Located in the double loop of the sparkling St. Johns River in Northeast Florida, at the crossroads of two transcontinental highways, Jacksonville offers unlimited cultural and recreational opportunities for visitor and resident alike. Jacksonville is the largest city in the contiguous United States in land area. It is a major port, the site of U.S. Navy bases, the home of the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars, and the location of the annual Gator Bowl. Downtown Jacksonville is a vibrant city center offering waterfront dining, world-class entertainment, exciting nightlife, and a wide variety of sporting events.
Jacksonville’s riverbanks are connected by a water taxi service and lined with pedestrian areas, restaurants, and shops. The Jacksonville Landing shopping and dining complex is located on the north bank of the St. Johns. On the south bank is the pleasant Riverwalk which connects Jacksonville Historic Center and the Museum of Science and History. On the opposite bank is the Cummer Museum of Art. The surrounding residential district contains an amazing array of Revival Style architecture.
Jacksonville boasts 28 miles of beaches as well as fresh water lakes inland in a number of the 350 beautiful parks. Near Jacksonville Beach, island parks offer pristine beaches, sand dunes, and marshlands. Visitors to the area enjoy kayaking, sailing, canoeing, hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, surfing, bird watching and camping.
Every fall, Jacksonville Beach is the site of an extraordinary parade and the return of the whales. Endangered whales visit the area to calve in Florida's warm coastal waters. Just a short ferry ride across the St. Johns River is Big Talbot Island, where a bird sanctuary, rock-like outcroppings and fallen trees have become bleached and weathered with time, making the island a dramatic sight and a popular spot for artists and photographers. Little Talbot Island is a 2,500-acre island devoted entirely to a protected state park containing wide beaches and high dunes. Fishing is excellent in the island's small ponds and salt marshes.
At the Fort George State Cultural Site, huge oyster shell mounds are evidence of Timucuan Indian habitation dating back more than 7,000 years. Another strange phenomenon is Mount Cornelia, which at 65 feet above sea level is the highest point along the Atlantic coast south of North Carolina. Comprised of more than 46,000 acres along Jacksonville's river and oceanfront, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve protects important wetlands and historic sites.
North of the Timucuan Preserve lies Amelia Island. At the center of the park is a Civil War era fort where the park rangers dress in authentic uniforms and conduct candlelight tours reminiscent of 1864. Nature trails guide visitors through areas of sand dunes, overwash plains, and estuarine tidal marshes.
Even in downtown Jacksonville, nature trails are found at the 40-acre Tree Hill Nature Center and in the University of North Florida's 12 miles of trails which provide examples of every type of terrain found in Northeast Florida.
South of Jacksonville Beach, Guana River State Park sits on 2,400 acres of undeveloped Atlantic seacoast. Among the preserve's special features are a five-mile coastal strand, an ancient Spanish well and 2,000-year-old Indian shell bluffs. Families can mountain bike along nine miles of old service roads or boat through nearby rivers.
The weather, the native flowers and trees, the riverfront, the ocean beaches, the architecture, the local theater and Symphony Orchestra, the sporting events, the many recreational possibilities, all add up to an ideal vacation at any time of the year for visitors of all ages and interests.