Amelia Island has all the charm of Pippi Longstocking (largely filmed on the island), all the history of St. Augustine (locals claim Fernandina is in fact older), and all the class of Pebble Beach (the Concours d’Elegance’s other location).
My husband and I knew we were in for a small-town vacation when our check-in instructions were, “The key is under the mat. Make yourself at home and enjoy!” And enjoy we did. We biked around most of the island, popping in at bed-and-breakfasts and eating our way through almost every local bakery, restaurant, and pub. As an added bonus, we got to gawk at the profusion of exotic, antique, or otherwise eclectic cars in town for the event.
Despite all of Amelia Island’s virtues, the Concours weekend is about one thing—cars. This year’s selection did not disappoint. Luckily, the event caters to enthusiasts of all levels: for instance, my husband was restoring Porsche 356s before he could walk, while I’m more an enthusiast-by-association. But some cars proved captivating for every spectator. My top picks were a Porsche 550A Spyder and a 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe. The former is better known as “the James Dean car” while the latter was the exact car used for the cover of the Beach Boy’s Little Deuce Coupe album. In terms of speed, I was quite impressed with the 1973 Ferrari Dino that set a Guinness World Record for driving from New York to Los Angeles in a smidge over 35 hours. In terms of luxury, I enjoyed the former limos of Hugh Hefner, Pavarotti, and Pope Paul VI. My husband was particularly excited to see a 1953 Porsche 356 pre-A and a 1936 Cord with electric flip up headlights and a column-mounted shifter. There was also an assortment of historic and modern rally and race cars, whose growling engines could be heard across the island.
After this Concours, I must admit that I am hooked. We’ve already booked our hotel arrangements for next year (which I suggest you do early!), and the event will surely be a staple on our March calendar.
Recommendations: For accommodations, the Elizabeth Point Lodge looks lifted from a brochure on the Hamptons—historic, elegant, and oceanfront. Smaller and more quaint is the Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast—they were planting their spring garden when my husband and I biked by. The historic Hoyt House is on the edge of downtown, graced with a pool and Jacuzzi. For dining, we relished two local bakeries—Chez Lezan and Patty Cakes—and lunch fare at O’Kane’s on the downtown strip. For dinner, the Palace Saloon is always pleasing (and it’s the oldest saloon in Florida!), however we found The Loop particularly delicious. What it lacked in historic ambiance it more than made up for in incredible food.
photography by Greg Peek