Florida is an oasis for travelers: it is full of history, leisure and has more than 1,000 miles of coastline, but its most popular destinations are expensive. The antidote is a visit to Jacksonville, on the Atlantic side of the state, a city that combines coastal charm with a metropolitan vibe and is more affordable than other Florida tourist spots.
In Jacksonville, nightlife and activities outdoors are a few blocks away. In this article, we discover why a weekend on the First Coast of Florida should be the first option on the travel list.
First day in Jacksonville: Friday
Welcome to Jacksonville! Did the traveler know that Jax (Jacksonville) is the largest city by area in the continental United States? Its dimensions are quickly assimilated when one moves from Jacksonville International Airport to beach accommodation, 25 miles away. The positive part is that, whether you travel by rental car, shared car or hotel shuttle, the route offers a perspective of everything the city has to offer.
But this trip focuses on the coast and goes to the beach. Locals love to recommend the Seahorse Oceanfront Inn in Neptune Beach. In winter, the price per room starts at the US $ 129; and in summer, $ 139, with a maximum of $ 219 for the hotel’s largest suite, with a Jacuzzi. Local waiter Robert Freeman describes the Seahorse as “an amazing retro oceanfront hotel with a pool,” and is not kidding; all rooms face the sea, and there is plenty of leisure within a short walk.
Saturday: the second day in Jacksonville
Every day starts with a good breakfast, and here the options abound. If you feel like it, you can have breakfast at the hotel; the Seahorse offers a breakfast basket, courtesy of the house, which must be collected; and One Ocean’s Azurea has a complete breakfast menu.
The best time to go to the beach is mid-morning, and options abound. Almost as soon as you leave the hotel, you step on the sand of Atlantic beach or Neptune beach. If you prefer a more lively atmosphere, you can walk the two and a half blocks from Maple Street to the shore. There is usually a lot of activity around the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier, although the pier itself has been closed since October 2016, after Hurricane Matthew. Throughout the area, walks along the dunes and public toilets abound.
They prepare the guacamole on the spot, and the varied offer of tacos allows you to combine them to taste. Standard studs cost $ 2.99 per unit, and special studs start at $ 3.99; it is easy to go asking until you are full. If you fancy a ‘grown-up’ drink during lunch, there is a happy hour during the weekend at brunch from 10:00 to 14:00, and the restaurant has a great selection of tequilas (dozens of them!).
Then you return to the hotel, and after a shower, you can go to dinner at Eleven South. This popular restaurant garners praise – such as the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, which it has been receiving for 11 consecutive years – and is a good place to dine well. If the entrees (starting at the US $ 18) skyrocket the budget, let no one worry; the dishes offer variety, but it is also a good idea to reserve the restaurant for Sunday. The premium happy hour runs Sunday through Thursday and includes cocktails for $ 5, wines for $ 7, and snacks for $ 7.
Last day in Jacksonville: Sunday
Then you can go shopping. The Beaches Town Center includes a variety of local shops, such as the chic AshleGyre and Jaffe’s or Kyd’s Children’s Boutique. Who prefers books to clothing can stop by The BookMark, famous for its selection of books and ‘junk’ for books.
When hunger strikes, it’s a good idea to go to Atlantic Boulevard and eat at M Shack (famous for its smoothies ) or Poe’s Tavern (not to miss the literary toilets or Rue Morgue, a cheeseburger with chili, cheese, and a fried egg ).
The weekend in Jacksonville is topped off with a visit to the One Ocean spa. You can ask for a conch massage – a fun version of the hot stone massage – or the special seasonal message. Any option is good to end the weekend on the beach in the most relaxed way.