Enjoy Ocala: The Hidden Gem That Is Amelia Island

Welcome to our new Enjoy Ocala series! Sally Spickard is spending the colder weeks in Ocala for the first time, so it's only fitting that she attempt all of the cool horse-y things there are to do. When in Ocala, right? If you have anything to add that you'd like Sally to try and write about, email [email protected] or comment here.

Photo by Kelly Dutton. Photo by Kelly Dutton.

Ah, Ocala. It’s a bit chilly this morning — high 30s — but I’m not really complaining. There is a plethora of things to do when you decide to take a “day off” here, and my coach and I have been excited to try the list of Ocala must-dos that seem to be on everyone’s bucket list.

Riding horses on the beach has always been a dream of every equestrian, yet not all of us have had the chance to enjoy this before. We searched online for a good beach that was horse friendly, and found a few different options. St. Augustine beach was one that seemed like a good choice; unfortunately they require riders to have a permit with a two-week waiting period.

On doing another search, we landed on Amelia Island. It’s a bit of a drive from the Ocala area — a little over two hours — but if you have the time to spare, it’s definitely one to add to your list.

Rico looks out over the surf. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Rico looks out over the surf. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The Amelia Island State Park is exactly that — a virtually untouched, tourist free beach that allows 15 horses at a time on the beach, free of charge. All you need to do is call the ranger’s office to let them know you’re coming.

We chose Super Bowl Sunday as our day to take on Amelia Island, so I’m not sure if the empty beach we encountered was an anomaly or not, but the fact that the number is limited to 15 at any given time makes it seem like you won’t ever arrive to find a beach choked full of horses and manure.


Posted by Sally Spickard on Sunday, February 7, 2016

As we rode along the surf, I was amazed at the pristine appearance of the beach — a sheer lack of hoofprints and plenty of sand dunes to explore. As I said, we had the beach to ourselves and were able to ride for a good two or three hours without having to turn back.

This was hands down one of the best horse related experiences of my life. Not only did I get to check a bucket list item off, but it could not have been in any more perfect of conditions. The only thing I wished for was for slightly warmer water to perhaps coax my horse further in!

If you ever have the opportunity to spend time in Ocala, definitely add Amelia Island to your list. I promise, you will not be disappointed!