Amelia Island — or, for purposes of this writing, Day Drinking Paradise — is the island destination in Northeast Florida, replete with fishing, seafood restaurants, and bars of every variety. Because really, what else is there to do on an island besides drink? From shorts and flops to evening wear, the Island, as the locals call it, has the bars that suit your style.
HAPPY HOUR ||| DOGSTAR TAVERN
Although work is a sort of nebulous term on Island time, Dogstar Tavern is one of the establishments that opens at 4 p.m. and caters to the after-work crowd. I walked in at 4 p.m., sharp. Full liquor, baby. I asked the bartender Shelby to make me a drink. She asked me what kind. I told her to surprise me. She made me something that looked like a Cosmopolitan, with a maraschino cherry and everything. Except it tasted much, much sweeter than any Cosmo I’ve ever had (which is very few). It was good — like a Nehi soda. Lots of what’s on Dogstar’s cocktail menu appeals to the budding drinker, just coming off alcoholic training wheels. There are a lot of bright-colored mixes. Lots of sugar. Lots of hangover aches and pains. It’s tailor-made for happy hour.
And from 4-7 p.m. every day, Dogstar’s one of the few places where deals can be had: 2-for-1 Bud Light and Yuengling drafts, 2-for-1 well liquor and 2-for-1 house wines.
Shelby told me her family owns the bar. “I’ve been making drinks all my life.” “What was the name of that drink?” I asked, rising from my barstool to make my way to the next bar. “The Hot Rod,” she said.
DIVE (kind of) ||| GREEN TURTLE
Perhaps best known for its bohemian-style wraparound porch, but the Green Turtle Tavern, fair or unfair, is likely to inspire a Jack Johnsonesque soundtrack in your head as you walk up. It’s not a dive, but it has an atmosphere that hints at a locals-only mantra. It’s certainly the surfiest-looking bar and, in my experience, the most laid-back. The bartender’s name is Esmerelda. Tuesday features tacos and $2 Mexican beers all day. The joint’s logo looks vaguely like an Aztec symbol. Is there something else going on here that I missed? No, not really. Esmerelda is from Indiana and loves Florida weather. She grabbed me a beer. It’s a beer kind of place. But there’s liquor and wine all over the shelves. It doesn’t matter. This is a place to feel relaxed, not a bar where one gets crunk. I make some business calls while I sip my beer which, again, any reference to work places identifies one as an outsider on the Island. Oh well, you do you, brah.
LATE NIGHT ||| HAMMERHEAD BEACH BAR
Speaking of getting crunk, this is the place to do it, especially if you love being served your libations by girls in bikinis. Big-ass beers. Big-ass crowd. Big asses. If there were a University of Fernandina Beach, this is where all the students would go, and they’d go hard all day. Like, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. nonstop. It wasn’t uncomfortably crowded when I showed up, but there was a high energy level to the place. It’s palpable. The room is gonna get crowded tonight and some drunk drama shit’s gonna go down. I gulped my beer before the beach fun gulped me. This is not a place to stay for just one. Girls serve you in fucking bikinis, man. I look over my shoulder as I walk out. Can you blame me
UPSCALE ||| PLAE
This place is a restaurant first — a high-class one at that — and the cocktails reflect its target guest. Set in the Amelia Island Plantation Resort, PLAE’s atmosphere is dark and classy. The lighting is ambient upscale and most “playful.” Am I a snob if I decide to have not one but two cocktails here? I might as well, because my window is so small — they’re only open from 6-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-9:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
During my visit, I ordered an Old Fashioned. It’s elegant. So is the Moscow Mule. At this point, I’d begun to feel slightly tipsy and wished I could afford to eat dinner, as it’s well known PLAE has one of the best and most creative menus on the island (or in NEFL, for that matter).
I shelled out $32 for the chocolate-dusted duck breast. It was delicious and paired excellently with the red wine. No buyer’s remorse here.