Groups traveling for the first time to meetings on Amelia Island, Florida, probably were as surprised as I was with its highly varied natural beauty and colorful history. Located on the coast of Northeast Florida, it boasts crystal-sand beaches, pristine waters, abundant wildlife and upscale resorts with world-class spas and pools.
I went there Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 as part of a media group that attended 2015 Florida Encounter, essentially a trade show for planners and suppliers. Our media group, which stayed at the comfortable and classy Omni Island Plantation Resort, was also treated to offsite activities, including a tour of the Omni property; a choice of a distillery visit, kayaking or a Segway ride; and a 2 1/2-hour cruise up the Florida coast, past the Georgia border.
Media members’ favorite activity–by far–was the cruise. I had been on many cruises before, and expected the same soothing feeling of being out on the water with nice views of shore land and occasional sea creatures popping out of the water. But this trip, offered by Amelia Island Cruises & Charters, was above and beyond all our expectations. It departs from Fernandina Beach, the island’s hub.
Leading the tour was Capt. Pajama Dave Voorhees, a well-known figure in the community because of his encyclopedia knowledge of it, and his engaging sense of humor. His rapid-fire, often satirical commentary sometimes pushes public decency to the limits, but his good-natured attitude and passion make everything OK. Everyone ends up loving Pajama Dave.
Ideal for groups, the cruise passed by remnants of a once-thriving shrimp industry, fields of wild horses, the ruins of historic Dungeness Mansion and many different types of birds, among other things. Two of the other highlights were the many dolphins jumping up in the water and a flock of pelicans taking team-building to heart as they flew in formation from Cumberland Island.
Something captivating seemed to pop up every few minutes, and time flew by. When we started heading back, behind schedule, no one wanted the cruise to end. So, what do you do? Our group, still mesmerized by Pajama Dave, headed straight to his downtown shop, Pajama Life, which carries a variety of oddball items. Yes, it carries strange pajamas.