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Fast food has been consumed; an invisible line has been drawn across the backseat to keep the kids from arguing -- Sigh. Again. -- and the other members of your car have sung with fervor (albeit, not in tune) the same three songs too many times to count.
You’ve made it!
Your road trip adventure has finally come to end and all the car doors swing open in a mad scramble to catch the first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean rolling along the shore. Even before you spy the blue-grey water, you smell the salt hanging in the air and hear the waves crashing on the sand. And right at that moment, your shoulders relax and a sense of peace makes the long drive an almost distant memory.
Welcome to Jacksonville’s 22 miles of beaches. While most people think the perfect sun-kissed beach vacay means rolling out a towel and not moving from that spot, we’ve got 5 great ways to help you get the most from your safe First Coast stay.
We’ve all been there. You just lugged two coolers, a beach umbrella, three beach bags stuffed full of towels and toys and four chairs through the powdery, sugar soft sand. You’re tired and the kids can’t wait to be knee-deep in the water. But take a deep breath and keep walking.
Think like a local: Grabbing a spot closest to the beach access point is a rookie move. You want to enjoy your view of the ocean, not spend the whole day watching other people walk around you. Plus, you’ll usually have more room to set up a socially-distanced base camp. A good rule of thumb is that most beach towels are almost 6 feet long. Want to keep the kids busy and others away from your space? Have them dig a “moat” around your area!
Having a blast at the beach doesn’t just mean sunning yourself and swimming. Think outside the box with the three Bs: Board, Bike or Boat. Yes, we know you couldn’t haul your bike or jet ski all those miles, which is where our beach rental companies can make your dream of crashing through the waves a reality. For your convenience, some will even deliver your daily (or weekly) rental to your home base.
Think like a local: Head out at sunrise. What? Yes, sunrise. Seriously, this is the most gorgeous part of the day and you’ll have large swathes of nearly empty beachfront all to yourself or family. Set the alarm early on at least one morning of your vacation to experience surfing at the Jax Beach pier, riding a bicycle beach cruiser for miles over the hard-packed sand or paddle boarding with dolphins in the early dawn light. You’ll thank us later.
You wrangled the family and applied the first coat of sunscreen before leaving for the beach. Despite their protests, you reapplied it a couple more times during the day.
Think like a local: Congrats, you’re thinking like one of us! Floridians know that protecting their skin so that it doesn’t resemble a wrinkled, well-worn leather boot later in life is the key to beach safety all the time.
We know what you’re thinking, “Why are you including a lesson on beach safety?”
Because we want you to go home bronzed and beautiful, not looking like a tomato!
While we have your attention, it doesn’t hurt to remind you that bringing your masks to the beach is always a good idea. Yes, they’re not necessary in an outdoor space, but you never know when you might need to wear one. Like maybe a trip to the bathroom? Please remember to keep them secured in a zippered pocket so they don’t go blowing across the sand and into the surf.
Now back to the fun stuff!
If you’re a book and beach lover, we’ve got you covered with some Sunshine State recommendations. We know that some of you have been compiling a list of perfect beach reads for your much needed vacation. Beach days mean multitasking. You can watch the kids build a sandcastle, work on your tan and turn some pages all at the same time. Nonfiction lovers might want to pick up Jacksonville in Vintage Postcards (part of the Florida history series) or Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country by Craig Pittman for a hilarious romp through Florida’s history. Yes, Jacksonville gets several mentions. Fiction lovers should turn to anything by Carl Hiaasen (we recommend Tourist Season) for laughs or the literary classic Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Maybe you would prefer a thriller? In that case get John Grisham’s The Brethren, which mentions both Pete’s Bar and the Sea Turtle Inn in Neptune Beach.
Think like a local: Pop into The BookMark in Neptune Beach for personalized recommendations. This longtime indie bookseller is a must-stop on many authors national book tours and has been keeping residents of Northeast Florida reading for decades.
You’ve dreamed of walking our wide-open beaches with the waves lapping at your toes. It’s the best, right? Turn it into a treasure hunt or family game -- the winner finds the largest intact shell or the most different species. Don’t forget to stop at one of the beach shops to pick up an illustrated shell identification guide.
Think like a local: The best time for a shelling adventure is after high tide and the best spots to score a large haul is on the far less crowded state park beaches at Little Talbot and Big Talbot Islands. Plus, the Talbot Island beaches provide miles of unspoiled scenery that’s as close to Real Florida as you can find in Jacksonville. Little Talbot is also a birder’s paradise so if that’s you, pack your binoculars.
Listen to our #onlyinjax Playlist
Our phones are like a fifth appendage, especially on vacation. And Jacksonville has birthed some amazing musical talent -- think Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Susan Tedeschi and The Allman Brothers Band. Get to know our favorite sons and daughters by listening to our curated playlist on Spotify while you walk the beach or sunbathe. Maybe your teen will even use one of these songs in the background of a TikTok family vacation video.
With these simple tips, you’re ready to rock your Jax beach vacation like a local. So, we’ll see you at sunrise, right?
Songs for the #onlyinjax Playlist: All Available on Spotify
Local Expert Guest