Despite the oceanfront mansions, the most common domicile around The Beaches — that’s Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beach, from north to south — is what’s quaintly called a “cottage.” Most cottages were built in the ’30s and ’40s; the postwar housing features ranches and split-levels that wouldn’t be out of place in Columbus, Ohio. A lot of the older houses have been split into apartments so even more folks can live by the sea.
The neighborhoods are walkable and bikeable; some even allow skateboarding. Beach access is not much of an issue (if you can find a place to park), but lifeguard towers are getting fewer and are farther apart each summer.
There are plenty of places to shop, eat, drink and listen to local and regional bands play day and night, along the main roads of Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard and on most of Third Street (aka A1A) in JB and north NB. (We use initials, see.) The Beaches Town Center spans several blocks of Atlantic and Neptune beaches, from the sand (where you’ll find joints like Lemon Bar, Pete’s and One Ocean) inward to Sherry Drive (Al’s Pizza, M Shack in AB) and Third (Mezza, Sliders in NB).
The sleepy fishing village of Mayport (not to be confused with the massive U.S. naval base of the same name next door) offers just-off-the-boat-fresh seafood (hit up Singleton’s or Safe Harbor) and just east of the Intracoastal Waterway are spots we locals are loathe to share with townies and tourists, they’re that good (Nippers, TacoLu, Engine 15). While you’re in Mayport, take the ferry. Then come right back to The Beaches.
And since The Beaches are … uh … on the beach, there’s the sparkling ocean and burning sand bringing in thousands of people and millions of dollars every season. Surf and kayak shops (e.g., Aqua East, Sunrise, Austin’s) offer every manner of recreational watersport device known to man, and there’s a great public fishing pier at Fifth Avenue North and First Street in Jax Beach. It’s easy, cheap and fun (just like us!) — as long you follow their rules.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Angie’s Subs (1436 Beach Blvd.)
Buddha Thai Bistro (301 10th Ave. N.)
Cruisers Grill (319 23rd Ave. S.)
Ragtime Tavern (207 Atlantic Blvd.)
Mezza Restaurant & Bar (110 First St.)
Nippers Beach Grille (2309 Beach Blvd.)
Safe Harbor (4378 Ocean St.)
Singleton’s Seafood Shack (4728 Ocean St.)
Sliders Seafood Grille (218 First St.)
TacoLu (1712 Beach Blvd.)
Cantina Maya (1021 Atlantic Blvd.)
Casa Marina Hotel (691 First St. N.)
Engine 15 Brewing Company (1500 Beach Blvd., Ste. 217)
Flying Iguana (207 Atlantic Blvd.)
Fly’s Tie Irish Pub (177 E. Sailfish Dr.)
Landshark Café (1728 Third St. N.)
Lemon Bar (120 Atlantic Blvd.)
Monkey’s Uncle (1850 Third St. S.)
Pete’s Bar (117 First St.)
Aqua East Surf Shop (696 Atlantic Blvd.)
Austin’s Surf Shop (615 Third St. S.)
Beaches Town Center (Atlantic Boulevard and Third Street)
Beaches Green Market (Jarboe Park, A1A/Florida Boulevard)
Sunrise Surf Shop (834 Beach Blvd.)
Adventure Landing (1944 Beach Blvd.)
Jax Beach Fishing Pier (503 N. First St.)
Jax Beach Golf Course (605 S. Penman Road)
Springing the Blues (SeaWalk Pavilion, 75 First St. N.)
Players by the Sea (106 N. Sixth St.)
Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (Grage Cultural Center, 716 Ocean Blvd.)
Beaches Museum & History Park (381 Beach Blvd.)
Freebird Live (200 N. First St.)
North Beaches Art Walk (5-9 p.m. every third Thursday, Beaches Town Center)
Rhoda L. Martin Cultural Heritage Center (376 Fourth Ave. S.)
Super Grom Surf Fest 2014 (July 12 and Aug. 9, south of Jax Beach Pier, 503 First St. N.)