If you want to get away from the bustle of the city and enjoy a breath of fresh air, Castaway Island Preserve is the perfect place to head to. It protects more than 300 acres of coastal habitats along the San Pablo River and will transport you into a different world. You’ll stroll through a gentle mile-long walk and see beautiful flowers along with a number of species that inhabit the area.
At Castaway Island Preserve, you can also head onto a long wooden bridge that’s close to the Intercoastal Waterway. After you’ve crossed the bridge, you can sit by the bench to take in the breathtaking views. This trail is also suitable for individuals who have dogs as it’s dog-friendly.
At this preserve, you can embark on a 21.3 trail that’s of moderate difficulty. The Julington-Durbin Preserve is full of greenery and is home to a beautiful and scenic lake. If you enjoy taking photos, remember to bring along your camera to snap some gorgeous shots of the surrounding scenery.
While the hike is relatively easy with flat terrain, it can also get a bit sandy. Hence, be cautious of the shoes you decide to wear. During the summer months, there can also be quite a lot of mosquitoes around the preserve, take care by wearing something to prevent them from biting or putting on some bug spray.
This is Jacksonville’s largest city-maintained park and stretches more than 500 acres. It features a number of trails along with a nature education center and even a wildlife watchtower. One of the gems in this regional park is the Island Hiking Trail which is a hike of nearly 2 miles that takes you through the upland and floodplain forest habitats along the Ortega River.
This trail can be tricky as most of the cross-trails and firebreaks are unmarked. You’ll also encounter quite a few swamps of the Ortega River, but avoid wading through them in case you run into a nasty surprise. The view at the end is incredibly rewarding, as you’ll be immersed in the beauty of the forest and take in the astounding view.
This trail is relatively popular as it follows a railroad route with historical ties. This route sparked the Battle of Olustee during the Civil War and is a total of 14.5 miles from Jacksonville to Baldwin. During the course of this trail, you will traverse through wetlands, pine flatwoods, and hardwood uplands. You’ll encounter various birdlife as the 15-mile paved path is sheltered by a tree canopy that houses hawks, stilts, wood storks, and more.
As you head further along the trail, you may also see turkeys, rabbits, and alligators. Be careful along the trail as it’s also home to a venomous species of snake called the coral snake. It is a scenic and picturesque trail though, and midway you’ll even run into the home of the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War.