Beach Vacations to Jacksonville, Florida

Beach in Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida (courtesy, Jacksonville CVB)

Tucked into Florida's northeast corner, Jacksonville feels a bit different from other parts of the state. Maybe it's because the South is so close (the Georgia border is only 36 miles away). Or maybe it's because Jacksonville is just so darn big. The metropolis spans a whopping 840 square miles—it's the largest city by area in the continental United States—and if you don't plan ahead, you'll find yourself driving every which way to take it all in. Many suburbs, beach towns, and enclaves fall under the Jacksonville name, as well as a smattering of golf courses (72 total), beaches (more than 22 miles of them), and parks (who knew Jacksonville had America's largest urban park system?).

One way to orient yourself is to look for water. Jacksonville stretches along three meandering rivers, the most recognizable of which is the St. Johns River with its seven bridge crossings. The downtown skyline is surprisingly high (insurance companies and banks are big here, and so are their skyscrapers) and splits across the river. Water taxis transport visitors back and forth between the Northbank and Southbank, as they're called, and while the pleasant Riverwalk lines both shores, most of its restaurants and bars hug the Southbank.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the nearby district of Riverside has an artsy neighborhood called Five Points that's brimming with funky coffee shops, outdoor cafés, nightclubs, and antique stores. Also a short drive from downtown is a district called San Marco, whose Mediterranean Revival buildings house antique shops and home-décor boutiques.

Jacksonville's coastline begins at Amelia Island and runs south past Mayport (a quaint fishing village), Atlantic Beach (one of the city's trendier pieces of shoreline), Neptune Beach (ditto), and Jacksonville Beach (a.k.a. "Jax Beach, the main place for seaside action), before ending at swanky Ponte Vedra Beach. The latter is home to the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, site of the Players Championship in March and ranked among the nation's top golf courses.

Like everything else about Jacksonville, its nature is big, too. The city stewards an astonishing 111,669 acres of parkland, nearly half of which belongs to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Visitors here will find no shortage of opportunities for boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and bird-watching. Another good find is the 600-acre Theodore Roosevelt Area, whose woods and marshes have remained undisturbed since the Civil War. Wherever you choose to romp, keep in mind that winters this far north in Florida can be a little cool for certain outdoor pursuits.

Published: 27 Dec 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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