Located in the double loop of
the sparkling St. Johns River in Northeast Florida, at the crossroads of two
transcontinental highways, Jacksonville offers unlimited cultural and
recreational opportunities for visitor and resident alike. Jacksonville is
the largest city in the contiguous United States in land area. It is a major
port, the site of U.S. Navy bases, the home of the National Football League's
Jacksonville Jaguars, and the location of the annual Gator Bowl. Downtown
Jacksonville is a vibrant city center offering waterfront dining, world-class
entertainment, exciting nightlife, and a wide variety of sporting events.
Jacksonvilleās riverbanks are
connected by a water taxi service and lined with pedestrian areas, restaurants,
and shops. The Jacksonville Landing shopping and dining complex is located on
the north bank of the St. Johns. On the south bank is the pleasant Riverwalk
which connects Jacksonville Historic Center and the Museum of Science and
History. On the opposite bank is the Cummer Museum of Art. The surrounding
residential district contains an amazing array of Revival Style architecture.
Jacksonville boasts 28 miles of
beaches as well as fresh water lakes inland in a number of the 350 beautiful
parks. Near Jacksonville Beach, island parks offer pristine beaches, sand
dunes, and marshlands. Visitors to the area enjoy kayaking, sailing, canoeing,
hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, surfing, bird watching and camping.
Every fall, Jacksonville Beach
is the site of an extraordinary parade and the return of the whales. Endangered
whales visit the area to calve in Florida's warm coastal waters. Just a short
ferry ride across the St. Johns River is Big Talbot Island, where a bird
sanctuary, rock-like outcroppings and fallen trees have become bleached and
weathered with time, making the island a dramatic sight and a popular spot for
artists and photographers. Little Talbot Island is a 2,500-acre island devoted
entirely to a protected state park containing wide beaches and high dunes.
Fishing is excellent in the island's small ponds and salt marshes.
At the Fort George State
Cultural Site, huge oyster shell mounds are evidence of Timucuan Indian
habitation dating back more than 7,000 years. Another strange phenomenon is
Mount Cornelia, which at 65 feet above sea level is the highest point along the
Atlantic coast south of North Carolina. Comprised of more than 46,000 acres
along Jacksonville's river and oceanfront, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic
Preserve protects important wetlands and historic sites.
North of the Timucuan Preserve
lies Amelia Island. At the center of the park is a Civil War era fort where the
park rangers dress in authentic uniforms and conduct candlelight tours
reminiscent of 1864. Nature trails guide visitors through areas of sand dunes,
overwash plains, and estuarine tidal marshes.
Even in downtown Jacksonville,
nature trails are found at the 40-acre Tree Hill Nature Center and in the
University of North Florida's 12 miles of trails which provide examples of every
type of terrain found in Northeast Florida.
South of Jacksonville Beach,
Guana River State Park sits on 2,400 acres of undeveloped Atlantic seacoast.
Among the preserve's special features are a five-mile coastal strand, an ancient
Spanish well and 2,000-year-old Indian shell bluffs. Families can mountain bike
along nine miles of old service roads or boat through nearby rivers.
The weather, the native flowers
and trees, the riverfront, the ocean beaches, the architecture, the local
theater and Symphony Orchestra, the sporting events, the many recreational
possibilities, all add up to an ideal vacation at any time of the year for
visitors of all ages and interests.