Although the French Huguenots in 1562 laid claim to the First Coast area, it was the Spanish who first settled the area around Jacksonville Beach, establishing missions from Mayport to St. Augustine. The Spanish ceded East Florida to the English by treaty in 1763 only to regain control twenty years later. In 1821 the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States of America.
The area was settled by river pilots and fishermen as early as 1831 when Mayport, then known as Hazard, was established as a port. The Mayport Lighthouse was erected in 1859 and still stands at the Naval Station Mayport. By 1885 Mayport had 600 inhabitants, a post office and a school. The town was also visited daily by steamships which brought beach-goers from Jacksonville down the St. Johns River.
Read more about the beaches history HERE.
Let’s explore the area's most significant sites:
- Huguenot Memorial Park - 10980 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226 Here you will find a historic marker that commemorates the landing of the French Huguenots on May 1, 1562. While it is filled with history, nowadays it is home to the ultimate family day. You can reserve a pavilion or drive down onto the beach and barbecue for the day. Partake in some water sports. You can also do some primitive camping here.
- Catch the St. Johns Ferry (9618 Heckscher Dr/SR A1A) to connect you to the historic Mayport Village. This car and passenger ferry is one of the last remaining in the state.
- Across the St. Johns River arrange some time to visit the Marine Science Education Center. Here you will find history of current and past species that inhabit the ecosystems of the St. Johns River and Beaches. It is actually part of the Duval County School System. Visits can be arranged Monday thru Friday after 3pm.
- Inaccessible to the public, the Mayport Lighthouse was erected in 1859 and still stands inside the Naval Station.
- Just around the corner, you can plan another day of nature at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Part of which was formerly Manhattan Beach. During the segregation, Manhattan beach was Florida’s first beach community for African Americans. The land was later donated and named for Dr. Kathryn Abbey Hanna, who was an environmental historian of Florida parks.
- The original inhabitants of much of the beach’s shores were native Indians. Jacksonville is surrounded by water. The area beaches are about three miles that includes Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beach.
- You can explore the history of the beaches at the Beaches Museum and History Park.
If you want a guided tour of the beach Go Tuk’n has a few ways to make that happen for you.