Top 7 Outdoor Activities in Jacksonville, Florida

Kayaking in Jacksonville, - Outdoor activities in Jacksonville

Known for offering a little something different in Florida, Jacksonville is a city where you’ll find beautiful beaches, the St. Johns River, delicious food and drink, and spectacular open spaces. There are so many awesome and unexpected outdoor activities in Jacksonville that will make you want to visit this vast city over and over again.

I love visiting Jacksonville because it has everything I love about Florida, like the beaches and sunshine, with a lower price tag, fewer crowds, and a huge focus on the outdoors. 

This guide showcases the top outdoor activities in Jacksonville and everything you need to know to plan your next adventure to the “Flip Side of Florida”! 

A huge thank you to Visit Jacksonville who sponsored my trip and this post, but as always, all words and opinions are my own. 

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Where to Stay in Jacksonville

Sam and I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville Airport during our March 2024 stay and really liked both the hotel and its proximity to all the activities we enjoyed. The DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville Airport hosted my room during our stay and it was perfect for our trip. 

Entrance to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Airport
View of king bedroom at the DoubleTree Jacksonville Airport

While we had a rental car, the hotel does provide free shuttle service to and from the airport so if you’re in the area for a cruise or won’t be needing a car, you have free hotel transportation. There is a fee of $10 per night if you are parking a car at the hotel. 

The hotel is just outside of the Jacksonville International Airport and centrally located for all of Jacksonville’s activites. Best of all, even though it’s an airport hotel, I never once heard a plane takeoff or land- something so common at many airport hotels. Additionally, the hotel offers several great amenities like a saltwater pool, fitness center, and a hotel restaurant. 

Pool at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Airport

Pro Tip: If your flight arrives late at night, take the shuttle to the airport and pick up your rental car in the morning. If your flight leaves early in the morning, you can drop your rental car off the night before and utilize the shuttle. This can save costs on both hotel parking and rental fees. 

Outdoor Activities in Jacksonville

Talbot Islands State Parks 

The Talbot Islands State Parks are comprised of 7 Florida State Parks, which are part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.  While all seven state parks are well worth a visit, I highly recommend two, especially if you have limited time in the area: Big Talbot Island and Little Talbot Island State Parks.

Big Talbot Island State Park

State Road A1A North, Jacksonville, FL 32226

Big Talbot Island State Park is home to one of the coolest beaches in Florida: Boneyard Beach. Beautiful driftwood lines the beach as the result of sudden erosion that caused once-standing trees to collapse and die.

To access Boneyard beach, park here and follow the trail near the parking lot (close to the port-a-potties) for about a half-mile until you reach the beach. It’s an easy walk to the beach, where you’ll find a relaxing and very picturesque area. 

Driftwood lining the beach at Boneyard Beach at Big Talbot Island State Park - Jacksonville, FL
Black Rock Beach in Jacksonville, FL

If you continue a mile further south down the beach, you’ll reach Black Rock Beach. I highly recommend you go the extra mile (2 miles roundtrip) if you are able – make sure you consider the tide. This stretch of beach is very remote and quiet. Black Rock Beach is also so unique and scenic. 

Additional activities at Big Talbot Island State Park include bird-watching, hiking, biking and fishing. 

Little Talbot Island State Park 

12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226

Although just down the road from Big Talbot Island State Park, Little Talbot Island State Park is a separate park with its own entrance fee: $5 per vehicle. The park also has a completely different look and feel. 

The beach is driftwood-free and is the perfect spot to spend a day relaxing and enjoying the water. The sand is full of beautiful seashells and the beach provides countless spots to set up camp for the day. 

Boardwalk to beach at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, FL
View of beach with cloudy blue sky at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, FL
Dunes Ridge Trail loop in Little Talbot Island State Park

Little Talbot Island State Park also offers two hiking trails: a 1-mile nature trail and a 4-mile hike. The 4-mile hike is the Dune Ridge Trail Loop and twists through 5 ecosystems. It’s a beautiful hike that takes you through dunes, tree canopies, and even along the beach. There are several portions of loose sand so make sure you wear sturdy shoes. 

Bike Tour through Riverside/Avondale Historic District 

3544 St Johns Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205

A great way to learn more about the history and original architecture of Jacksonville is by taking an electric bike tour with Art Bikes Jacksonville. The tour starts and ends in the Riverside Avondale neighborhood and there is SO much history here. 

Painted e bikes in front of heart mural at Art Bikes in Jacksonville, FL
Man and woman wearing neon-colored bike helmets in front of oak tree in Jacksonville, FL

I fell in love with the Riverside Avondale Historic District the moment we drove through the first block. The streets are lined with ancient oaks covered with spanish moss and the houses (more like mansions) have so much character. 

Ron Rothberg, or another well-educated staff member, will lead the ride that starts at Tucker Cycles in historic downtown Avondale. There’s a bathroom in the bike shop that you can use if you are going on the tour, even though it says ‘Not Available to Customers’. 

Tree Hill Nature Center

7152 Lone Star Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211

Venture to Tree Hill Nature Center to explore several short nature trails and visit with hobby farm animals. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 8am until 4:30pm (last admission at 4pm) and is $5 per adult and $3 per child. 

Tree Hill Nature Center offers 51 acres of preservation land, which includes 7 short walking trails, a kid’s museum, and several resident animals like goats, pigs, chickens and even alligators. 

Goats playing on wooden structure at Tree Hill Nature Center

Sam and I walked over half the trails, which are each about ⅓ of a mile long. The boardwalk trail was my favorite as it was so peaceful and felt like we were walking in another land with the giant oaks and Spanish moss hanging overhead.

We saw an owl on the Stable Loop trail which was so cool. It was looking at us as we were walking, and when we noticed it and stopped, it flew in the most majestic manner to a higher tree. 

Woman walking along a wooden boardwalk at Tree Hill Nature Center
Owl on tree branch surrounded by green foliage at Tree Hill Nature Center

There are two parking lots available for your visit. I parked in the west parking lot which is very small, but close to the entrance. If the parking lot is full, head down the road to the east parking lot where there should be ample parking. 

7 Creeks Recreation Area

Multiple Parks and Communities

One of the most unique outdoor areas in Jacksonville is the 7 Creeks Recreation Area: a 5,600-acre area of contiguous conservation lands. The land is managed by local, state, and federal agencies, and also non-profit organizations: City of Jacksonville, Florida State Parks, National Park Service, North Florida Land Trust, and Timucuan Parks Foundation. 

Within the Recreation Area you can kayak among the interconnected creeks and hike, bike and horseback ride more than 30 miles of trail. If you want to explore many different segments of this area, consider the 7 Creeks Trail which is a 7-mile trail that connects many of the different units together. 

Marshy area with tall trees and bushes and Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park in Jacksonville, FL

A great way of learning more about the area is by attending the 7 Creeks Fest, which is an annual event held every March. The event is free for all and features a Welcome Hub where you can learn more about the 7 Creeks Recreation Area and plan your schedule for the day. There’s also several vendors who provide additional information about their organizations and the necessary resources to protect the area. 

Sam and I have kayaked together in single kayaks numerous times, but we tried a tandem kayak through Kayak Amelia for the first time at 7 Creeks Fest. It was such a fun experience, and although I think we will stick to single kayaks in the future, it was fun to take charge and yell which way to paddle from the front of the kayak. 

Husband and wife kayaking in Jacksonville Florida

It’s impossible to explore this entire area in one day, but it was so much fun to try a few of the different activities and get a taste for what this region of Florida has to offer. It’s a dream for outdoor-lovers.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

500 Wonderwood Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32233

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park has all the amenities of the popular Jacksonville beaches, without the huge crowds. While it doesn’t have the beach-front shops and restaurants, the beauty and tranquility of the beach more than make up for it. 

View from beach at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park - Outdoor Activities in Jacksonville

The park is 450-acres in total and includes 20 miles of hiking trails in addition to the beach. There’s also single-track mountain bike trails within the park. 

While there’s no wrong spot to enjoy the beach, I recommend heading to Dolphin Plaza where you’ll find bathrooms and changing areas and a pavilion. The view of the beach from this spot is wonderful and it’s also an easy walk to the water. 

Beach walk at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park - cloudy blue sky with sand dunes.
Boardwalk over the dunes to the beach at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville, FL

I also recommend checking out the boardwalk (one stop in front of Dolphin Plaza). Here you’ll find an accessible boardwalk to the beach and enjoy a beautiful walk over the dunes. There are no bathrooms in this area. 

Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225

A wonderful and low-cost outdoor activity in Jacksonville is visiting the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Run by a non-profit organization, the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens feature 120-acres of paved paths, nature trails, and a lake. 

Woman posing in front of a lake at Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

The Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are so well-maintained and the tree and plants are stunning. I loved that the individual trails were all fairly short (most under 1/2 a mile), but the trails intertwined so you can get a decent walk in by connecting them. The trails are also relatively flat and easy.

This area is a peaceful spot to enjoy a morning stroll or have a picnic lunch. Kids will love exploring the different trails and around the lake area (no swimming allowed). Admission is $3 per person (free for members) and leashed dogs are allowed to explore with you. 

Enjoy Jacksonville!

There’s so much to love about Jacksonville and I’m so grateful it’s such an easy flight from Wisconsin. The people are friendly, the sun is bright, and the outdoor adventures are waiting. And although my latest trip to the area was jam-packed with activities, the list of things I still want to try just keeps growing. Drop any questions you have in the comments and let me know your favorite things to do in Jax!


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