The three beach towns to the east of downtown Jacksonville offer miles of pristine Florida coastline for surfing, swimming and sunbathing.
Whether you’re traveling alone or with the family, no trip to Florida is complete without a visit to the ocean. Jacksonville itself may not have any ocean views, but just to the east you’ll find beautiful coastlines in the charming towns of Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach. Known for their laidback beach cultures and sun-drenched entertainments, it’s easy to spend an afternoon or even an entire weekend here.
Separated from Jacksonville by Florida’s Intra-coastal Waterway and the largest of the three towns, Jacksonville Beach has become a refuge for natives and travelers alike. With miles of scenic beaches and plenty of ocean accesses, outdoor entertainments here are never-ending. Enjoy a sun-soaked picnic at Oceanfront Park, a 2-acre oasis of open space and children’s playgrounds, and don’t miss the frequent outdoor concerts and festivals held at the popular Seawalk Pavilion. Jacksonville Fishing Pier stretches a quarter-mile from the shoreline and offers spectacular deep-water fishing, not to mention close-up views of the ocean. And families will love Adventure Landing and Shipwreck Island, a high-energy water park featuring go-karts, miniature golf, coasters and plenty of pools and water rides.
For dinner, enjoy flavorful barbecue and cool blues music at Mojo Kitchen, or head over to Eleven South for fresh seafood in a more upscale environment. First Street is the main nightlife zone and often attracts a younger crowd, but the elegant Penthouse Lounge atop the Casa Marina Hotel is worth a visit, satisfying late-night visitors with a beautiful view of the ocean. Another hotspot is the Wine Bar, offering a seasonal tapas menu, a varied wine list and a wonderful selection of cigars to enjoy on the patio.
Ten blocks north of downtown Jacksonville Beach, the town of Neptune Beach puts its own spin on oceanfront culture. Get top-of-the-line surfing gear at the iconic Aqua East Surf Shop and take home original artwork from pottery to metal works at First Street Gallery. Get your seafood fix at Slider’s Seafood Grille or indulge in delicious Italian fare at Mezza Luna. In the evening, head to the Lemon Bar for classy cocktails with a beautiful view of the water or to Caribbee Key Island Grille & Cruzan Rum Bar for a more upbeat, energetic evening. Sun Dog Diner, another local favorite, is a wonderful place to unwind after a long day of fun in the sun. Check out the chill nightlife scene and late-night menu and come back later for lunch, brunch or dinner.
The northernmost of the three beach towns, Atlantic Beach is quieter than its southern neighbors. The town, known as the Nantucket of the South, provides an escape from fast-paced city life. With two miles of calm, picturesque beaches and 14 ocean access points, rest and relaxation awaits among the soothing waves and sandy dunes. After a day in the water, enjoy some of the area’s best seafood at Ocean 60, and browse the selection of 30 martinis and local artwork gallery inside the restaurant’s Martini Room. Later in the evening, head straight to the lively atmosphere at Ragtime Tavern for handcrafted beers and creative cuisine that includes fresh seafood, steaks, pastas, salads and more.