Jacksonville Beach, FL: What to See & Do and Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Jacksonville Beach is a coastal resort city in Northern Florida. Since the 19th century, its sandy beaches and spectacular sunrises have attracted locals and regional travelers alike. Although it could be easy to overlook the First Coast in favor of beach towns in Southern Florida, Jax Beach has plenty to offer.

The town of Jacksonville Beach sits on the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Steps away from the white sand beaches is an abundance of waterfront activities to suit families, couples, and solo travelers. You’ll find no shortage of amazing food options and lively bars here, too. On the other side of town lies the Intracoastal Waterway. Narrower than in other parts of the state, the waterway is a dense wetland waiting to be explored.

Not sure what to do in Jacksonville Beach? Find all you need to know with this complete Jacksonville Beach guide.

What to see & do

Jacksonville Beach

At the heart of Jacksonville Beach is the golden shoreline, which gave the town its name. In the early morning hours, Jax Beach sparkles in the golden sunlight as shorebirds search for treats among the sand.

Jacksonville Beach

As the day moves on, the beach’s popularity becomes clear. It’s long been a beloved retreat for Jacksonville natives and travelers are starting to catch on to the trend. The soft white sand is the perfect surface to lay down your towel for a day at the beach. To cool off, run into the welcoming waves for some fun body surfing.

The beach is fringed by a lengthy boardwalk that takes you along the coast. It’s the perfect spot for a coffee walk and leads you to the Jacksonville Beach Pier. The iconic landmark was built in 1922 and is 625 feet long. Walk to the end for spectacular views. You can also fish here with a permit.

Beaches Museum and History Park

The town may be a vacation destination, but it has its own story to tell. On Beach Blvd, the Beaches Museum and History Park presents a look at Jacksonville Beach’s underrated past.

The museum journeys way back to the region’s first inhabitants, the Timucua Native Americans. The Timucua were a group of tribes who lived around northern Florida and the bottom of Georgia. The museum then takes you through the arrival of Europeans, with Spanish and British settlements and more modern U.S. history.

A highlight of the Beaches Museum experience is the photography exhibits. The photos date back to the 19th century and will help you understand how much the region has changed. Add in some fascinating relics and you’ll begin to see Jacksonville Beach in a whole different light.

Beaches Town Center

The Beaches Town Center marks the convergence of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach. It’s a happening part of Jax Beach that provides a helpful break from the sand while being one of the top Jacksonville attractions all on its own.

The center is a popular meeting point for Jacksonville Beach locals. It’s packed with fantastic shopping that basically comes together to create one large open-air mall.

Those who love to browse will have their whole day trip sorted as they meander between local boutiques and national brands. Beachgoers will also find all the last-minute things they need before hitting the sand.

Like any bustling district worth its salt, you’ll find a range of top-notch restaurants here. They’re a great spot for a feed before, during, or after enjoying the local beaches.

With the Beaches Town Center also home to several resorts, it’s easy to see why visiting this part of town is a must for any trip to Jax.

Shipwreck Island Water Park

When the northern Florida sun is at its peak, a day at the beach may not cut it. To cool off and have a good time, head along to Shipwreck Island Water Park. There’s no shortage of thrilling attractions that will keep you entertained all day long here.

Shipwreck Island Waterpark

As the amusement park says: You won’t find sharks, jellyfish, and sand here, just good times. Some of the popular attractions at Shipwreck Island include the 500,000-gallon wave pool that can produce burly swells up to 4 feet tall. Visitors can also reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour on the Rage, featuring the first uphill water coaster in North Florida.

However, it’s the Pirate’s Play Village that’s sure to be the star of the show. Young and old can embark on a seafaring adventure along a variety of water slides with epic twists and turns.

Oceanfront Park

Jacksonville Beach’s 2-acre Oceanfront Park combines access to the Atlantic Ocean with a day at the park. The spacious lawns are great for family picnics and visitors will also have access to the four sheltered pavilions.

From Oceanfront Park, you can enjoy the sea breeze alongside everything that makes a park day great, from playgrounds of the kids, to space to throw the ball and play yard games.

In the center of the park is a colossal bronze statue called the Sea Express. The public art is symbolic of Jacksonville Beach’s prioritizing public access to local beaches and shows a young boy riding a dolphin.

The circular park is surrounded by a paved walking trail that leads to an accessible ramp and easy access to the dune walkways that take you to the beach.   

South Beach Park

Where Oceanfront Park has a focus on park amenities with a beach bonus, South Beach Park is all about the little ones. The park is packed with recreational activities that will have the kids running from left to right as they try to enjoy them all.

The park has been undergoing a redesign that will grow the exceptional kid’s playground. It will now feature an array of slides, a collection of wooden towers, and interactive features that will stoke your child’s curiosity and sense of adventure. The park’s famed splash pad is also staying put, much to the happiness of those who regularly visit South Beach Park.

Other features of South Beach Park include BBQ facilities and picnic shelters for lunch. There are also basketball and beach volleyball courts along with a skate park.

Mind Bender Escape Rooms

You’ve no doubt come to Jacksonville Beach for sun, sand, and ocean. However, if it’s raining or you need a break from the heat, Mind Bender Escape Rooms is the perfect solution. Fun for families, couples, and friend groups, the escape rooms will require you to pull all of your skills together to be successful.

Minder Bender Escape Rooms offer the typical experience, throwing a range of puzzles, riddles, and subtle clues your way. Will your team be able to connect the dots in under 60 minutes and escape?

To make things even more thrilling, you’ll be offered a choice of four themed rooms. These include having to escape from a serial killer in the haunting room called The Wood Shed. Others include hunting down Jack the Ripper and completing a heist.

Cradle Creek Preserve

Nature in Jacksonville Beach isn’t all about golden sand and the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Jax Beach is also home to the Cradle Creek Preserve. The park is one of the newest nature reserves in town and covers 36 acres of wetlands along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Cradle Creek Preserve

Enjoy a different type of outdoor experience and trade the beach chair for walking shoes and get exploring along the many trails. Cradle Creek Preserve is just a few minutes from the coast, allowing simple access to a post-hike feed after leaving.

The trails at Cradle Creek Preserve snake through the coastal forest before joining elevated boardwalks that take you along the waterfront and over several creeks. There are regular viewpoints that provide a great place to rest and admire the scenery.

Travelers can also get about on kayak and explore the nature preserve’s wetlands in more detail.

Adventure Landing

Shipwreck Island Water Park is a section of the larger Adventure Landing complex. Afterward, or on an entirely fresh day, take some time to experience the rest of the popular Jacksonville Beach amusement park.

Adventure Landing has everything you love about a family-friendly theme park. The sprawling arcade features over 100 interactive games from car racing and dancing. Each comes with tickets that can be redeemed for prizes!

After completing the Arcade Room, take your skills to the go-kart track. Here, you can zoom around the quarter-mile course and win yourself bragging rights for the rest of the vacation. Afterward, team up with (or betray) your loved ones with a game of laser tag in the enthralling indoor battle arena.

For something more relaxing, wander around the lush 18-hole miniature golf course. The holes will take you by waterfalls and over mountains as your mini-golf skills are put to the test.

Thompson Surf School

In Jacksonville Beach, the mighty Atlantic Ocean completes its journey and touches down on the coast. It brings with it some handy swell, waves that are perfect for learning how to surf. At Thompson Surf School, you can do just that with a surf lesson led by professional surfers.

The school is open for students young and old, inclusive of all abilities. The local experts can get you kitted out with the right board, teach you all you need to know, and have you riding your first wave all within a single day.

Thompson Surf School also runs a summer surf camp. This brings together a group of kids, teaching them ocean safety and surf skills in an exciting and social space over 11 weeks. Intermediate and expert riders can also employ the help of the instructors to take their talents to the next level in Jax Beach.

Ponte Vedra Beach

For almost a century, Ponte Vedra Beach has been a celebrated resort town that has attracted the rich and well-to-do. The town is ten minutes south of Jacksonville Beach. However, if you’ve woken up early, you can walk along the waterfront for a scenic 4-mile stroll.

Ponte Vedra Beach

There’s plenty to do in Ponte Vedra Beach. Its glistening Appalachian quartz and coquina sand is a great alternative to Jax Beach. Along with lively swimming and surf, Ponte Vedra Beach is home to 40-foot sand dunes that are some of the tallest in the state.

Further along the Ponte Vedra shoreline is Mickler’s Landing Beach, one of the most popular beaches around Jacksonville. Take your pet for a day at the beach, where you can let your dog run amok along the water and sand.

Beaches aren’t the only reason to come to town. Ponte Vedra Beach also features several golf courses, including the renowned TPC Sawgrass. You may recognize the 17th hole, home to the infamous island green.

Where to eat & drink

Jacksonville’s food scene is an expansive mix of casual eats and famed southern comfort food. Something that has found its way to the neighboring town of Jacksonville Beach.

As we all know, the key to a great beach day is a hearty morning feed. While in town, you’ll have two mouthwatering options. The first is Maple Street Biscuit Company, two blocks back from the coast. Load up on southern breakfast fare and biscuits that would make your grandmother proud.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

The second option is Jax Beach Brunch Haus. Get in early to avoid the queues at this popular local food establishment that combines classic American breakfast fare with a boisterous atmosphere and eclectic decor.

After some time on the beach and out on the waves, it’ll be time for a midday feast. To keep things light and zesty, head to Taco Lu on Beach Blvd. Indulge in delicious fish tacos and if you’re feeling brave, some tequila at a Mexican restaurant that also shows off the quirky side of Jax Beach.

When it comes to dinner, you’ll have no shortage of options. For some romantic ambiance, dine at JaxSpice, a dim-lit Indian restaurant with scrumptious cuisine.

Large groups and casual eaters should head to 1st Street and dine at the hip Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House. Come for the Bavarian pub grub and stay for the craft beers.

For something quick, easy, and downright delicious, don’t sleep on the slices and full pies at Biggie’s Pizza Jax Beach, a late-night pizza joint.

The nights start young and don’t let up in Jacksonville Beach. To join the revelry, head to Flask and Cannon for fruity cocktails, Mango’s Beach Bar for happy hours by the water, and surfer for elegant cocktails and Japanese/Mexican fusion food.

Where to stay

Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach

Holiday Inn Express Jacksonville Beach

A pleasant 15-minute walk to the ocean, this 3-star hotel is one of the town’s top picks for price-conscious travelers. Even with the reasonable price point, you’ll still enjoy excellent amenities, including an outdoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast.

Hampton Inn Oceanfront

Hampton Inn Oceanfront Jacksonville Beach

Featuring a private Atlantic Ocean beach, the Hampton Inn Oceanfront is the perfect getaway for mid-range travelers. End your day of sightseeing with a splash under the waterfalls in the blissful outdoor pool, a soak in the hot tub, or a chilled-out cocktail at the Oceanfront Tiki Bar.

Four Points by Sheraton Beachfront

Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront

For a dash of luxury, book yourself into the Four Points by Sheraton Beachfront. Splurge on one of the spacious suites to enjoy your own private balcony with sweeping oceanviews. If you don’t want to dip your toes in the Atlantic, a skip over a boardwalk away, the hotel also offers a relaxing outdoor swimming pool to cool off.

Treksplorer

Treksplorer is a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. Originally launched in 2011 by founder & editor Ryan O'Rourke to document his travels in East Asia & Central Europe, Treksplorer now includes things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking guides spanning over 30 countries from Japan to Spain and Canada to New Zealand.

DISCLAIMER: Treksplorer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and its affiliated international sites.

DISCLAIMER: You'll notice that from time to time I link out to recommended hotels/tours/products/services. If you purchase anything through these links, I'll receive a commission. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help keep me trekkin' on and delivering more free (and unsponsored!) travel information to you. Thanks :)