~ Jacksonville Beach, Florida ~
"Jacksonville's busiest beach town"
Just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville sits a long barrier island containing a string of funky, laid-back and cosmopolitan beach comunities known collectively as Jacksonville's Beaches. The most populous of these towns, Jacksonville Beach (also known as "Jax Beach") boasts a skyline of mid to highrise condos and hotels and a multitude of restaurants and retailers.
At the town's active center is the oceanfront Seawalk Pavillion, ampitheatre, and Latham Plaza, a manicured greenspace located across the street. Together they provide a recreational focal point surrounded by numerous restaurants, nightspots and hotels. Throughout the year both venues host popular festivals that celebrate foods, cultures and music including George's Music Springing in the Blues Festival, Florida's largest outdoor free blues concert.
In terms of its natural attraction, Jax Beach, like its neighboring communities, boasts a beautiful wide strand of soft sand fronted by sea oats and sand dunes. Several blocks inland, along Beach Blvd., Adventure Landing is a popular water park and amusement complex located near the Intracoastal.
"A city reborn"
Jax Beach has refined its image since the 1990s as numerous new boutiques, fine dining establishments, high-rise luxury condos and even the large J. Johnson Gallery now call the town home. New hotels have also been built in recent years and the ocean pier provides pedestrians with remarkable views of the coast and oceanfront skyline from as far as a quarter mile offshore! Before undergoing this rennaissance, Jax Beach had fallen into blight and become notorious for attracting a rowdy crowd. Thankfully, today's Jax Beach has reinvented itself, with the southern half and the north end boasting the town's quietest and most family-friendly stretches of sand. In contrast, the popular entertainment and special events area surrounding Latham Plaza and the Seawalk (basically bounded by Beach Blvd. to the south, the pier to the north, Second St. to the west, and the beach to the east), is where the "ready to party" people flock to the restaurants, bars, and live entertainment during the weekends and where those without the good fortune to have a place to call home assume residence when the crowds are away.
Three blocks west of the ocean, running the length of Jax Beach is Third Street, also known as A1A. This is the main artery that connects Atlantic, Neptune, Jax and Ponte Vedra beaches and is lined with a broad assortment of restaurants, retailers, fast food joints, and other businesses that serve the needs of residents and visitors alike.
While Jax Beach has certainly become more sophisticated over the years, it's still a laid back, swimsuit and flip flops kind of place. Even though some of those flip-flops may carry the Prada label, the town is just too laid back to be pretentious.
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Fun in the sun
Just 12 miles east of Jacksonville are what locals refer to as "The Beaches" -- Mayport, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, and, farther south, South Ponte Vedra Beach, North Beach and Vilano Beach. They're accessible by Atlantic Blvd. (S.R. 10), Beach Blvd. (U.S. Hwy. 90), 9A, J. Turner Butler Blvd. and U.S. Hwy. A1A.
Besides the more than 50 miles of white-sand beaches, you'll find a variety of shopping areas along Hwy. A1A, which winds its way down the beaches, from Amelia Island to the north and St. Augustine to the south. The attractions, restaurants, and boutiques that fill these coastal areas provide an enjoyable recess from the surf and sand.
2003-November 24-25 Condo Destruction
"November 24th continued"
We got to the Sister's Creek bridge about 10, and went through without any problem. We passed the boatyard that is hard by the bridge, and could see the big ships going up and down the St. John's River ahead of us.
I took some pictures of the yard on the north side of the river and then we managed to cross. We saw ships going down the river before we crossed it, and we saw ships going down the river after we crossed it, but when we crossed there were no big ships going up or down.
We only had to worry about the current in the river and finding the entrance to the ICW between the rock jetties on the other side.
After we crossed the river we could look east and see the Mayport Navy boats and a heliocopter. Our nephew (my sister's son) was stationed there for a time.
They are building a new high rise bridge which doesn't appear to be 65 feet - it was only 63 or 64 feet on the tide boards. We went under it without a problem as our mast is only 58.5 feet. The top picture is also of the construction on this bridge.
We passed Pablo Creek - or what WAS Pablo Creek. It is gone completely - leveled to the ground. Now I understand why they didn't answer the phone. Apparently the area is going to be used to construct condos with their own slips.
It is now almost one o'clock and my sister is starving to death. But I've become accustomed to Bob's habit of not eating until after we've safely anchored or tied up unless we aren't going to arrive until after 2 or 3 pm. She went foraging around and found some crackers to hold her over.
Beach Marine is a couple of miles farther past where Pablo Creek used to be. There is a Florida Fish and Game building on the north side of the channel with a big antenna. There is another marina across the way, but it doesn't have enough channel depth for us.
We tied up at Beach Marine after 31.3 sm at an average speed of 5.6 mph (we've had the current against us a lot of the time) at about 2 pm. We've done a total of 694 nm this trip.
While I went up to pay, my sister and Bob went up to Billy's (the restaurant on site) to have a late lunch.
My BIL meanwhile took A1A down the coast including a ferry from Fort George to Mayport, and arrived at the marina about 5.
When I went up to try to do email (at which I was unsuccessful), I heard from the marina folks that there was going to be a vote tonight on whether to turn this marina into a condo arrangement too. This is very worrisome as there isn't really another good spot to stop between St. Augustine and Fernandina.
In our sister and BIL's car, we went out prospecting for a place to eat dinner and ended up at Tsunami, a Japanese sushi restaurant in Jacksonville Beach. Bob was so still tired from the overnight from Charleston that I thought he might fall asleep at the table and I was also tired.
My sister apparently did a piece on Japanese restaurants for the paper where she is an editor and she and my BIL ate at 6 different Japanese restaurants in 7 days, so they were able to help us with what to order as we are definitely not familiar with sushi dishes.
Bob and I both ordered steak on skewers and we took most of our steak back to the boat because we were too tired to eat much.
At dinner, my BIL described the water massage that he had at Amelia Island Plantation. Then they returned us to the boat and they went back to the resort. Bob told me later that I should never sign him up for anything like that.
"November 25, 2003"
Bob was up at the bathroom 3 times list night and said it was due to the black bean soup we had in Fernandina - I had similar but less intense problem.
I called our son about 7 to tell him where we had gotten to and where we were going. Then we cast off nicely - no current in the marina.
Problem was - the McCormick Bridge only opens on the hour and we had to wait until 8. The current was going through the bridge at a couple of knots and there was a wind. So we called the bridge tender and told him that we would wait in the entrance channel of the marina until he started to open and then go through.
As soon as the bascule started up, Bob drove the boat for the opening - we went through when the bridge was barely up.
It's overcast and chilly today. We see evidence of another condo on the west bank.
Next: St. Augustine
Across the St. John's River 2001 (Details)
We come out into the St. Johns River, and there is a shipyard where a giant catamaran hull is being built, plus CAPE COD LIGHT (looks like a small cruise ship) and assorted grey boats and tugs are there.
We saw this somewhat unusual boatyard on the way down in 2000.
Coming back up in the spring of 2001, it looked like this.