By Avi Patel, Stanton College Preparatory School, Class of 2022
Have you ever felt bored living within the confines of the 904? Did you need a break to escape the daily toils of 9 to 5 work in the River City? Do you have guests from out-of-state guests, and can’t find anything exciting in Jacksonville to keep them occupied? Well, you’ve come to the right spot. While Jacksonville can get old after quite a short time, there are many (often amazing) destinations right within an hour or two from the city’s center.
Day trips from Jacksonville not only give you the opportunity to experience a new place that you don’t regularly see but also allow you to relax and unwind without breaking your bank. Below are three of the best day trip locations from Jacksonville that are accessible much quicker than going through airport security.
About 45 minutes from Jacksonville.
The cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and palm-lined and lamp-luminated plazas are just some of the enticing attractions that bring over six million visitors from across the world to this ancient settlement. Plus, come in the wintertime, and you can witness the engulfment of white lights sparkling and glowing throughout the city’s historic buildings like a dazzling miracle.
Exploring the historic district is also quite simple. Hop on one of the “hop-on-hop-off” trolleys at one of its twenty-two stops, and you can explore every nook and cranny of the old city.
Castillo de San Marcos, arguably St. Augustine’s most noticeable attraction, is a masonry fort that carries a rich history since the seventeenth century. Its unique cannons and high-level engineering from Spanish times are definitely worth exploring when visiting Florida’s Ancient City.
Done enjoying the landmarks within the historic district? Hop on the trolley and visit nearby attractions like the Fountain of Youth and St. Augustine’s beautiful beaches at the southern tip of Anastasia Island. There is something for everyone in St. Augustine and a day trip from Jacksonville with the whole family can’t disappoint.
About 45 minutes from Jacksonville.
Historic Main Street Fernandina Beach is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you ask locals for tourist spots in Fernandina. Near the northernmost tip of Florida, there is a unique history that only Fernandina and the Buccaneer Trail can offer. From the Fort Clinch State Park to the nighttime Amelia River Cruises, one can immerse themselves in the hidden treasure of maritime history and ecological wildlife lurking in these northern waters.
Tired of the city and want a more relaxing environment? Look no further than Fernandina’s Main Beach Park. Many Florida beaches go arguably unnoticed amidst the tourist hotspots of Miami’s South Beach, Clearwater Beach, and Destin. Yet, Fernandina’s size and relatively calm waters provide an unparalleled experience like no other beach.
Nearby, the southern tip of Amelia Island is equally enticing for a daily excursion. From the historic Kingsley Plantation—currently registered and acquired by the National Park Service—to the Fort George Island Cultural State Park—one can experience the breath of Timucuan history and native lands with its ancestry dating back to pre-colonial time periods.
Amelia Island, while not the most popular tourist destination around, provides a unique historical understanding (and exploration) into what lay before the metropolis of Jacksonville emerged.
About 80 minutes from Jacksonville.
Daytona Beach, known for its namesake as the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” boasts over twenty-three miles of white sand coastline all packed with endless opportunities for some fun in the sun. Don’t feel like getting your feet dirty? Well, you’re in luck as you can enjoy a sunset on the Atlantic without getting out of the car at one of America’s last available drive-on beaches.
When you are done exploring the coastline, take some time to explore the interiors. The Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail offers some of the lushest and most diverse greenery across the State. The 30-mile loop should take you around an hour to complete, but feel free to make additional stops along the way to embrace and take in what Florida’s nature has to offer.
Additionally, home to the nation’s most prestigious and important race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500, Daytona is a Mecca for racecar fans and paradise seekers alike. Yet, the integral role of the speedway is something unique only to Daytona. Even on non-racing weeks, you can find unique behind-the-scenes guided tours at the Word Center of Racing. After all, it’s hardly surprising to see why this racing circuit has been so ingrained into Daytona’s culture.
All this combined with unique local shopping and dining experiences, it’s no wonder why Daytona attracts one of the most diverse groups to the Sunshine State. And, it’s definitely worth paying a visit for all local North Floridians alike.
At many times, It’s easy to get secluded within the 295-bubble. But getting out of the house and away from your office far enough but not too far enough can really boost your mood and replenish your energy without breaking the wallet. Plus, it can be another excuse to unite the family and spend some time together when otherwise not possible.
Day trips from Jacksonville can be enlightening and invigorating experiences. With so many destinations like St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach, and Daytona Beach to choose from, it is often easy to overlook the unique experiences they can provide if we don’t break free from our private daily lives.
As Saint Augustine himself once noted—“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Cherish the art of traveling. Get out of the 904 once in a while. To explore our North Florida backdrop is just another means of becoming yet another better-informed citizen within our locality.
About the Author
Avi Patel is a Stanton College Preparatory School graduate, Class of 2022. This fall, Avi will be studying in the Global Health program at Yale University in Connecticut. Avi was a runner up in the 2022 Ponte Vedra Focus Blog Writing Scholarship contest.