Make Waves in Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Jacksonville Beach is a fascinating place to walk. Photo by Mira Temkin.
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In Jacksonville Beach, it’s all about the water. Catching the rays, swimming, and surfing the perfect waves at uncrowded beaches is how vacationers enjoy this destination. Ponte Vedra, Atlantic and, Neptune are just a few of the towns known for their wide sandy beaches. With many state and national parks nearby, Jacksonville Beach offers a truly laid-back and rejuvenating experience.

There’s also an adorable downtown dotted with restaurants, coffee bars, shops, and a welcoming spirit. It’s a great place to walk around any time.

Downtown Neptune Beach offers shopping, dining and ocean front views. Photo by Mira Temkin.

Start by watching the sunrise at the Jacksonville Beach Pier and the people going for a walk or running along the sand, eager to greet the day.

Where to Eat
Coffee Shops and More

Begin your day with breakfast at Southern Grounds. There are several locations around Jacksonville and I even saw one at the Jacksonville Airport. In addition to great coffee, they offer delicious omelets, avocado toast, and lots of tasty bowls. Food is sourced from local ingredients. I couldn’t resist the caramel frozen latte, perfect for a day at the beach.

Milano’s Italian Jacksonville Beach
This is Italian food at its best, serving a variety of entrees, salads, subs, and more. Great location, right across from the beach. Live music, too.

Chocolate Meets Coffee at Makenu

Tucker Juan, chocolate purveyor at Makenu, which means completion of a journey. Photo by Mira Temkin.

When you walk into the café, chances are you’ll be instantly hit with the sweet scent of chocolate. Aahhhh. Over a cup of richly-brewed coffee, I had a chance to talk with Makenu owner, Tucker Juan, who imports chocolate from Maori, New Zeeland, paired with coffee beans from local roasters. The café serves coffee, pastries, and house-made treats, while you can buy pies, chocolate bars, chocolate-dipped fruit, and Topsy Toffee to go. You won’t leave empty-handed!

Chocolate goodies at Makenu. Photo by Mira Temkin.

What to See and Do
The Beaches Museum
Learn more about the history of the area at the Beaches Museum and what makes each of the communities so unique.

Lifeguard display at the Beaches Museum. Photo by Mira Temkin.

The Ritz Theatre & Museum
See what life was like in this African-American community one hundred years ago. History is preserved on the original site of the 1929 Ritz Theatre House in the historic African-American community of LaVilla. In the height of the 1920’s through the 60s, this lively movie theatre was known as the “Harlem of the South.” The museum was built in 1999 to tell the stories of African-American arts and culture with special exhibits, performances, and live music . Listen to Jacksonville’s native sons, James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson talk about how their song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” became the African American National Anthem. Experience a sit-in at the Woolworth’s counter as the Civil Rights Protestors did in the 1960’s. A trip to this museum is both informative and enlightening.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Composers. Photo by Mira Temkin

San Marco Neighborhood
The San Marco neighborhood is a really great area to explore. Stroll along San Marco Square, which resembles Venice with its Fountain of Lions and you’ll discover incredible dining, trendy clothing boutiques, and sensational art galleries. Theatre Jacksonville, the oldest community theatre in the country dating back to 1938, is also located within the square. Riverfront Park in San Marco is a wonderful location for city views, especially during sunset.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Splash pad at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Photo by Mira Temkin

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Located right on the ocean, this relaxing, laid-back park has a lot to offer families from camping to hiking and biking trails to canoeing on a freshwater pond, splash pad and playground. It’s the place for old-fashioned family fun where kids can play and just be kids. Or stay in one of their cozy cabins. I enjoyed watching all of the families taking advantage of this nature paradise where no electronics can been or heard. Admission $5 per person.

Party Time
As the sun goes down, head to Beaches Town Center in Neptune Beach and take your pick of restaurants and bars as well as two ocean-front hotels. Most famous is the “Lemon Bar” where you can take a selfie of the “Welcome to Neptune Beach” mural. Lemon Bar is known for its great beach views, cocktails and vibrant energy. Named the “Best Beach Bar on the East Coast.” The Lemon Bar Freeze made with SKYY Citrus Vodka and ice cream is a winner on a hot day. They also serve a full menu of burgers, nachos, salads, and more.

Enjoy a refreshing drink at Lemon Bar. Photo by Mira Temkin

Take a selfie by the Neptune Beach sign. Photo by Mira Temkin
Pad Thai Noodles at Hawkers. Photo by Miira Temkin

For dinner, I opted for Hawkers, a collection of locally-grown sourced Asian Food, where their chef has chosen the best of these “street food recipes” in this hip restaurant. Recipes have been handed down for generations and you can’t get more authentic. I found the Pad Thai noodles perfect and added a Green Papaya Salad. For dessert, try the banana spring rolls.

Boneyard Beach is something to see. Photo by Mira Temkin

Boneyard Beach – Like Something Other Worldly
On my drive out of Jacksonville, I stopped to hike at Boneyard Beach. Three miles of shoreline along the Nassau Sound create a spectacular visual and ecological wonderland. I’ve never seen anything quite like these massive withered driftwood trees just lying on the beach. You can see the beach through the platform or hike down about a half mile to take a walk. There is no swimming allowed here, but it makes for a wonderful picnic stop with a view. It is eerily quiet. Remember, it’s a protected reserve. You can’t remove anything from the beach.

Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Bloom

I also wanted to see Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. I walked through the urban woodland with lovely trails which opens to a lake and admired the gardens in full bloom. Considered the “the hidden jewel” in Northeast Florida, the Arboretum covers 120 acres with 7 natural trails through 13 distinct ecosystems. Nothing represents the South better than large live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.

Make your plans to visit Jacksonville Beach anytime of year. You’ll be greeted as warmly as the sun. Welcome to the Flip Side of Florida!


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