Jacksonville Beach is a coastal resort city in Duval County, Florida, United States and was incorporated on May 22, 1907, as Pablo Beach, until it would later change its name to Jacksonville Beach in 1925. The city is part of group of communities collectively referred to as the Jacksonville Beaches and these communities include Mayport, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Ponte Vedra Beach. However, Jacksonville Beach is the largest of these communities, consisting of 22 miles of beaches, 40 miles of the coastal Waterways, 50 public boat ramps, and the longest stretch of the St. Johns River in the state of Florida meaning you will never be far away from the water, giving you access to one of the best locations for watersports, sun lounging and relaxation in the entirety of the United States of America!
History of Jacksonville Beach
The area around present-day Jacksonville Beach was first settled by Spanish settlers when missionaries established a small settlement in the area in the late 1600s, and the town would go on to change hands several times between the different colonial powers of the region before the area was handed over for a final time in 1821 to the United States government, following the withdrawal of Spain from Northern America. The area would be developed in the late 19th century, when wealthy gentry began to see the potential in Duval County’s oceanfront as a resort and in 1883 a group of investors formed the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railroad with the intention of developing a resort community that would be connected to Jacksonville by rail. The town grew as lots were sold off by the company and settlers moved into the region, and the first resort hotel called the Murray Hall Hotel was established in 1886! Although this would burn down only four years later, and the regions development would slow after the onset of the Spanish American war.
The amusement park phase of Jacksonville Beach began in 1905 with the building of the Pavilion which was later expanded and called Little Coney Island. It was a popular tourist attraction that offered a variety of entertainment activities such as a dance floor, swim room, bowling alley, and roller skate rinks, beginning the tourism phase of Jacksonville Beach, although issues with weathering of its wooden structure aged Little Coney Island, causing it to be torn down in 1925. However, the region would continue to grow its Beachfront area as the Shad Pier was created in 1922 by Charles Shad and around the same time W. H. Adams, Sr. created the Ocean View Pavilion amusement park on the former site of the Murray Hall Hotel. By 1949 the Ocean View Pavilion was in decline and then a fire destroyed it a few years later, leading to the only remaining amusement park in Jacksonville Beach being Adventure Landing which can still be seen today!
In modern times the area has continued to grow as a popular tourist destination, with a variety of public beaches being developed which are home to countless surf shops, fresh seafood restaurants, quaint beach boutiques, and relaxation areas, while beyond the sandy shores a variety of parks like Hanna Park and Dutton Island Preserve have been developed to give nature enthusiasts, boaters and others a chance to enjoy this Southern gem!
The areas four main beaches are Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Mayport Beach, and Atlantic Beach and all these beaches are just a short drive from Downtown Jacksonville, while each location offers a unique blend for all types of travelers and trekkers! Every beach offers you the chance to relax on the white sandy shores with your favorite book or podcast, but there are also plenty of options for adventure seekers throughout the area, with surf shakes and stores giving you the opportunity to take a paddleboard out for a spin, while diving stores and schools will give you the chance to dive amongst the beautiful reefs and marine life nestled just under the shoreline! You can also rent a beach cruiser and ride along the water’s edge, cast a line off the areas famous fishing pier or simply sit back and watch the schools of Dolphins that regularly skirt the areas surf line.
Jacksonville Beach is also home to some amazing surf spots and for beginners, Atlantic Beach is a great option as the waves are good all year round and there is also plenty of room to ride, meaning you won’t have to worry about colliding with others as you catch that perfect wave. For more expert breaks, or to watch local surfers tear it up, head to Huguenot Park, or find “the poles” at Hanna Park which are all local favorites in the area and provide a challenging experience for the more ambitious surfers out there!
The area offers great nightlife options as well and dotted all along the beach line are countless restaurants and eateries, providing you access to unique craft breweries, great family dining experiences, as well as a giant collection of fresh seafood spots, upscale restaurants and nightclubs. Foodies will want to make sure to visit Mayport Beach’s historic Fish Camps for the freshest seafood and a taste of the famous Mayport Shrimp!
The Jacksonville Waterways
The Mighty Saint Johns river is one of the largest recreational sports areas in Jacksonville and is one of fewer than 30 rivers in the United States that flow northward. Much of the river is seawater, making it a unique ecosystem where dolphins, manatees and even sharks swim freely and this means that the St. Johns River is ideal for boating and fishing, with fish such as mullet, flounder and blue crabs migrating from the ocean to freshwater springs upriver to spawn. This natural body of water flows along the East Coast and divides Jacksonville’s Southside from the beaches area making it a haven for Fisherman and boating enthusiast who enjoy the more than 40 miles of canals, marshes and channels that Jacksonville has to offer! Public access ramps as well as specialist tour companies make it easier than ever to enjoy a paddleboard adventure, or a leisurely kayak trip along the winding paths and back channels of Jacksonville! If speed is more your interest why not take part in an Airboat tour which will have you zipping over the Swamps and Bayous of this beautiful region while you keep an eye out for Florida’s famous alligators and birdlife!
Adventure Landing and Shipwreck Island
Adventure Landing and Shipwreck Island Water Park in Jacksonville Beach is the largest Family Entertainment Center in northeast Florida. It offers both fun for families and individuals of all ages and with over 5,000,000 visitors since opening, the Jacksonville Beach Park can proudly claim that Adventure Landing is the perfect place to play for Florida families and visitors. The park offers a huge variety of activities such as miniature golf, laser tag, go-karts, baseball batting cages, a variety of rollercoasters as well as a giant arcade! Meaning you or the family will be entertained for hours on while having access to everything you will need for a day out in the sun! There is also a giant waterpark within the park which is perfect to enjoy when the scorching Florida sun is out in force, Shipwreck Island Water Park is well worth a whole day out by itself as there are huge water slides, epic attractions, and an enormous wave pool for adventure seekers while those looking for a more laid back experience can hang out at the undercover cabanas, enjoy the cafes, and have a refreshing drift along down the lazy river!
The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Located along the coast, across the St Johns River from Jacksonville Beach this a great place for nature enthusiasts and hikers to spend the day, and the preserve covers almost 200 square kilometers of wilderness and historic sights, meaning there’s plenty to see. The preserve gives you the chance to tackle a variety of hiking routes which explore some of Florida’s best natural scenery, or for those seeking a faster pace you can take to the mountain biking trails to reach the heights of the reserve! If you are looking to view nature from a different perspective, then explore the rivers and creeks via kayaks or canoes and try to catch a glimpse of rare river birds or unique fish species! There are also important sights scattered throughout the preserve such as Fort Caroline, where you can take the opportunity to step back in time and learn more about the area’s history. Fort Caroline is a recreation of a French fort which would have stood several centuries ago when Europeans only first began pioneering in Florida and it is a great experience if you are interested in the colonization of the Americas!
Accommodation in Jacksonville Beach
- The Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant is the perfect hotel for budge travelers seeking a comfortable experience in one of Florida’s most popular beach towns, this historic Spanish style hotel has 23 rooms and is reminiscent of a European-style boutique hotel with sleek white walls and classic colonial Spanish style architecture, giving you the feeling of a day in Cuba nestled in the heart of Florida! The hotel provides guests with comfortable and spacious rooms as well as access to a rooftop bar and restaurant, which is an oasis of relaxation from early afternoon until late night, enjoying its unique notoriety for offering one of the most stunning views of the North Florida coastline. The hotel’s culinary team has earned countless awards and creates a seasonal ‘carte du jour’ of popular dishes that draws in and charms every visitor that passes through its doors! With a great location and a charming appearance, the Casa is the perfect place to enjoy the sun and sand of Jacksonville, and all for the reasonable price of $140 a night!
- The Margaritaville Beach Hotel is set on the white sand of North Jacksonville Beach and is perfect for traveler’s seeking comfort and adventure. This brand-new hotel is perfectly situated to welcome visitors looking to enjoy the area’s gorgeous beaches and provides ocean views from its balconied rooms, which are designed and inspired from the colors of the sky, sea, and sand, providing a welcome invitation to relax and escape as each room is well-equipped with a mini-fridge, Keurig coffee maker, and 49-inch LCD Smart TV along with premium Margaritaville signature bedding. The hotel provides a huge variety of amenities with on-site dining choices, children’s activities, a resort pool, as well as access to a private beach area with paddleboard and kayak rental huts! This hotel provides guest with a sense of Island escapism, a huge variety of activities and access to some of Florida’s best beaches all for just $190 a night!
- The Hampton Inn at Jacksonville Beach provides the perfect location to stay for those seeking a quaint and comfortable stay in the heart of Jacksonville Beach, located on the beachfront this hotel provides spectacular ocean views and is only an 8-minute drive from the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club! Rooms are comfortable, air conditioned and provide guests with everything they need to stay comfortable during their time in Jacksonville Beach while also providing guests access to amenities such as free breakfast and Wi-Fi, plus an outdoor pool, a hot tub as well as a tiki bar and grill restaurant! The perfect location, fantastic amenities, and a reasonable price of $220 a night makes the Hampton a fantastic choice for those seeking a comfortable all rounder near the beach!
How to get to Jacksonville Beach
You can take a bus from Jacksonville Airport to Jacksonville Beach, which are operated by Jacksonville Transport, and arrive at the Beaches Hub station, which is a five-minute walk from the beach front! The bus will cost you around $8 to $12 but is also around a 2-hour journey, making it both the cheapest but also the most time-consuming way to get to Jacksonville Beach!
Seasonal Events and Weather
The best times to visit Jacksonville are from March to May and September to November. These shoulder seasons see warm weather, and also means far fewer tourists and lower prices than the summer months.
From March to May daily temperatures can range anywhere from the chilly 50s to the balmy 80s, depending on the month and springtime in Jacksonville can result in a cheaper trip especially if you are willing to risk cooler weather. The summertime crowds have yet to arrive, so hotel rates are still low, and you can find plenty of spring festivals and events during this time!
June through August is peak travel season in northeast Florida, with hot temperatures and plenty of sunshine drawing visitors in droves. The area sees temperatures frequently climb into the low 90s, although high humidity levels often make it feel warmer. Summer is considered the regions rainy season, so do not be surprised if a few showers dampen a day or two of your vacation. You also won’t be the only one searching for a spot on the beach so make sure you book your hotel at least a month in advance to ensure availability, especially if you’re heading to the shore.
Like spring, the fall months of September to November is a great time to experience Jacksonville and its beaches without the stress of summertime crowds and prices. Temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s, and the air does not feel quite as humid during these months. At night, it can get pretty cool however with temps dropping into the 50s and 60s, so be sure to plan accordingly and pack a few extra layers to put on!
The Winter months of December through to early March, can see average temperatures drop into the 40s, driving visitors away and prices way down. If you are looking for a deal, then plan on a cold weather visit to Jacksonville, while it may not be perfect beach weather it is a great time to take in the local sights and attractions of the area!
There you have it! Jacksonville Beach is the perfect escape for anyone trying to enjoy everything that the Sunshine State has to offer, from sun, sand, surf, nightlife, perfect fishing spots and an adrenaline junkies water paradise, Jacksonville Beach can provide you with all you need for the perfect summer escape to the heart of the south!