The largest beach in the Jacksonville, Florida area is called Jacksonville Beach. With its own set of problems, the oceanfront area is non-descript. Most businesses have moved out and decay has set in with only a handful of revitalization. When you drive along the beach down 1st Street, you pass common eateries, run-down bars, businesses that look like they’re on their last leg, and way too many boarded up buildings for our liking for such an amazing beach!
It’s been called dangerous, but I don’t think that is a fair assumption. When you look at the dilapidated buildings you know the area has seen better days. And you’ll meet those who say a renaissance is just around the corner. There’s a pretty new City Hall and the Seahawk Pavilion. With that there are Jacksonville natives who beat a path down Atlantic Beach Boulevards each weekend to lay out on this beautiful strand.
While the beach is beautiful, the city sits far too north on Florida’s Atlantic coast to compete with Daytona, Cocoa, Vero, and the South Florida beaches. Combined with the socioeconomic problems of the day, Jacksonville Beach will struggle to get on its feet once more.
What put Jacksonville Beach on the map was Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway. Then in 1916 a boardwalk, complete with dance halls, shooting galleries, boxing and wrestling matches, auto racing on the sand and other games – of chance. That lasted until the late 1950’s when gambling was chased out.
But you can fall in love with the place. Take a late Saturday afternoon when a rock band is playing at the beach bar, or you’ve dropped in on Sunday morning for some fish and grits at Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier. This town still has a real life as opposed to some of those renewed beach communities that seem too good for themselves. Lynyrd Skynyrd is from these parts, it has to be good!
The beach along the trio of Jacksonville Beaches extends for more than 100 blocks along 1st Street. And it would be the envy of any town in America if it weren’t for the economic problems. 60 of those city blocks belong to Jacksonville Beach, the southernmost and most welcoming of the bunch, it has traditionally been the destination of the multitudes. You see, Atlantic and Neptune Beaches are part of this same long strand, but Jacksonville has the widest beach of them all.
It’s hard-packed sand and backed by some wonderful sugary soft dunes. The most popular piece of sand runs from around 4th Avenue North down to 6th Avenue South making Beach Boulevard about midpoint. 25 lifeguards are on duty during the summer. When you head down to where the Avenues end, there will be easy beach access. But if all the parking spots are taken, look for a big parking garage a block or so to the west.
Jacksonville Beach is well maintained and patrolled by lifeguards from 10 AM to 5 PM daily. And don’t miss the 983 foot Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier at the end of 6th Avenue South. It’s $3.50 per adult to fish and $5 more will rent you a pole. To stroll the pier is 75 cents. The little restaurant right on the pier is a favorite spot for breakfast. Plan it one of your days in the area.
Location: The half-mile shore-front of Jacksonville Beach is reachable from the ends of 64 streets along its length. The heart of the beach area is at Beach Boulevard (US 90/State Route 212) and the ocean.
Parking: free street parking
Hours: none posted
Facilities: lifeguards (seasonal), restrooms and showers
Contact: Jacksonville Beach Recreation Department 1-904-247-6236