When people think of Jacksonville's aquatic assets, the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Johns River are two of the first things that come to mind. However, Jacksonville's boaters, Jet Skiiers and kayakers also know that the Intracoastal Waterway provides recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike.
The Intracoastal Waterway is a part natural/part man-made, continuous inland water passage that stretches along the East Coast. The segments that traverse Jacksonville are named the San Pablo River south of the St. Johns River and Sisters Creek north of the river. Of course, the locals usually just refer to the whole thing as the Intracoastal, the ICW or "the ditch." A unique feature of the Intracoastal in Jacksonville is that it winds its way through a wide swath of pristine wetlands that are home to vibrant ecosystems. Sure, homes on canals, a few condos and some restaurants can be found dotted along the banks of the Intracoastal but the wetlands are what dominate the view from the bridges. In all, four causeway-style bridges cross the Intracoastal in Jacksonville, linking the mainland to the barrier island beach communities. A fifth bridge also crosses the Intracoastal a little south of the city.
The island is about 9 miles long and all dedicated to being a nature preserve for birds and animal wildlife. YOu can take many trails to walk, enjoy the beaches, visit the museum, or see Dungeness which is a burned out mansion, camping in the rough, or have a tour guide show you around. There are no amenities on the island such as food, shops, or toilets except in designated by the museum.
Access to the island is only by boat, and the NPS provides two daily from St. Mary's waterfront to the island, and two back.
It is located off US 95 at about 20 miles north of JAX, and then take Hwy 40 for 8 miles to St. Mary's downtown
Okefenokee Swamp is only 50 miles NW of JAx and on Hwy 27/101 to Folkston for the east entrance. I wish I could describe what is was like, but it had a terrible fire while I was there and no tourists were allowed in the park form either entrance. It was taking about 200,000 acres, or 280 square miles, and even to today (June 10) it still is burning. It has about 438,000 acres of swamp area, and very remote in the interior, but one west side allows a drive on HWy 177 into the swamp 17 miles.
I have waited for 25 years to get there and NOT. It must be a great adventure to go in alone, even though tourists are not allowed without experience.
This is a historical and small town that is 2 miles by way of water from Fernandina Beach, but 25 miles around taking the highways. It has a home tour of Orange Hall, and a number of historic homes and downtown structures dating back to late 1800's and early 1900's. In addition, this is the pick up point to get to Cumberland Island by boat, which is a nature preserve just across the water inlet. It also has a nice Naval Sub museum at the waterfront.
Take US 95 to Hwy 40 east to St. Mary's 8 miles east.
fort george island is a beautiful and historic island located about 15 miles northeast of downtown jacksonville. a fort was built on st. george island in 1736 to protect the southern approach to the georgia colony in colonial times. in the 1920's the ribault club was established for wealthy northern visitors. the ribault club has been recently restored and can be rented for private functions. this beautiful island is also home to st. george episcopal church founded in 1877. fort george island is an interesting place to visit in the jacksonville area. to get to fort george island take hecksher drive (US A1A) from downtown jacksonville.
Literary scholars will be interested to know that the historic home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous author, still stands in a small park on scenic Mandarin Road near the river in the city's Mandarin neighborhood. The historic site sits along a quiet stretch of road lined with stately homes and and shaded by a dense canopy of majestic water oaks.
huguenot park is located at the mouth of the st. johns river. the park offers a beautiful beach, camping, and fishing. pictured is a view of the mayport navy base across the st. johns river from the park.
huguenot park is located about 15 miles northeast of downtown jacksonville at the mouth of the st. johns river. huguenot park offers a beach, fishing, and camping. their address is 10980 hecksher drive (US A1A). to reserve camp sites call 904-251-3335.
little talbot island state park is located about 15 miles northeast of downtown jacksonville on US A1A. like big talbot island state park just to the north the park offers a beautiful unspoiled beach and hiking and wildlife watching opportunties.
located 20 miles northeast of downtown jacksonville is big talbot island state park. the park is located in the huge 46,000 acre timucuan preserve. the state park offers hiking, canoeing, fishing, and of course it's beautiful unspoiled beach. you can rent kayaks and canoes at kayak- amelia in the park. for reservations call 904-251-0016.
Hugenot Memorial Park is a great place to see wading birds and shore birds as well as some migratory species (ducks). It is on the list of Florida Birding Trails published by Florida Wildlife and Gaming Commision.
Terns, gulls, gannets, loons and ducks are all easily spotted.
It is a natural preserve so there are no facilities: bring your own water and snacks and don't forget your camera.
to get there:
I-95 exit onto route 9A east, take route 9A east to Heckscher Drive, then east on Heckscher to the park
Take a drive to Fort George Island, off Hecksher Drive...where a dirt road meanders through a canopy of live oaks and marsh grass waves in the coastal breeze. Follow the signs to the Ribault Club and learn about distinct eras of the region's history. Hiking and bicycling trails and waterfront wildlife await if you want to discover the land for yourself. And don't miss the view of Amelia Island from the back lawn of the Ribault Club....it's good for the soul! Don't miss the club's bookshop--there's lots of great resources about the region's history.
Hours: 8 a.m. to sundown
There are not too many places in Florida that have Civil War battlefields. Olustee, about an hour west of Jacksonville off I-10 is one of them.
In this swampy florida battle, the Confederates soundly defeated the Union as they were heading inland from The coast.
Reenactments of the battle are performed every year. There is also a small museum a few cannon and some reconstructions on the battlefield.
The Park is just off I-10 and is a good place to stop if you are coming from or going to Jacksonville. It helps break up the monotony of the I-10 drive. We spent about an hour there walking around, reading the signs and such.
Many visitors and newcomers may not know it but Jacksonville actually has two lighthouses -- one historic and one active -- both of which are located on the grounds of Mayport N.A.S. Despite being located on a military base, the historic, orange colored lighthouse can be seen up close and in its entirety from a small side street in Mayport Village. The top part of it can also be seen from the Mayport Ferry and from the Sandollar Restaurant on Fort George Island. A movement is underway to make the historic lighthouse, which is no longer in use, accessible to the public.
Meanwhile, the old lighthouse's replacement is also located on base property. While the lighthouse is not really visible during the daytime, its bright, flashing light beam can be seen at night for several miles down the sands of Jacksonville's main beaches.
In addition to the two lighthouses in Mayport, two other operational lighthouses are located in the metro area -- one in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and one in Saint Augustine on Anastasia Island.
Jacksonville is full of interesting places to see and do, from Timacuan preserves to sunning at the beaches. The Jacksonville area has a host of golfing and fishing venues, museums and wildlife preserves.
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