Jacksonville Florida is a water town…
…at the intersection of St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean, JAX is surrounded by water.
Rivers, wetlands, and marshes empty to the ocean. The diversity of plants and animals is countless. An excursion through the wetlands reveals birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals. Grasses, trees, fruit, and flowers provide habitat and food for wetlands inhabitants.
Water surrounds three sides of Jacksonville; ocean, river, and wetlands. Beaches, boating, fishing, and watersports are marvelous ways to immerse in the natural environment and soak up Jacksonville sun.
This buzzy city isn’t all Mother Nature, sun, and water. Downtown Jacksonville is the place to soak up culture. Art, music, food, and nightlife thrive in the heart of the city.
Taking-in JAX for a weekend getaway
Bivouac on the Beach
Stay on A1A where you’ll hear the surf, smell the salt, and feel ocean breezes. You can walk to the beach; live in sun suits and shorts; engage in day-drinking, and live like a local in an iconic Florida beach community.
Atlantic Beach is ideal. The tiny A1A town has white sand beaches, persistent sea breezes, and friendly residents operating lodging, restaurants, taverns, and shops.
Hotel Palms is the place to stay. Opened in 1947, the motor court was a vital part of the winter ‘snow bird’ community. A 2016 renovation transformed Palms to one of the hippest hotels in Jacksonville.
Modern comforts, savvy owners, and nearby beaches make Hotel Palms an exceptional experience. The eleven rooms are striking. Each just a little bit different. Rooms for singles or families are comfortable, quiet, and inviting. During re-modeling, recycled and sustainable finishes and materials were incorporated.
Take a loaner bike for a spin, enjoy the lounge in the lobby, or sun in the enclosed courtyard. Events like neighborhood outdoor movie night, yoga happenings, cycling classes, book release parties, surfboard, motorcycle and car exhibits are regularly scheduled. Your hosts have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening locally, just ask.
Walk 3-blocks from Hotel Palms to Atlantic Beach and village. Pristine white sand beaches with gentle surf are flawless for lazing away the day. Lifeguards, chair, and umbrella rentals are dotted up and down the dunes.
When you get thirsty or hungry, beach adjacent is a little pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of eateries, watering holes, shops, and galleries. Cool off with a fruity umbrella drink on a shady outdoor patio. Try some peel-n-eat shrimp, this area harvest tons of the crustaceans.
Occupy nature with a guided kayak eco-tour of Timucuan Preserve Estuary. The wildlife sightings are abundant. Your chances of spotting a manatee or turtles are very high. Not into kayaking? Try SUP (stand up paddle-board) or stay on land with a Segway or Cycle Ecotour.
Kayak Amelia has kayak, bike, and Segway rentals. The guided tours led by a naturalist, are an exciting and informative adventure. About 13-miles from Hotel Palms, take the St. Johns River Ferry to Talbot Island.
Spend a day imbibing local culture downtown. Get your bearings with an Art and Architecture Downtown Walking Tour from AdLib Tours. The inexpensive and easy walking route covers art, history, and architecture. All are in plentiful supply and narrated by a knowledgeable guide.
If you like sweets, visit and sample at the Willy-Wonka-like Sweet Pete’s Candy Factory. Don’t forget a backpack for all those chocolates and lollipops. There is a restaurant here, but reservations are needed, it’s very popular with families.
While roaming the downtown area sit for a bit in Hemming Park. Lunchtime concerts and food vendors populate the old town square.
Plan a couple of hours at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The museum lies on St. Johns River near the foot of Fuller Warren Bridge. Exquisite formal gardens dating from 1903, overlook the river. The cool marble interior displays a 5000-piece art collection which spans 2100 BC to the twenty-first century. Try the café for a glass of wine, a light snack or full lunch. The gift shop is a first-rate spot to find a take-home gift or memento.
Eat & drink near Hotel Palms
It’s hard to go wrong in this area when it comes to food and drink. Stroll the streets and stop in almost anywhere that strikes your fancy.
The Asian street food and ice-cold beer at Hawkers, in the beach village, make a perfect cool-down setting after beach-time. Serving lunch and dinner, the dim sum is authentic and addictive. They have a popular happy hour that includes small plates and tap beer specials. I sat at the bar and chatted with locals coming in, picking-up take-out. Best people watching seat in the house.
Try a progressive lunch or dinner. Have an appetizer and cocktail at one eaterie, then move on to another for entrees. Have coffee and dessert at a 3rd location. It’s a fun way to sample several restaurants when you’re only in town for a short time.
Happy Hour – Most of the places in the area host happy hours. There seems to be some competition for the happy hour crowd. You can’t go wrong with that attitude.
Ask at Hotel Palms for local’s insider tips for food, beverage, and entertainment, they are up on the latest local news.
Getting There/Getting Around
Air – Jacksonville International Airport, JAX, host all major airlines and rental cars services. Easy to get in and out via auto, or public transit, JAX is an efficient, full-service airport.
Amtrak – Jacksonville has connections from New York, Washington DC, Charleston, Savannah, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. With reservations, you can pre-arrange to pick up an Enterprise rental car at the Jacksonville Amtrak station.
Auto – Jacksonville is a big city, in fact, geographically, it’s the country’s largest. It’s also one of America’s major seaports, hosting two US Naval bases. Traffic and navigation are challenging. You will need a car and GPS.
Public transit – Public transit is available area-wide. It’s a direct trip from Hotel Palms to the city center and will take about 1.5 hours. Drive time is about 45 minutes. It’s not the distance, it’s the traffic that takes time.
There’s an old saying, “once you get Florida sand between your toes, you’ll always return.” A weekend in Jacksonville is full of water, beach, city buzz, and sandy toes.
All photos by Mary Charlebois