by Traci Schrock, Graduating Senior at Fletcher High School
The Northeast Florida Environment provides a ton of different outdoor activities to try in a range of about two hours, from clear blue springs such as Silver Springs, to unique beaches like Jekyll Island. However, if you are not wanting to drive that far from the Jacksonville area and yet are still seeking outdoor adventure these are my four favorite local parks.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Atlantic Beach
I may be a little biased living in Atlantic Beach, but Hanna Park is my all time favorite park to go to when I am looking for adventure or just seeking peace in nature. This park is situated at the north end of Atlantic Beach right next to Naval Station Mayport. Because of this location it has become popular to surf at “the poles” separating the park and the Naval Station. The beach here is also a great place to swim or relax. But this park has much more than a beach to offer because let’s be honest, you can go to many others throughout Jacksonville. Hanna Park also offers miles of hiking trails around the ponds and out to the beach. My personal favorites are the loop trails that give a glimpse into all the different areas in this park. If you are into something a little more fast paced Hanna Park also has miles of bike trails that range from easy to extreme and can provide a thrilling experience. If you want an extended stay to experience this park they have many campgrounds that you can rent, as well as recreational equipment such as kayaks and canoes.
Guana River State Park, Ponte Vedra Beach
Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach like Hanna Park is right on the beach and offers lots of hiking trails. What makes this park unique is the diverse wildlife including wild hogs, eagles, and armadillos that you will be sure to see around the park. Guana is also popular among fishermen, as it is a great place to fish for redfish, trout, and flounder. For families, there is an education center at the park with lots of information about Florida’s wildlife and sealife and is presented in a fun and engaging way.
Dutton Island, Atlantic Beach
Dutton Island is located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Atlantic Beach, Florida. While it may not be as big as the others it still offers a range of fun adventures! On the island Dutton has campsites scattered with nice areas for cooking on the fire and picnic spots. It also is the perfect place to launch kayaks and paddle boards into the intracoastal as it is surrounded by calm inlets. You can also fish from the fishing piers. Dutton not only has an island but also includes a preserve on the mainland, also bordering the intracoastal. The preserve has a great loop trail that has lots of unique birdhouses around the trail for guests to find as well as a short bike trail perfect for beginning trail riders.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Jacksonville Florida
The Jacksonville Arboretum is a hidden gem for all nature lovers! This park offers lots of different trails in a very diverse environment with ponds, a lake, and a ravine all on the property. This park is home to some of the most stunning native trees that will certainly catch your attention. Along with this there is also a botanical garden and lots of areas for relaxing or having a picnic. One special feature of this park is in the winter they light up the park with stunning Christmas lights throughout the trees and walkways. This is a great time to bring kids, as this light show also has special features kids can interact with including huge light up Christmas balls.
About the Author
Traci Schrock is a resident of Atlantic Beach, Florida. Traci is a graduating high school senior at Fletcher High School who will be attending University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the fall.