Located in Northeast Florida, Atlantic Beach is home to miles of relaxing and beautiful beaches that run down to Jacksonville Beach. Facing east towards the Atlantic Ocean, travelers can wake at the crack of dawn and enjoy gorgeous sunrises with the rest of the day to explore the many local attractions.
Atlantic Beach features a number of public parks, so lush they’re essentially urban oases. The parks are lovely places to enjoy some time among nature or to hang out with the family. Some aren’t your regular city parks either and help to showcase Atlantic Beach’s stunning wetlands and ancient history. Later on, as the sun falls, the downtown area comes to life with a captivating beachfront atmosphere.
Not sure what to do in Atlantic Beach? Fill up the itinerary with this complete Atlantic Beach guide.
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Things to do in Atlantic Beach, FL
Atlantic Beach is a two-mile stretch of golden sand that marks the entirety of the town’s shoreline. With such a wealthy expanse of sand, beachgoers will be able to enjoy the spoils without a hearty crowd.
Along the lengthy Atlantic Beach, there are few resorts and mostly residential housing. The stretch of sand has a peaceful atmosphere where friends and families gather effortlessly. The beach also has a small pier that you can fish off at high tide. (Most anglers, however, prefer finding a quiet patch of sand to enjoy some shore fishing.)
Atlantic Beach can have some decent swell. It makes for some fun boogie boarding and lively swimming. Unlike other beaches around Jacksonville, dogs are allowed on Atlantic Beach at all hours but must remain on their leash when not in the water. The beach has few amenities but remains within walking distance of several bars and restaurants.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Another way to enjoy the ocean at Atlantic Beach is with a visit to Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Spanning 450 acres, the waterfront park has an exciting range of activities that’ll keep you busy on a day trip from Jacksonville.
Whether you’re a family looking for things to do in Atlantic Beach or simply seeking some time in nature, this park has you covered. With direct access to golden sands, you can enjoy a beach day with envious privacy, with the only noise being the rustling of the coastal shrubs.
Within Hanna Park is a lovely freshwater lake that you can explore on a kayak. You can even bring along your rod, bait, and tackle. Visitors can strap on their walking shoes and explore the park’s twenty-plus miles of hiking trails that take you along the shore and by the stunning oaks within the coastal hammock habitat.
If you don’t want the fun to end, Hanna Park has cabin and tent camping for a small fee.
Between Seminole Rd and East Coast Drive, Howell Park is a small but scenic nature retreat. It’s a tranquil setting that belies its location close to the heart of Atlantic Beach.
Meandering throughout the lush landscapes is a nature path. The trail will take you under dense forests and along the park’s creek. Keep your eyes open and you may even spot turtles enjoying the sunlight. For this reason, while pets are allowed, you’ll want to keep your buddies on the leash as you explore Howell Park.
Other features of this urban oasis include the picnic areas. Pack a hearty picnic basket and find a comfy spot. As you take in the beauty of your surroundings, keep an eye out for the many birds that frequent Howell Park, while enjoying the sounds of the creek trickling along. With several nearby parks and the ocean minutes away, Howell Park is a refreshing way to enjoy some quiet.
Dutton Island Preserve
Running down towards the Intracoastal Waterway, the Dutton Island Preserve is an exceptional salt marsh ecosystem. It’s Atlantic Beach’s biggest park and offers the town’s best wilderness experience.
Dutton Island Preserve welcomes a fantastic range of wildlife that are attracted to this vital habitat. You can explore the vast preserve on both the elevated boardwalks and hiking trails. These will lead you to beautiful viewpoints across the marshland, along with a popular fishing pier. If you’ve packed lunch, stop by the covered picnic areas for a break.
You can explore the Dutton Island Preserve further by launching a kayak at the south end of the park. Paddle around the preserve where you can fish or make your way to the kayak landing point on Dutton Island II. The second island features more hiking trails, a couple of picnic areas, and several scenic overlooks.
Atlantic Beach Country Club
Florida has no shortage of golf courses. If you’re someone who likes to break out the clubs while on vacation, then get along to the Atlantic Beach Country Club. The city has a strong golfing history, with the country club (then called Selva Marina) opening in 1958.
The club now boasts an exceptional 18-hole course that takes you through unique Florida landscapes alongside local wildlife while putting your skills to the test. The course is set just three blocks from the ocean. As you’re enjoying the Florida sun, you’ll have the refreshing ocean breeze.
But life at Atlantic Beach Country Club is more than just swinging a one wood and hoping for the fairway. The club offers an elevated yet family-friendly dining experience that’s the perfect place to gather after your round. Enjoy sunset views over their craft cocktails and specialty beers.
Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve
Covering a spellbinding 46,000 acres, the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve showcases Atlantic Beach’s beguiling nature and fascinating history. Within the impressive preserve are waterways and wetlands, along with historic locations such as the Fort Caroline National Memorial and Kingsley Plantation.
The preserve was named after the Timacua Native Americans who had almost three dozen communities in the surrounding region and southern Georgia. Within the park, archaeologists found the second-oldest example of pottery in the country.
To fully explore the park, you’ll need to set aside several days. But if you only have a short amount of time, there are several memorable attractions in the preserve. These include kayaking through the marshlands, exploring the native habitats where the Timacuan people once resided and learning about the history of Fort Caroline.
St Johns River Ferry
The St Johns River begins just north of Atlantic Beach and runs all the way down to around Vero Beach. A popular and budget-friendly way to explore the river around the Jacksonville area is to jump on board the St. Johns River Ferry.
The river is a scenic byway. From your position aboard the ferry, you’ll be afforded beautiful views of the surrounding wetlands. You’ll also be able to discover more about the history of the region, and those with keen eyes will spot plenty of wildlife along the way.
The ferry will bring you from Mayport to Ft. George Island. You can even bring your car on the trip to allow for further exploration.
Beaches Town Center
Wedged between Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, the Beaches Town Center is your go-to spot for shopping, dining, and entertainment. The center brings big-city amenities and combines them with a beach town atmosphere.
The array of shops, from boutiques to national brands, combine to create what amounts to an outdoor mall. You can spend all day bouncing between stores, enjoying some much-needed retail therapy. If you’re off to the many local parks or for a day at Jacksonville Beach, you can also pick up all you need, right here.
But it’s not just shops that make Beaches Town Center one of the coolest places to see around Jacksonville. There is a strong concentration of delectable dining from casual pub grub to elevated cuisine that means you’ll never go hungry, or lack a place to celebrate your travels.
Where to eat & drink
Eating out in Atlantic Beach is as refreshing as the sea breeze. The vibrant coastal community has no shortage of options to enjoy and Northeast Florida as a whole knows how to cook up a feast. Whether you’re seeking beachfront eats, sunset drinks, or date night cuisine, you’ll be well covered. Here are some must-try Atlantic Beach restaurants:
Before heading out on your daily adventure, have breakfast at the Beach Diner Atlantic Beach. Just a few blocks from Beaches Town Center, you can indulge in your favorite breakfast eats in a casual setting.
Atlantic Beach is also a haven for seafood. Just around the corner from the diner is the Seafood Kitchen. Come here for a laid-back eatery with fresh fish and their renowned dish of raw gator tail.
Another option is The Fish Company. Within a classic American pub, enjoy an unpretentious seafood joint with a delicious raw bar.
When day turns to night, head to the Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila. Indulge in Latin-fusion cuisine, steps from the beach with over 100 tequilas on offer, plus live entertainment.
For craft beer aficionados, wander up Atlantic Blvd for a stop at Brewz Atlantic Beach. Or enjoy the balmy evening on the outdoor patio at Poe’s Tavern.
Where to stay
Sitting northwest of the town center, this Holiday Inn Express is a boon for budget-conscious travelers looking to save some dough for fine dining or cocktails by the beach. The hotel is also a fantastic choice for nature lovers as some of the Jax’s top outdoor escapes—including Hanna Park and Dutton Island Preserve—are a short drive away.
Located in nearby Neptune Beach, this popular mid-range hotel is the perfect alternative for enjoying seaside pleasures without sacrificing amenities. After a day of sightseeing, slip into the outdoor pool and hot tub, or sweat out all those fish tacos at the on-site fitness center. The Atlantic shoreline is a quick two-minute walk from the property.
Situated on the beachfront, the One Ocean Resort and Spa is a fantastic spot for a relaxing vacation on the seaside. The hotel features spacious modern rooms, many equipped with dramatic ocean views. When the Atlantic shores aren’t calling, cool down with a dip in the oceanfront pool or indulge in a meal & cocktails at the on-site Azurea Restaurant.