Jacksonville is a prime spot for beach lovers, with miles of scenic shoreline within easy reach. Whether you’re just hoping to relax on the seaside or spend an active day surfing, kayaking, playing volleyball or fishing, there's a beach in the Jacksonville area for you.

    Soft white sand and the glorious Florida sunshine are the most obvious attractions of Jacksonville’s beaches. But such places as American Beach, Fort Clinch State Park and Jacksonville Beach also offer a peek into the area’s history, culture and unique flora and fauna. Get ready to dig your toes in the sand at these best beaches in Jacksonville.

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    Atlantic Beach

    Historic settlement with windswept beaches

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    Atlantic Beach is a tranquil community with miles of beaches to enjoy within a 30-minute drive from downtown Jacksonville. It’s believed to be the site of the one of the oldest permanent, year-round native American settlements in North America and in the late 1800s it became a depot along the state’s expanding railroad line.

    The wide beach attracts surfers, kayakers, sunbathers and cyclists, who come to enjoy a ride on the hard-packed sand along the shoreline. Find another lovely stretch of beach at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, which also has hiking trails to explore and a kids’ splash park just a short walk back from the beach.

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    2

    Neptune Beach

    Sun, sea, sand and shopping

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    Neptune Beach is a laid-back town with a beautiful length of white sand, found between Atlantic Beach to the north and Jacksonville Beach. The mile-long beach is ideal for a relaxing day out, whether you’re just wanting to rest on the sand or catch some waves.

    If you’re in the mood for some shopping or dining, head to Beaches Town Center, an outdoor mall at the north end of the beach with boutique shops, cafés and bars with live music. Before hitting the sand for the day, take a bit of time to search for a beach read at The BookMark – a cosy independent bookshop in the mall.

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    3

    Jacksonville Beach

    A lively 3.7-mile stretch of sand

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    Jacksonville Beach is the busiest of all the beaches in the area, with more than 3.7 miles of wide, sandy beach to play on and a picturesque 430-yard fishing pier. Within a half-hour drive from downtown Jacksonville, the beach offers every activity you’d hope to find at the seaside including surfing, beach volleyball and several events and festivals through the year.

    Sheltered picnic areas and a seafront playground make Jacksonville Beach an especially appealing place for families. There’s easy access from several points along the beach, with walkovers extending from the street ends to the sand.

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    4

    Ponte Vedra Beach

    Sand dunes and shark's teeth

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    Ponte Vedra Beach has an eye-catching landscape of undulating sand dunes, which at 40 ft tall are among the highest in Florida. The white-sand beach offers plenty of space to relax, sunbathe and stroll. While you’re wandering along the shore, be sure to keep an eye out for shark’s teeth, nature’s collectables strewn across the sands. Just off the beach, the town has plenty of shopping and dining choices, as well as some world-class golfing at TPC Sawgrass golf course.

    Ponte Vedra was a landing point for Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon more than 500 years ago, and there’s a statue of him at the North Beach Access parking area.

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    5

    Mayport Beach

    Idyllic surfing spot

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    While parts of Mayport Beach are off-limits to civilians as they are part of Naval Station Mayport, there’s a sweet spot for surfers called "The Poles". Consistent breaks offer great conditions for riding the waves. If possible, it’s best to go during the week when there are fewer crowds.

    Mayport is well worth a visit even if you’re not a surfer, with its pristine sands offering a scenic place to unwind and enjoy the sea breezes. The Poles are found within Hanna Park, with a small entry fee required to enter.

    Location: Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, 500 Wonderwood Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32233, USA

    Open: November–March: daily from 8 am to 6 pm. April–October: daily from 8 am to 8 pm

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    6

    American Beach

    Beach with a barrier-breaking history

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    American Beach is a historic community with a lovely length of sand, found on Amelia Island about a 45-minute drive northeast from downtown Jacksonville. It was founded in 1935 by businessman Abraham Lincoln Lewis as a beach retreat that welcomed African-Americans – something that was rare in that time.

    Since then, American Beach has remained a popular escape for black vacationers, and it’s now a key landmark and a stop on Florida’s Black Heritage Trail. Be sure to stop by the American Beach Museum to find out more about its history and development.

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Fort Clinch State Park

    A haven for Florida’s wild beauty

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    Fort Clinch State Park has a beautiful white-sand shoreline near the historic fort, along with ample wildlife and birdwatching opportunities. The park's tranquil beach is a resting place for many migrating birds, while the North Atlantic right whale and green sea turtles can sometimes be spotted along the coast.

    Families looking for an activity-filled day at the beach are well provided for at the park with a picnic area and fishing jetty. There are also miles of nature trails to explore by bike or on foot.

    Location: 2601 Atlantic Ave, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sundown

    Phone: +1 904-277-7274

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    8

    Big Talbot Island State Park

    Blackrock and Boneyard beaches

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    Big Talbot Island State Park is a pristine nature reserve with a dramatic shoreline of tidepools, rocky outcrops and large toppled trees. There's paid parking available at the park entrance. From there, take the half-mile trail through the forest to the beach and views out to Nassau Sound. The water here is shallow and better for soaking than swimming, but it's also good for canoeing or fishing.

    The fallen trees strewn across the beach are a protected feature as they help prevent erosion. Try to visit at dawn to catch a peaceful sunrise over the sea, or at low tide when the rocks are more exposed and the beach is wider.

    Location: A1A North, Jacksonville, FL 32226, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sundown

    Phone: +1 904-251-2320

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    9

    Fernandina Beach (Main Beach Park)

    For an activity-filled day at the beach

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    Fernandina Beach is a seaside village on Amelia Island with miles of sandy beach to explore. Main Beach Park in the village offers the easiest beach access, with a host of beachfront activities including volleyball courts, a playground, mini-golf course, skate park and picnic shelters.

    If you need to venture off the beach to grab something to eat, there are shops and restaurants within walking distance. Early birds visiting the beach have the chance to catch a spectacular view of the sunrise over the ocean.

    Location: 32 N Fletcher Ave, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, USA

    Phone: +1 904-310-3350

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    10

    Huguenot Memorial Park

    Put your wheels to the sand

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    Huguenot Memorial Park is best known as a prime birdwatching spot, but this nature reserve found 30 minutes by car from downtown Jacksonville also has a gorgeous wide and sandy beach. Calm and shallow waters make it ideal for families, and it’s also great for kayaking, fishing and kitesurfing. More family-friendly facilities include a playground and sheltered picnic facilities.

    If you tire of taking strolls along the seaside, then fire up your vehicle and take a drive on the sands here – it's the only beach in the Jacksonville area where it’s allowed.

    Location: 10980 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226, USA

    Open: Daily 6 am to 6 pm (till 7 pm prior to Daylight Savings Time change)

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    Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer

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