here you’ll have several options to view the sunset from out on the water.

A family-friendly sunset cruise is narrated with a guide who’ll point out native wildlife and historic sites along the way. If adults-only is more your speed, choose the BYOB twilight cruise. It’s two hours and includes entertainment by a local musician and sunset viewing with your choice of booze.

The Lobby Bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

It doesn’t face west (the resort is located on the north side of the island), but it’s still a posh place to watch the sunset with a craft cocktail in hand.

The bar’s signature drink is the Smoked Old-Fashioned, which you can pair with a number of small bites served apertivo style at the bar, including fresh sushi and sashimi. The floor-to-ceiling windows make this is perfect spot to see the sky change color while watching the upper crust sip and be seen.


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