A Review of Omni Hotels & Resorts’ $85-million Renovation of the Amelia Island Plantation
Each day at Omni Amelia Island Plantation starts the same way. Shrimp boats from Mayport and beyond dot the horizon. Then the sun begins its ascent from the bottom of the ocean, piercing the clouds over the Atlantic Ocean and slowing enveloping the 1,350-acre resort with its tangerine glow.
Located at the top of a barrier island off the northeast Florida coastline, the resort has made the sunrise and Florida’s sweeping landscape its primary attraction. Reconstructing the lobby of the resort so that it overlooks this grand view was one of the main projects during the $85 million renovation of the hotel, says Marketing Manager Amy Lacroix. For more than 40 years, Amelia Island Plantation has been a destination retreat for southeastern residents, but Omni Hotels & Resorts wanted to “re-imagine” the property when purchased the AAA Four Diamond facility in 2010.
The newly designed resort, which is located just outside Jacksonville, was reopened in spring 2013 with an upgraded lobby and welcome center, new hotel and villa suites, an infinity-edged pool overlooking the ocean views and improved restaurants and amenities. One of the main priorities was converting each one of the 404 Oceanside rooms to have that stunning sunrise wake up. In all, Amelia Island Plantation has 600 beds and 27 suites, each with a porch and a view of the Atlantic coastline. It’s the perfect blend of relaxed Old Florida amenities with contemporary accommodations.
The resort invited blu Tampa Bay to tour and experience its new facilities. The amenities are impeccable but Omni Amelia Island Plantation remembers why you’re truly here: to bask in the white sandy beaches and take in the scenic landscapes.
Here’s a breakdown of the highlights of our trip:
Management placed us in a villa adjacent to the hotel’s main resort. Our room had all the amenities of a beach house with all the southern charm you’d expect. Each villa is unique and most are fully functional. The hotel’s main guest rooms overlook the Atlantic and have direct access to Amelia Island Plantation’s flagship restaurant, Oceanside. Each room has its own furnished private balcony or patio. You’ll also have entry to what the resort says is the largest pool deck in Northeast Florida, which has tiered lounge seating and a poolside bar. The deck has two poolscapes: an infinity-edge Serenity Pool for the adults and a family friendly splash pool.
When Omni came in and bought Amelia Island Plantation, they also brought one of their corporate chefs to revitalize the dining experience. Executive Chef Davin Wardynski has done exactly that with Oceanside, the hotel’s flagship bar and grill located right on the ocean. Chef Wardynski came from Omni Chicago Hotel and has worked hard to create a Floribbean-inspired menu. He often works with local fish and produce markets such as Sweet Grass Dairy, Pasture Prime, Spring Song Organic, Fisherman’s Dock and Winter Park Apiary to craft local specialty dishes. He even traveled to Ted Peter’s in St. Petersburg to learn the proper way to smoke mullet. The restaurant is flip-flop casual but elegant enough for a collared shirt or nice dress. In all, the resort has nine restaurants on the property.
Golf & Tennis
The resort has three championship golf courses and is ranked as one of the “Top 121 Golf Resorts in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler. The Omni Group invested $1.2 million on irrigation improvements for the Oak Marsh course, which Travel & Leisure ranked as one of “Florida’s 50 Finest Courses.” Golfers can tee off seaside at seven of the oceanfront holes. The Ocean Links course was ranked in June 2011 as Golf Digest’s No. 1 Florida course for women golfers in the publication’s annual “Top 50 Courses for Women” rankings. Amelia Island Plantation also has 23 Har-Tru tennis courts and a professional tennis academy in the Cliff Drysdale Tennis School.
The sweeping salt marshes at Walker’s Landing are the crown jewel of Amelia Island Plantation. No visit to the resort is complete without an evening watching the sunset over this spectacular landscape. Resort guests can rent paddleboards, kayaks or canoes to escape into the winding waterway. The shoreline fishing may not stack up to what we have in the Gulf of Mexico, but the Atlantic does have some good offshore fishing. If you’re with the kids, be sure to bring a pole and head down to the coast for a fun morning of fishing.
The Amelia Island Plantation spa and salon is like a step into a Caribbean tree house. Soothing music, floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed wood beams set the tone for the relaxing experience, where guests can enjoy massages, body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing and a full-service hair salon.
Amelia Island Plantation is located at 6800 First Coast Hwy., Amelia Island, FL 32034, about a 4-hour drive from Tampa, just outside Jacksonville. For more information, call ( (904) 261-6161 or visit omniameliaislandplantation.com.