On Jacksonville holidays you don’t just get a big beach – you get a big city attached. Florida’s ‘River City’ gets its nick-name from its wining location not only on the Atlantic coast but also on the St John’s River and the Intracoastal Waterway. And the result of all that water mixed with Jacksonville’s big city status is not only fantastic beaches and stunning State and National Parks, but a whole host of things to do and places to see.
The oceanfront is nothing short of stunning. The wide sweep of the beach goes on for miles – 20 to be precise, and never seems to get crowded. At the Southern end is upmarket Ponte Vedra Beach, with its top-class golf courses; but the main stretch of sand is powdery soft too, with lifeguards to keep you safe under the hot Florida sun and a pier to fish from. There’s a good choice of watersports, and the gentle Atlantic swell makes it a great place to learn to surf.
There are other quieter stretches and more remote coves too, with a real chance to grab some R&R. At Atlantic Beach you can hunt for sharks’ teeth before kicking back at a beachside restaurant. And a bit further north, once you hit the Talbot State Parks, you’re looking at picking up shells, and emerging from hiking trails onto pristine white sands with no one to wave at but the dolphins playing offshore.
Plus there’s the city to explore, which proudly retains its Old South flavour. There’s river cruising; quality museums; a thriving performing arts scene; buzzing nightlife; great sport; and fantastic shopping at the St John’s Town Centre mall. Jacksonville holidays really do deliver on all fronts.
Award-winning Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has a fantastic array of animals and beautiful botanical gardens. Animals are grouped in their natural environments, and you can see elephants, white rhinos and all sorts of exotic big cats, as well as bears and bald eagles in the ‘Florida’ landscape. There’s also a pool for petting stingrays, plus a splash park and playground to keep the kids even happier.
This downtown riverside destination, with its winning mix of shops, restaurants and entertainment, is a great place to hang out for a while. Browse the eclectic mix of stores for some retail therapy; stop awhile for something to eat or drink overlooking the water; and stay out late for bar action and live music.
Jacksonville is at the heart of the Timucuan Preserve – one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast, with 46,000 acres of stunning salt marshes, coastal dunes, and hardwood hammocks. There are several ways to explore this beautiful landscape: by cruising its meandering rivers and creeks; by following the nature trails in the State Parks; or simply by watching the wildlife from a deserted beach.
The nightlife can be as loud or as quiet as you want it to be on a Jacksonville holiday. For party animals there’s plenty of bars and clubs. But there’s also romantic restaurants and a vibrant arts scene. Fans of the performing arts should check out live music at the Florida Theater; the highly rated Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra; and theatre at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre, or the Players by the Sea down at the beach.
Just down the coast is the historic city of St Augustine, with atmospheric streets lined by old buildings, fascinating historical museums and a fabulous Spanish castle. It’s well worth a visit.