Jacksonville's own Malibu, exclusive Ponte Vedra Beach boasts the gargantuan oceanfront mansions of millionaires, a trio of world-class resorts including the five diamond rated Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, and shopping villages filled with high-end boutiques.
Driving down swanky Ponte Vedra Blvd, those of us "still working on our first million" (yeah, right) can make ourselves sick admiring one showy oceanfront mansion after another. The road even cuts right through the center of the grounds of two luxury oceanfront spa resorts. (Just be very wary of the slow, slow speed limit).
One thing you probably won't see along this stretch are public accesses. By law, public accesses are required, however, they have become obscured by shrubbery and other creative deterrents. This is because like in many other exclusive seaside strands around the country, private wealth seems to come at odds with public right-of-way, making Ponte Vedra a prime local battleground for access issues. So, how can you see what these grand homes look like from the beach side?
One fantastic public access lies at the southern end of Ponte Vedra Blvd. in what the locals call Mickler's Landing. Here, ample parking and facilities are provided, allowing beachcombers to enjoy both a priceless ocean view and a multi-million dollar backdrop.
In contrast to the soft white powder that characterizes much of Jacksonville's shoreline, the sand at Mickler's Landing is coarser and more pinkish in color due to the increased presence of coquina (ground up shells). Mickler's Landing is also known as one of the best spots in the state for finding sharks' teeth.
When out-of-towners think of Jacksonville’s beaches they likely think of the larger and more popular Jacksonville Beach. While Jacksonville Beach has more in the way of accommodations and restaurants, many locals know that Atlantic Beach is really the place to make footprints in the sand. Occupying two miles of beautiful white sand beachfront with 14 public accesses, Atlantic Beach is a gem that most visitors somewhat bypass due to the way coastal route A1A jogs several blocks inland at Atlantic Boulevard, the town’s southern boundary line with Neptune Beach. They don’t see the gorgeous tree-covered neighborhoods full of aesthetically pleasing (and in some instances rather creative) architecture. They don't realize that while the beaches are beautiful in Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach, that same sandy strand seems to get prettier and less crowded several blocks to the north. Add to this the fact that Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach share a Town Center of restaurants and shops just a block off the sand, and you just might find that there is no better place to be on the Florida coast!
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.
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.
If you're looking for people to meet or hang out with, the beach is the most happening place to be. During the summer it's filled with people, motorcycles and fast and furious cars. There's not much family fun on the beach unless you had further down to Ponte Vedra Beach. Jax beach, atlantic beach, and neptune beach are the same beach just off different streets. There's hotels and resturants. The hotels are a bit costly around $99 a night and up.
Popular with fishermen and spectators alike, the Jacksonville Beach Pier gives visitors a remarkable view of the coast and oceanfront skyline from as far away as 1,320 feet offshore! Watch fishermen reel in their catches, or set your sights on the surrounding waters, where surfers love riding the wave breaks created by the pier's support posts.
The sun is high and hot most days. That draws the crowds to the ocean side. Three main beaches of JAX are Atlantic beach, Neptune beach, and Jacksonville beach; all next to each other. Along the beaches are high rise condos for occupancy of locals mostly. The public beach area stretches about 5-6 miles.
Just north of Atlantic Beach and south of Mayport N.A.S., Hanna Park is a beautifully preserved oceanfront park operated by the City of Jacksonville. In addition to its wide, white sand beach with lush green dunes, Hanna Park boasts acres of coastal woodland recreation areas including freshwater lakes (with paddleboat rentals), numerous hiking and biking trails, ample picnic areas, a children's water play area and camping facilities. Locally, the park is famous for its great mountain biking trails and for "The Poles," Jacksonville's storied surfing spot.
Here is a map of the different beaches that line Jacksonville's shoreline, including those on Amelia Island, just north of the city, and on Anastasia Island, to the south by St. Augustine. Each of the beaches listed has its own unique identity and distinctive feel. Enjoy!
Operated by the City of Jacksonville, Huguenot Park is located on Fort George Island and fronts both the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the St. Johns River opposite Mayport N.A.S. Free of development, Huguenot's beach boasts a backdrop of some of the highest dunes in Jacksonville and a chain of rocky jetties that stretch out to sea marking the entrance to the river's busy shipping channel. Visitors should be advised that water activities are better enjoyed at one of Jacksonville's other beaches as, due to Huguenot's location, the shape and size of its sandy stretches can vary drastically with the tides and the strong currents where the St. Johns meets the Atlantic can be too treacherous for swimmers. Beachgoers do, however, get an awesome view of the gigantic military ships in port across the river.
Aside from a couple of isolated spots in Amelia Island, where parking on the sand is permitted, Huguenot Park is the only one of Jacksonville's beaches where automobiles are allowed to drive on the sand. For me, that alone makes Huguenot Park less appealling than the city's other beaches; however, many people prefer it for this same reason. Regardless of your opinion, you have to admit that the towering dunes, rocky jetties and skyscraping military ships certainly make Huguenot unique.
east of downtown jacksonville is it's beautiful atlantic beaches. the main beach is jacksonville beach and there is ponte vedra beach to the south and neptune beach to the north. jacksonville beach offers a number of small beach accesses with free parking. the town of jacksonville beach is a great place to visit when in the jacksonville area. see the attached web site for more information.
Outdoors at its best without mountains or a boat. Camping, beautiful beaches, cheap entry, bike trails, fishing, hiking trails, childrens water park, canoeing, swiming, the beach, surfing, life guards, fun fun fun!!!