Jacksonville is a sprawling metropolis, offering a beachside getaway for communities in Northeastern Florida. While it may not be a mega-tourist destination like Orlando or Miami, Jacksonville, and its surrounding beaches, still have a lot to offer.
Within the biggest city in Florida, visitors can find attractions like the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens or the Cummer Museum of Art, where you explore botanical gardens or view some 5,000 pieces of art in the collection ranging from modern-day to 2100 B.C.
For you foodies out there, Jacksonville has a budding food scene and has become a thriving environment for chef-driven restaurants that try to represent the legacy of the area’s agricultural past.
While the city has really developed and become a destination in its own right, by and large, the most enticing aspect of the area is the beautiful beaches that sit on the edges of the Greater Jacksonville area.
What makes them so remarkable is their location, positioned far enough from the city to be excluded from the hustle and bustle, but not too far to be an inconvenience.
Here are some of the best beaches in Jacksonville, FL, in no particular order:
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville
Between the historic city of Mayport and Atlantic Beach, visitors find this sprawling oceanfront park packed with amazing views and exciting outdoor fun. With over 20 miles of hiking trails and a 40-acre lake that is perfect for kayaking or canoeing, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is the perfect place for a family trip.
Beachside, you can expect to find 1.5 miles of soft sand and a clean beach as well as plenty of action on the water, since the area is known as one of North Florida’s best spots to surf.
Besides the beach and hiking trails, there are ample places to set up an afternoon picnic and even a water park that is open during the summer months. The beach is lined with a hammock ecosystem, so prepare to be welcomed by nature while you soak up the sun or indulge in any of the other park activities.
Neptune Beach, Neptune Beach
Neptune Beach is a charming oceanside town located just south of Atlantic Beach, and only a few miles from the center of Downtown Jacksonville. The beaches here tend to be a bit quieter and less crowded than those you might find up north.
Beyond the laid back beach vibes you get from the town itself, the shores at Neptune Beach are lined with white sand and clean water. With over a mile of coastline, you can expect to find a piece of “sand” to call your own. The area is the perfect place to rest in the sun, or if you are more adventurous, take a trip into the surf with a surfboard or boogie board.
When the beachside fun has come to an end, head toward the downtown center for some fantastic shopping and dining. Beaches Town Center is a bustling hub for small boutique shops and exquisite restaurants, all located within walking distance.
Because this area is known for its laid-back approach to beach life, you won’t find a happening nightlife, but if you are in the market for a perfect family spot, this is it.
Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville
Farther down the coast from Neptune Beach, visitors will find the most popular beach in the area, Jacksonville Beach, offering plenty of activities, such as surfing and volleyball.
There are also several public parks in the area that can offer some insight into the natural wonders of Jacksonville Beach. One that stands out is the Cradle Creek Preserve, boasting over 40 acres of undisturbed land that hugs the Intracoastal Waterway. There, you can journey out on foot and explore the extensive network of nature trails and elevated boardwalks.
Outside the gorgeous golden sands, Jacksonville Beach also has an excellent golf course, a fishing pier that pushes out into the surf, and a wide variety of restaurants and bars.
For a comprehensive history of the beachside communities that call this area home, make sure to check out The Beaches Museum. There is something here for everyone with unique exhibits that allow guests to embrace the area’s cultural history thoroughly.
Mickler’s Landing, Ponte Vedra Beach
Take a short drive from Jacksonville toward the coast and you’ll end up in Ponte Vedra Beach at Mickler’s Landing. This area has a reputation as a hotspot for golfers, hosting part of the PGA tour at the TPC Sawgrass Course. The course is home to the iconic “island hole,” which has been pro-golfers’ bane for decades.
Outside of being a golf mecca, Mickler’s Landing is also home to a dazzling stretch of soft sand and a wide variety of cultural and recreational fun. The dunes here are famous, and some rise to over 40 feet in height, a sight to be seen for sure.
The area has a dense history too, being home to one of the more iconic landmarks in all of Florida’s history, the Ponce De Leon Statue.
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach
Farther outside Jacksonville, toward the northern end of Fernandina Beach, you’ll find Fort Clinch State Park. This bastion of natural wonder and historical beauty has been a popular destination for beachgoers looking to indulge in some American history.
The park offers miles of pristine shores and is a perfect location to sunbathe or swim, or snag a beach cruiser and ride the coast.
Fort Clinch is also known to be an excellent spot to find seaside treasures. With a keen eye and maybe a small shovel, you find some gorgeous seashells, or perhaps, a few shark’s teeth.
The row of cannons that sit on the edge of the park’s border with Georgia, across the St.Mary’s river, offers a testament to guests as to the importance of this fort during the Civil War. Delve into the area’s deep history and catch a glimpse of what life might have been like for soldiers during this time.
Big Talbot State Park, Jacksonville
If you are yearning to dive headfirst into a spectacular natural environment, then Big Talbot State Park is your spot. Located on the scenic stretches of Florida’s A1A, and just a few miles from downtown Jacksonville, this incredible park is home to some fantastic hiking trails and even better nature sightings.
Big Talbot State Park is actually a sea island teeming with natural wonder. For a completely unique, and almost alien, beach experience, check out the boneyard beach. Here you witness a natural phenomenon caused by the ocean currents, in which bleached tree remains protrude out of the sand and surf.
Outside of the nature trails and beach access, you can also find areas to have a picnic or take your bike down the miles of paved roads that intertwine within the park.
American Beach, Amelia Island
Just north of Jacksonville, on Amelia Island, you’ll find American Beach, a site steeped in rich cultural history with some of the most intact and spectacular dune systems in Florida.
This area is part of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor that stretches from the Atlantic side of Northern Florida all the way to Wilmington, North Carolina. The beach is a cultural landmark for the African American community and is home to interpretive sites to help educate visitors on the importance of this land.
The beach itself offers excellent ocean access, and you can find amenities like bathrooms and showers at the nearby Burney Park. American Beach is the perfect spot to walk around and enjoy the relatively undeveloped stretch of historic beach.
One thing to keep in mind is that the rip currents at American Beach are known to be dangerous. While this does not exclude swimming from your day, you should certainly be cautious.
Fernandina Beach, Fernandina Beach
Fernandina Beach is another fantastic oceanside community that sits just north of Amelia City. It’s not too far outside of Jacksonville and can make for a perfect day trip.
The city itself is home to some great areas to access the water. While there are plenty of public beach access points throughout the city, there are a couple of beach parks with amenities that can make your beach day more enjoyable.
Main Beach Park is the more popular location, giving visitors access to the beach, multiple volleyball courts, a green space, and plenty of locations to set up for a picnic. The park also has a playground, making it a fantastic spot for families looking to spend the day by the water.
North Beach Park offers a more secluded and quiet beachside experience. While it may not pack in the amenities like Main Beach, it still has plenty of parking and areas to set up for a quick lunch. There is also a wooden boardwalk that stretches across the sand and dunes, giving access to some fantastic views of the water.
Peter’s Point Beachfront Park, Amelia Island
If you want to experience some of the best beach camping in all of Jacksonville, make sure to add Peter’s Point Park to your list. This beach is a lovely sandy drive-on beach that offers some great amenities.
This park is a popular destination for locals, open from 6 AM to 8 PM, and has a reasonably large parking lot. Peter’s Point Park has indoor restrooms, showers, and plenty of picnic pavilions. The beach, itself, is clean, and while the water isn’t as clear as some other Florida beaches, it is warm and inviting for most of the year.
Shelling is a popular activity here as the location of the beach allows the tide to pull in plenty of specimens for collecting. Fishing is also permitted at Peter’s Point, so make sure you bring some gear so you can cast out into the surf.
Huguenot Memorial Park, Jacksonville
Resting on a peninsula surrounded by the Fort George River, St.John’s River, and the Atlantic, Huguenot Memorial Park is known for its amazing wildlife and exciting activities. Huguenot is maintained by the city of Jacksonville and features an on-site nature center in addition to plenty of amenities and concessions.
The park is located on The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and is home to some of the largest Royal Tern and Laughing Gull colonies. The Duval Audubon Society also recognizes it as a premier birding spot.
Outside of watching winged flyers in the air, you can also catch windsurfers riding the gusts. Huguenot Park is a prime location for multiple water sports like surfing, kayaking, and of course, windsurfing.
Jacksonville provides visitors with plenty of options for a little fun in the sun, having beaches suitable for all types of travelers. If you decide you want to explore a few more of Florida’s famous beaches, make sure to take a trip to Miami or the Florida Keys, you surely won’t be disappointed!