On a trip to Florida, I got to spend some time exploring its small town. One of the places I spent time in was Jacksonville Beach. If you are planning a seaside getaway here is my list of Seven Things You Need to Know About Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
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Seven Things to Know About Jacksonville Beach, Florida
1) Don’t Get Jacksonville Beach, FL Confused with Jacksonville, FL
If you are not from Florida, and like me, not familiar with the area, you might think that Jacksonville Beach is in Jacksonville, Florida. They do have similar names and are near bodies of water, but Jacksonville is along the St. Johns River, and Jacksonville Beach is along the Atlantic Ocean. To get from inland Jacksonville, it is a 31-minute drive to Jacksonville Beach.
Over the years the town has had a couple of names. In 1884, it was called Ruby, and two years later Pablo Beach, and in 1925 it settled on the name Jacksonville Beach. During the twenties, visitors (many of which included movie stars and gangsters) referred to as “The World’s Finest Beach” (which if you’ve been there you can see why) and, in the center of town, there is a large mosaic that says “First Coast’s Finest Beach.” Today, locals often refer to this small beach community with a population of 21,362 as Jax Beach.
2) Jacksonville Beach is Part of the European Discovery of America
In terms relating to the European discovery of America, the Jacksonville Beach area is often referred to as the “First Coast.” The Spanish were the first Europeans to settle an area near Jacksonville Beach, and a Frenchman claimed it in 1562.
3) WWII Disaster Off the First Coast
I never realized that the Germans had attacked the U.S. along the East Coast until my trip to St. Simons Island where I learned the Germans sunk three U.S. ship in 1942 off Georgia’s Golden Coast. That same year, U-boat U-123 sunk the SS Gulf America 4.5-miles off the coast of Jacksonville Beach and a total of 19 men died from shellfire or drowning. The SS Gulf America carried 90,000 barrels of fuel oil, and the ship and its cargo burned for several days before it sank. Unfortunately, the bright lights of the boardwalk helped the Germans sight and pinpoint where to fire their torpedos. To prevent further attacks, the governor of Florida declared a blackout along the coast.
If you want to learn more about the Jacksonville Wreck and Jacksonville Beach, I suggest visiting Beaches Museum & History Park. They have exhibits about Jacksonville Beach, neighboring towns, and park with historical buildings like a 1903 post office, 1911 steam train, and chapel. Visiting is a no brainer because it is FREE!!!
4) Bike or Play Your Way
I’ll admit I visited Jacksonville Beach in the off-season (fall), but for someone who has spent over 10 years in Western Washington (aka weather wimp), that is the perfect time to go. The weather was in the low 80s so I think even Floridians could agree that’s pretty darn good weather. Thanks to a college roommate, who has lived in Florida for years, we had our own bikes in Jacksonville Beach.
If you are traveling and it’s not possible to bring along two wheels you can rent bikes with Beach Life Rentals, who also rent surfboards, SUPs, kayaks, beach gear like umbrellas and chairs. During the busy season, they have a kiosk set up near the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant, and they offer free delivery in the off season. They also offer a 10% discount to hotel guests.
We had a blast cruising around town and since it’s flat so it’s easy biking. And, like, St. Simons Island, GA, the sand is hard-packed enough to ride on the beach!
5) Beer Thirty on the Ale Trail
Three of the Jax Ale Trail breweries are in Jacksonville Beach. Green Room Brewing and Zeta Brewing are downtown, and Engine 15 Brewing Co. is along the road on the way into town. And, if you plan to go north to Atlantic Beach there is Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill which is the first brewpub on the First Coast.
From the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant, we biked to Zeta Brewing, which takes less than five-minutes. There we ordered a beer sampler, a Caprese salad, and brew tacos, and for dessert the strawberry shortcake and monkey bread. All were super tasty.
6) Life’s a Beach, Chill With a View
We were only in Jacksonville Beach for one day and a night, so we didn’t get to explore all the dining options with a view. That said, the rooftop terrace at the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant sets a high bar. It has all the things you want 1) tasty drinks 2) a great happy hour, and 3) a breathtaking view of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
7) How to Each Breakfast Like a Local
The Metro Diner has been serving breakfast for 25 years and has won notable awards like the “#1 Best Breakfast in Jax” for eleven years in a row. The restaurant in Jacksonville Beach is in a strip mall type area, and I have to admit that didn’t give me high hopes. But, I was proved wrong as service was good, breakfast came to our table hot, and we got to sit outside! Breakfast dishes range from around $8 to $15, and if you have children the Kid’s Menu is $4 to $6.
Ready to explore Jacksonville Beach, FL?
For more information visit City of Jacksonville Beach.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and some meals for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.