Jacksonville Explorer’s Handbook: From Beaches to Beyond

Discover Jacksonville

Traveling to Jacksonville, Florida, offers an enticing blend of coastal charm, cultural diversity, and outdoor adventure. Nestled along the banks of the St. Johns River and bordered by miles of sandy beaches, Jacksonville beckons visitors with its relaxed vibe and wealth of attractions. Whether you’re soaking up the sun on Jacksonville Beach, exploring the city’s vibrant arts scene, or indulging in fresh seafood at local eateries, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Outdoor enthusiasts can kayak through the lush marshlands of the Intracoastal Waterway, hike along scenic trails in nearby state parks, or tee off at world-class golf courses. With its mild climate, friendly locals, and array of activities, Jacksonville promises an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking relaxation, adventure, and authentic Southern hospitality.


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Three Fun Facts About Jacksonville


Largest City by Area

Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the contiguous United States, covering over 840 square miles. Its vast size means it offers a diverse range of neighborhoods, landscapes, and attractions.


The River City

Jacksonville is often referred to as “The River City” due to its location along the St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the United States that flows northward.


Florida’s Oldest European Settlement

St. Augustine, located just south of Jacksonville, is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental United States. Visitors can explore its historic sites, including Castillo de San Marcos and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.


Must See Attractions

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St. Augustine

Tourist Attraction

St. Augustine offers a mix of historical sites, quaint shops, and lovely beaches. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Speciality Museums

Explore an impressive collection of art spanning from ancient to contemporary at the Cummer Museum.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Nature & parks

Escape to nature at this expansive park, offering hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a pristine beach.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens


Explore the diverse ecosystems of the world at the Jacksonville Zoo, home to over 2,000 animals from around the globe.

Friendship Fountain


Located on the downtown riverfront, Friendship Fountain is one of the largest and most recognizable fountains in the world.

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary


Visit this nonprofit sanctuary rescuing and rehabilitating endangered tigers, lions, and cougars.

Lakes Near Jacksonville

Hey there! Looking for a splash of fun or a peaceful retreat near Jacksonville? You’re in luck! The area is sprinkled with beautiful lakes that offer a bit of everything, whether you’re angling for a fishing adventure, itching to take your boat for a spin, or yearning for a glimpse of diverse wildlife.

Lake Asbury

Asbury Lake, Florida 32043

Situated in Green Cove Springs, Lake Asbury is a popular spot for fishing, swimming, and picnicking, with two public boat ramps available for boating enthusiasts.

Distance from Jacksonville: 35 miles
Activities: Watersports, swimming, boating

Doctors Lake

Doctors Lake, Florida

Located southwest of Jacksonville, Doctors Lake is a 3,500 acre freshwater lake known for its excellent fishing, boating, and water sports opportunities.

Distance from Jacksonville: 21 miles
Activities: Boating, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding

Black Creek

Black Creek, Florida

Flowing through Clay County, Black Creek is a scenic waterway that meanders through forests and wetlands, offering opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.

Distance from Jacksonville: 36 miles
Activities: Kayaking, swimming, fishing

Fishing Destinations Near Jacksonville

Thinking about combining a bit of angling action with your Jacksonville vacation rental stay? You’re in luck! Jacksonville’s proximity to both freshwater and saltwater makes it a fantastic destination for amateur and seasoned anglers alike.

Jacksonville Beach Pier

503 1st St N, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250

Not only can you enjoy fishing here, but you don’t even need a state fishing license. It’s that easy! Remember, bring sunscreen and a hat—the Florida sun is no joke!

Fishing: Pier, shoreline, boat 
Whiting, pompano, flounder, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel

Trout River Bridge Pier

Trout River Dr, Jacksonville, Florida 32208

The Trout River Bridge Pier, situated along Jacksonville’s picturesque waterfront, offers both anglers and nature enthusiasts a captivating glimpse into the area’s rich biodiversity. Located snugly near downtown, this pier offers a nice urban fishing escape.

Fishing: Pier, shoreline, boat 
Redfish, flounder, speckled trout, black drum, sheepshead, croaker

Big Talbot Island State Park

Florida A1A, Jacksonville, Florida 32226

Nestled along the northeastern coast of Florida, Big Talbot Island State Park stands as a pristine sanctuary of natural beauty and coastal wilderness. This expansive park, encompassing over 2,500 acres, offers visitors a diverse array of ecosystems to explore. Just imagine reeling in redfish, flounder, and speckled trout amid stunning natural beauty.

Fishing: Shoreline, boat, kayak
Redfish, speckled trout, flounder, black drum, sheepshead, bluefish

Top Hiking Trails 1 Hour Away from Jacksonville

Hey there, outdoor enthusiast! Craving a hike not too far from Jacksonville? Imagine taking a short drive and winding up surrounded by nature’s beauty—sounds great, right? Let’s lace up those boots and explore some trails just a hop, skip, and a jump from the city hustle. Had enough of the concrete jungle? Why not switch it up with some greenery and a dose of fresh air! These trails offer a range of experiences, whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely walk or a deeper dive into the great outdoors. Plus, with most of these being so close, you can hit the trails at the drop of a hat. Ready to get out there? Don’t forget to pack water, snacks, and your sense of adventure!

Rosemary Ridge Loop

1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, Florida 32225

The shaded trail is the perfect trail for those looking for a stroll in Jacksonville. Take your kids or your pets, and enjoy the lake views and lush green parks.

Distance: 2 miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 14 m
Time to Complete: 45 minutes

Spanish Pond Trail

Spanish Pond Trailhead, Jacksonville, Florida 32225

The Spanish Pond Trail in Jacksonville offers a serene escape into nature, winding through lush marshlands and tranquil forests. As you embark on this picturesque journey, you’ll encounter a variety of wildlife and native vegetation, providing a glimpse into the rich biodiversity of Northeast Florida. The trail’s well-maintained pathways offer a perfect setting for hiking, jogging, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll amidst the beauty of the outdoors.

Distance: 2.6 miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 32 m
Time to Complete: 1 hour

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

1800 Imeson Rd, Jacksonville, Florida 32220

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty and history of Northeast Florida. As you journey along the trail, you’ll pass through a diverse landscape of pine forests, wetlands, and open fields, encountering an array of flora and fauna along the way.

Distance: 14.5 miles
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 39 m
Time to Complete: 4.5 hours

Best Golf Courses Around Jacksonville

Hey, are you on the hunt for some of the top-notch golf experiences near Jacksonville? You’re in luck; the area’s teeming with courses that’ll have you swinging with joy! Let’s take a quick tour around some greens you won’t want to miss. Before you pack your clubs, remember that the golf scene in Jacksonville is as vibrant as the Florida sun. Whether you’re chasing par on a world-class course or enjoying a casual round with friends, every tee shot here is one for the memory books. Ready to book your tee time?

Pablo Creek Club

5660 San Pablo Rd S, Jacksonville, Florida 32224

First up, Pablo Creek, is known for its understated elegance and a design by the acclaimed Tom Fazio. This golf-only club is a gem tucked away for those looking for a serene round of golf.

Holes: 18
Designer: Tom Fazio

Visit their website for more information

First Coast of Golf

4300 Marsh Landing Blvd # 102, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250

Craving a more curated list? Well, the 10 Best Golf Courses in Jacksonville mentioned by Florida’s First Coast of Golf will guide you to the cream of the crop, ensuring every golfer’s dream of pristine fairways and challenging layouts.

Holes: 18+
Designer: Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player

Visit their website for more information

TPC Sawgrass

110 Championship Way, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 32082

And for those of you looking for a brush with fame, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a must-play. Home to THE PLAYERS Championship, this course lets you walk the same grounds as golf legends. Imagine sinking a putt where history’s been made!

Holes: 18
Designer: Pete Dye

Visit their website for more information

Tips on Renting a Vacation Property in Jacksonville

Book in Advance

Vacation rentals in popular destinations like Jacksonville tend to fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Book your rental property well in advance to secure your preferred dates and avoid last-minute disappointments.

Check for Amenities

Determine which amenities are essential for your vacation experience, such as a fully equipped kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, pool access, or pet-friendly accommodations. Make sure the rental property offers all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay.

Respect House Rules and Neighbors

Be considerate of the rental property’s house rules and respect the privacy and peace of neighboring residents. Avoid excessive noise, parking violations, or other disturbances that could disrupt the community.

Leave the Property in Good Condition

Before checking out, ensure that you leave the vacation rental in the same condition as you found it. Clean up after yourself, dispose of trash properly, and follow any check-out procedures provided by the property owner or manager. Leaving the property in good condition will help maintain positive relationships with hosts and ensure a smooth check-out process.

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Jet Skiing

Now, let’s chat about Florida. Jacksonville has lakes that beckon you to unwind in their serene embrace. You’ve got options ranging from cottages with lake access to full-on lakefront vacation rentals. And, get this—some lakeside retreats in Jacksonville, Florida, won’t have you breaking the bank.

Fishing enthusiasts, ready your rods! These lakes provide some excellent fishing spots where you can reel in the big catch. Fancy a boating excursion? Rentals abound where you can launch your vessel and enjoy the vast, open waters. And while you’re there, keep an eye out for the vibrant wildlife that calls these watery havens home. How about a selfie with a pelican, or spotting a majestic heron in flight?

Hey future Jacksonville visitor! Looking to find your perfect home-away-from-home in this sunny Florida destination? I’ve got some savvy advice to make your vacation rental hunt as breezy as Jacksonville’s beautiful beaches.

Have you ever daydreamed about warm, sandy beaches and vibrant city life all in one place? Let’s talk about Jacksonville, Florida! It’s a sprawling metropolitan hub that offers more than you might expect.

Jacksonville is where Florida begins and it’s also where your adventure could start. It’s not just a stopover; it’s a destination in its own right. Fancy a dip in the Atlantic? Jacksonville Beach is your go-to spot for sunbathing, surfing, or just enjoying a good book with the sound of waves as your background music.

Now let’s move inland. Downtown Jacksonville is a bustling center with skyscrapers, shops, and an entertainment scene to envy. Check out the Riverside Arts Market for local crafts, or hit the town when the Jacksonville Jaguars play for some NFL action!

Parks in Jacksonville are plentiful, with green spaces offering a slice of nature within the urban sprawl. Head over to the Jacksonville Zoo to admire the wildlife, or take a leisurely stroll through the trails of the many parks dotting the city.

In San Marco, you’ll find that charming European vibe with its trendy boutiques and bistros. It’s a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely brunch or hunt for unique gifts.

Remember, Jacksonville isn’t just another Florida city—it’s a gem hiding in plain sight, offering a mix of laid-back beach life and a dynamic urban culture. Could this be your next vacation spot? Why not!

Location, Location, Location

– Care to wake up to the sound of waves? A beach house might be right up your alley.
– More of a city explorer? An apartment in the heart of Jacksonville will keep you close to the action.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy a golf and stay vacation! Feeling the ocean breeze on your face as you tee off sounds appealing? Then you’ll adore the public golf courses near Jacksonville Beach. They’re a solid swing from your beachside rental, making it super easy to get from bed to bunker in no time!

Type of Rental

– Houses offer space for families or groups and often come with full kitchens.
– Condos can be a more affordable option, with essential amenities and sometimes extra perks like a pool.

Amenities to Look For

Free Wi-Fi: to keep you connected.
Air Conditioning: Florida can get hot!
Full Kitchen: to whip up your own meals.
Parking: especially if you’re road-tripping.

Family-Friendly Perks

– Look for properties with ‘family-friendly’ labels.
– Check if they offer cribs or playpens for the little ones.

Pet-Friendly Options

Love traveling with your furry friend? Seek out ‘pet-friendly’ rentals to ensure everyone’s welcome.

Read the Reviews

– Don’t just skim; look for the total number of reviews and read them thoroughly.
– Airbnb and similar platforms have reliable reviews. Trust what fellow travelers have to say!

Booking Platforms

– Airbnb is always a solid choice with lots of listings.
– Don’t overlook other sites—they might have hidden gems!

Final Thoughts

Book early to nab the best spots, and always compare listings. A little legwork now means more relaxation later. Happy hunting!

Remember, it’s your vacation, and you deserve the best! With these tips in hand, you’re ready to find your ideal Jacksonville vacation rental. Enjoy the hunt, and here’s to a stay that’s as fabulous as you are! Your perfect lakeside getaway awaits your arrival. Grab your sunscreen, pack your flip-flops, and let the gentle lake breezes guide you to relaxation. Happy vacation planning!

Frequently Asked Questions about Jacksonville

Most Jacksonville vacation rentals featuring a pool typically come with patio furniture for lounging, pool toys for some splashy fun, and BBQ grills for those sunny cookouts. Don’t be surprised to find amenities like air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and fully equipped kitchens to make your poolside experience utterly refreshing and convenient.

Searching for that perfect oceanfront view is a breeze. Check out online platforms that list vacation rentals, and filter your search by location to select properties right on the beach. You’ll often find houses with direct beach access and patios to enjoy those Atlantic Ocean sunrises.

Absolutely! Whether you’re a snowbird avoiding the chill or just in need of a long-term retreat, Jacksonville has options for you. Some properties offer discounts for extended stays, so be sure to inquire about monthly rates and availability to secure your home away from home.

When renting directly from owners, look for reviews and ratings to ensure past guests had stellar experiences. Also, clarify details like check-in procedures, house rules, and whether essentials like linens and kitchenware are provided. Direct communication with the owner can offer a more personalized touch to your stay.

For those longing for a lavish escape, Jacksonville offers luxury rentals that cater to your high-end tastes. Expect to find features like gourmet kitchens, private docks, spas, and home theaters. Some might even throw in concierge services to elevate your getaway to opulent heights.

You won’t have to leave your furry friends behind, as many vacation rentals in Jacksonville welcome pets. Look for listings that specify “pet-friendly” and check if there are any extra charges or restrictions on size or breed to ensure your four-legged companion is just as comfortable as you are.

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