Fishing the First Coast: Jacksonville and Northeast Florida are a Fisherman’s Paradise, Photos by James Brown
Photo by James Brown

5 Outdoor Activities You Can Do with Your Family in Jacksonville

Though it doesn’t always make the top beach lists, Jacksonville is one of Florida’s more unique cities with plenty of activities for all ages to enjoy. The city is a nature lovers dream, and you’ll be hard-pressed to see all the wildlife and amazing environments that exist in and around Jacksonville. With all this natural beauty and the family-friendly activities, it’s no wonder that the city has recently been appearing on fastest-growing city lists and new homes for sale in Jacksonville Florida are on the rise.

Boneyard Beach, Big Talbot, Around and Near Jacksonville: Best Beaches on the First Coast
Big Talbot

Parks on Parks on Parks

Did you know Jacksonville has the largest total urban park area in the United States? Within the city limits, you can find over 300 managed parks, piers, and skywalks that sit on 80,000 acres of green spaces. There are numerous gardens, arboretums, and zoos with a range of wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States.

 Not only are there numerous small urban parks featuring art installations and great views in and around the city, we also can’t forget about the giant nature preserves like Timucuan Preserve, where you can visit the historic Fort Caroline or lose yourself along the quiet Clapboard Creek. The area immediately around Jacksonville is home to ten state parks, five national parks, and even more large-scale wildlife reservations. 

Timucuan Preserve

Timucuan Preserve along with 5 other sister parks are all contained under Big Talbot Island State Park, one of the more popular destinations in the area. There’s plenty of activities for all whether you want to see some of the amazing natural sites, or go for a relaxing bike ride along one of the many trails. It’s definitely aquatic-focused, and along with all the usual fishing options and charters available, you can rent kayaks and explore the marshy areas of the St. Johns

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Downtown Art Walk, Photo by Fran Ruchalski

Downtown Jacksonville

With all those wonderful urban parks, Downtown Jacksonville can keep the intrepid traveler busy for days on end all its own. There’s plenty of outdoor concerts happening all the time throughout the city and you can find a nice patio to enjoy the breeze while you munch on some fresh seafood

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If you manage to be in town on the first Wednesday of the month you can catch the monthly Art Walk, where over 40 galleries, museums, and music venues open their doors to curious onlookers. It’s a wonderful way to expose young ones to art and music. 

If that all sounds a little busy, maybe just take a relaxing ride on JTA’s Skyway might be in order. Jacksonville’s quiet and modern monorail has become popular with kids. 

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Photo by Woody Huband

Wildlife

From what experts have learned about Native American history in the area reveals that the Jacksonville area has been continually inhabited for over 7,000 years. With all the natural diversity, beauty, and easy access to fish, it’s no wonder why people have chosen to live in the area for so long. Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History is a great place to learn more about the history of the area. 

Jacksonville definitely continues the tradition of living alongside nature. In addition to the incredible park system, Jacksonville also hosts several large animal preserves and highly rated zoos. See big cats like lions, tigers, and pumas at the Catty Shack Ranch where large felines of all kinds are rescued and allowed to live out the rest of their lives in peace and safety.

With over 2000 animals and 1000 different plants on 115 acres, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been operating for over 100 years now. It’s received numerous awards throughout the years and is recognized for a diverse conservation program for many types of animals. One of Jacksonville Zoo’s long-term residents was a male jaguar named Zorro who passed in 1986. It was discovered in the early 2000s that Zorro’s offspring and subsequent generations were responsible for almost every single captive-bred Jaguar currently in the United States. 

Fishing the First Coast: Jacksonville and Northeast Florida are a Fisherman’s Paradise

Fishing

It should come as no surprise that any city in Florida is going to offer some decent fishing, but Jacksonville is unique in its geographical placement for being mere miles to the wide-open Atlantic Ocean, but it’s also right on the mouth of the St. Johns River. There are not many places in the world that can offer so much salt water, freshwater, and tidal fishing options right in one place. Depending on the time of year the water can range in temperature as well, further continuing to the diversity. 

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Deep-sea charters are coming and going all the time and there’s no shortage of companies that will provide you everything you need to catch giant redfish on the open Atlantic. Change the pace up and enjoy one of the hundreds of different, free, fishing spots throughout that burgeoning park system we talked about earlier. You can fish from bridges, boats, piers, ponds, riverbanks, and more throughout. 

But remember, if you’re between the ages of 16 and 65 you’re going to need to get a fishing license to fish in the state of Florida, even if you’re just catching and releasing. Florida doesn’t make it too difficult and offers a range of options for fresh or saltwater fishing licensing. There’s even lifetime passes available, but the normal yearly pass for one person will run you between $15 and $25. It can even be acquired online or through the handy toll-free 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA number.

With all these wonderful family activities and amenities backdropped against some of the most majestic natural landscapes in the country, it should come as no surprise that Jacksonville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. 

Around and Near Jacksonville: Best Beaches on the First Coast, Mickler's Beach in Ponte Vedra, Sharks Teeth
Mickler’s Beach in Ponte Vedra

The Beaches

Jacksonville features 22 miles of white sand beaches along the Atlantic coast. The water can be colder than it’s gulf counterpart, but the scenery and the sun are just as present. One of the nice factors to Jacksonville is the proximity of the beaches to the city and the airport. It’s only a few miles from plane to shore, and visitors looking for quick weekend getaways can find themselves shoreside in no time. 

There’s even a beach museum! Jacksonville is also known for its year-round surfing and is a great place for beginners to take some lessons. Depending on where you look you could be just feet from the great dining and activities of Jacksonville’s coastal communities, or be in the quiet of a state park protected shoreline. 

If you want to get lost in nature without having to trek into the actual wilderness, Jacksonville might be the place for you. You can have all the comforts and modern amenities of city living backdropped against some of the most serene landscapes on the coast of Florida. Just don’t be surprised when you don’t want to leave. 

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