Explore Jacksonville

Things to Do Outside in Jacksonville and Amelia Island

Ever noticed the T-shirts and bumper stickers with the phrase "Salt Life?" Well, it was coined in Jacksonville, capturing the locals' love for an active lifestyle on the water. Travelers will feel the same draw when visiting this area.

Jacksonville and Amelia Island are tucked into the far northeast corner of Florida beside sandy, Atlantic Ocean beaches. At the heart of the two coastal towns are elaborate veins of creeks and rivers, nourishing estuaries and wetlands rich in plant and animal life from wild horses on Cumberland Island, to manatees in the St. Johns River and nesting loggerheads on the coast. The north-flowing St. Johns River, also the state's longest river, empties into the Atlantic at Fort George Island and Mayport, the site of the country's first—and still thriving—shrimping industry. There is water, water everywhere, and locals and visitors alike can't get enough. From kayaking on the quiet Amelia River to cruising the urban St. Johns River to surfing on laid-back Jax Beach, outdoor activity is the lifeblood, and these are top activities: 

Jacksonville Beaches

Jacksonville’s beaches are a varied lot — from the residential and reserved Atlantic Beach to the more commercial and high-rise oriented Jacksonville Beach. And don’t forget Neptune Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach. For a sense of what the beaches were like “back in the day,” stroll the streets of Atlantic and Neptune beaches.

Little Talbot Island State Park

Pristine barrier island has over 5 miles of beaches and 3 miles of bike trails. Amenities include campsites, walking trails, a playground, showers, a ranger station and ranger-led programs. Go surfing or take the family on a guided tour with Kayak Amelia. 8 am to sunset daily. $5-$10 per vehicle, up to eight people.

Kayak Amelia

Rent your own kayak or paddleboard or join a tour to explore the area’s breathtaking salt marshes and learn about native animals and local history. Tours: $65 adults, $55 children under 12. Rentals: $40 and up.

The Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Long Point Course Par: 72; yardage, 4,927-6,775. Designer: Tom Fazio. Oak Marsh Course Par: 72; yardage, 4,983-6,580. Designers: Pete Dye and Bobby Weed. Ocean Links Course Par: 70; yardage, 4,341-6,108. Designers: Pete Dye and Bobby Weed.

Fort Clinch State Park

Watch period re-enactors at the fort or just relax on the beach. Stay overnight at the campground, fish from the pier or take advantage of the six-mile trail, perfect for hiking, biking or exploring. Admission $6/vehicle and $2.50 additional per person for the fort. Park open 8 am-sundown, Fort 9 am-5 pm, daily.

Amelia River Cruises

Several tours depart daily from Fernandina Harbor Marina including Cumberland Island, family sunset cruises, adult BYOB cruises and eco-tours. Learn about the area's history and spot wildlife like otters, dolphins and even wild horses. Prices range from $16-$24 for children and $22-$32 for adults.

GTM Research Reserve

Encompassing 74,000 acres, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) is one of the largest estuaries in the country and is dedicated to preserving natural resources and educating the public. An onsite center features exhibits, aquariums, classrooms and labs.

Timucuan National Park

Named after the Timucuan Indians who inhabited Florida 1,000 years before European settlers arrived, this 46,000-acre preserve provides visitors the opportunity to explore untouched wilderness, historic buildings and informational exhibits on the region’s natural history. Free admission.

Amelia Island Horseback Riding

For more than 20 years, Debbie Manser and guides have been offering visitors the vacation experience of a lifetime. Amelia Island Horseback Riding trailers their horses to Peters Point Beach Front Park where visitors ride on the beach and even into the Atlantic Ocean during their one-hour tour.