Local Expert Guest
- Things to Do
- Food & Drink
- Where to Stay
- Travel Tools
As the calendar flips from February to March, it’s like Mother Nature flicks a switch in north Florida and the floodgates open.
We survived our three days of winter and suddenly sidewalk cafe tables, leaf-canopied park trails and sugar-soft sandy beaches are THE place to be.
But unlike our northern counterparts who are just yearning to go for a walk without wearing seven layers of clothing, we are living it up because we know three things are inevitable:
1. Summer is coming.
2. Summer is coming.
3. Summer is coming.
You get the drift. From early March to mid-May, we dance like no one is watching. For the five months after that, no one really is watching because we spend a large part of our days cocooned in air conditioned spaces dreaming of … snow. Not so fast. We’re not that crazy.
So how do you enjoy spring like a true Jacksonvillian? It’s as easy ordering a glass of sweet tea in the south. You opt outside.
I’m gonna soak up the sun
We know a northerner when we see one. You are the one having a blast frolicking in the waves with your kids at the beach when the average temp of the Atlantic Ocean is still hovering in the mid-60s. And despite our thin blood, your joy is infectious so we throw caution to the wind but then run screaming from the surf when the first ice cold wave crashes higher than our knees. Moats are dug, shells are collected, people are buried and a little love from the sun makes for a perfect day.
Locals Love: Jax Beach for people watching and Big Talbot Island’s Boneyard Beach for its solitude and scenery. Want to make a full day of it? Head to Neptune Beach if you crave surf, shopping (The BookMark, Fig & Willow or Peterbrooke Chocolatier) and sustenance (The Flying Iguana, Slider’s Oyster Bar, North Beach Fish Camp, Southern Grounds Coffee Shop). .
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
There’s nothing we enjoy more than posting smiling selfies at sunset with a basket of fried Mayport shrimp from a waterfront table while our friends and relatives elsewhere are digging out from a surprise mid-April snow. Yes, we eat outside year-round. But spring means an experience free of heat lamps or turbo-jet-style fans. And although most restaurants have outdoor seating, locals know some of the primo waterfront seats feature fresh-from-the-boat catch without any frills. And although the food is tops at our fish camps, the golden rule in real estate holds the trump card here also — it’s all about location, location, location.
Locals Love: Catching a cruise or container ship passing by from the outdoor decks of both Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant or Palm’s Fish Camp or dining with a taxidermied lion, tiger and bison (oh my!) at Clark’s Fish Camp.
I would walk 500 miles
Or maybe just 5 miles. With very little elevation change. And a great view. Jacksonville is the largest city in the country by land mass, covering 875 square miles. Our size means we have dozens of outdoor trails and walkways perfect for exploration. And because we’re far enough north that our nature preserves experience enough “winter” to kill off many of the most annoying insects, spring hiking means you don’t need to slather yourself in enough bug spray to ward off anyone with a nose.
Locals Love: The Downtown Riverwalk that runs along the city’s north and south banks of the St. John’s River for dolphin watching or a morning run; and the Timucuan Trail at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve for hiking through natural Florida complete with saw palmetto, Spanish-moss draped live oaks and shell middens. (There are two ways to link up with the coastal Timucuan Trail. Those trails originate from either the Spanish Pond or Theodore Roosevelt parking lots. Go at low tide for gorgeous coastal views of the exposed oyster beds.)
Come sail away
As flatlanders, we experience our thrills on the water. And, oh the places we go. Ask a dozen locals their favorite spots, and you’ll get a dozen different answers. But one thing is certain, whether you prefer to paddle with manatees, hang 10, or drop a fishing line from a kayak or ocean charter, you’re guaranteed at least one oh-so-grammable #onlyinjax vacation memory. PS: Don’t forget the waterproof case for your phone. You’ll thank us later.
Locals Love: Paddleboarding or kayaking Simpson Creek from Kayak Amelia’s home base on Little Talbot Island State Park, sharing the south-to-north flowing St. Johns River with dolphins, manatees and cargo ships; and surfing near the Jax Beach Pier or the Mayport Poles.
Local Expert Guest