By Grant Fraser

Having tantalized explorers, soldiers, pirates, and real-estate barons for centuries, Amelia Island remains one of Florida’s hidden treasures.

If you are unfamiliar with Amelia Island, you’re not alone, and the 40,000 island residents are content to keep it that way. That’s not to suggest visitors are not appreciated. Quite the opposite. It’s just that Amelia Island is located off the beaten path and requires some foresight to incorporate into any Florida travel plan. Jacksonville, the nearest metropolitan area, is located 30 minutes southeast of the island which is only accessed by two bridges or a ferry across the St. Johns River. It’s Amelia Island’s pristine beaches and towering sand dunes, with their white and pink Appalachian quartz, that make this place so special.

For sun-starved Canadians in search of a Florida vacation getaway that involves history and tradition, exotic cars and great golf courses, December through April is the ideal winter window to experience the allure of beautiful Amelia Island.

As the southernmost part of the Sea Islands Barrier chain, Amelia Island is nestled on the coastal border of Georgia and Florida. Similar in size and shape to Manhattan, this 13-mile-long, 2-mile-wide temperate island paradise is renowned for its unspoiled beaches, treelined streets, and laid-back vibe.

While tourists are always welcome, Amelia Island is not “touristy.” Rather, it’s a place where you can find solitude. The beaches, extending for miles alongside the Atlantic Ocean, are never crowded. Not surprisingly, Amelia Island is a perennial mainstay on any Top 10 vacation or beach destinations list including Conde Nast Travelers Readers’ Choice Awards.

For history buffs, you could spend countless hours learning about the island’s history, rich with tales about swashbucklers, renegades, and pioneers. Timucuan Indians were the island’s first residents, but over the last 400 years, Amelia has been fought over by nearly all of the colonial powers, earning the name “Isle of Eight Flags.” It is said that the French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named, and the Americans claimed it, which they did in 1817. More