Remember Janet Jackson’s infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when she performed with Justin Timberlake during the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show? Jacksonville was put on the map when it hosted that year’s Super Bowl. Located on the St. John’s River in northeast Florida, Jacksonville is an interesting city with much to offer. If you are looking for best day trips outside of Jacksonville, here are some destinations, all less than an hour’s drive away.
St Augustine, Florida
Any history buff will be thrilled to visit St Augustine! A forty-five minutes drive from Jacksonville, St Augustine is the oldest European settlement in America. The preservation of the city’s history is impressive, with restored buildings dating back as far as the early 1600s. You can see this fascinating city on a trolley or horse-drawn carriage, or you can take a walking tour. St George Street, the main thoroughfare, is lined with quaint shops, restaurants, museums and historic buildings. A few blocks away is the Castillo de San Marcos, the star-shaped Spanish fort built in the mid-1600s. The oldest masonry fortification in North America, the Castillo has withstood sieges and hurricanes over the years. Re-enactors in period costumes demonstrate the historic weapons by firing the Spanish cannons during special events and on the weekends throughout the year. Check their website for time and schedule. Other attractions include the Lightner Museum, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, Flagler College (formerly Ponce de Leon Hotel) and the Casa Monica Hotel.
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Located on beautiful Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is less than an hour’s drive northeast of Jacksonville. Like St Augustine, Fernandina Beach has its share of history, which dates back 4,000 years, when the ancient Timucuan Indians lived there. Eight flags have been flown in this town (including those of Spain, France, England, various insurgent groups, the United States and the Confederacy), reflecting its colorful past. A 50-block area of the quaint downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No doubt the white sand beaches are a big draw to this charming town. Another favorite event is the three-day Shrimp Festival, which takes place the first weekend in May.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
If you like nature, camping and hiking, a visit to the Cumberland Island National Seashore in nearby Georgia is a must. The island is accessible only by boat. You can take the ferry from St Marys, Georgia or Fernandina Beach, Florida. As you explore the island, you will find Dungeness, the ruins of the Carnegie home. You can tour Plum Orchard, the 1898 mansion built by Lucy Carnegie for her son. The mansion was donated to the park service in 1971.
A short hike to the seashore will reward you with a magnificent 17-miles of hard-packed sand beaches and dunes. The wildlife you encounter along the way include wild horses, armadillos, turtles and a vast array of birds.
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Destination: Kayak Amelia
Address: 13030 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Directions from Jacksonville: Take I-295 north towards the airport; Take the SR-105 N exit, EXIT 41, toward Blount Island; Merge onto Heckscher Dr.
Details: Northeast Florida offers thousands of acres of tranquil inland marshes that can be explored via a variety of tours offered by Kayak Amelia.
Family Friendly: Yes
Cost: Ranges from $32-64 and daily hours are from 9am-5 pm.
One Tank Trip to Amelia Island, a peaceful resort that offers an urban getaway. “People can’t believe this is here in Jacksonville,” said Ray Hetchka, owner of Kayak Amelia. “We are actually in the city limits. It’s peaceful.”
Kayak Amelia is an easy 30-40 minute ride from downtown Jacksonville. Located in Talbot State Park, it’s close to a major city and feels like another world — especially on the miles of tranquil inland marshes. Adventure seekers can go by themselves or take family and friends.
Prices range from $32-64 and the attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. daily. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, bug repellent and a zip lock bag for phone and valuables. Supplies can also be purchased at Kayak Amelia. There is plenty of wildlife but not alligators — they don’t like the salt water. Kayak Amelia is a good place to experience northeast Florida.