9 Unique Things To Do In Northeast Florida


Northeast Florida, also known as the First Coast, is home to many distinct and special places, activities, and restaurants. The area is simultaneously filled with history and natural wonders. For more on the beauty of Northeast Florida, check out these Instagrams everyone needs to follow. From spooky spots to fun activities for the whole family, it would be difficult to run out of unusual and incredible things to see and do. There are no worries of falling into a routine or growing bored in this area of the country.

If you’re looking to do something a little different and to have a great time doing it, here are nine unique things to do in Northeast Florida.


1. Fountain Of Youth

The Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is the original site of the Nation’s oldest city. According to legend, Ponce de Leon found a magical spring 500 years ago that gives youthfulness to those who drink from it and, oddly enough, apparently makes them taller. While this legend has never been officially proven, hundreds of tourists visit this spot every day. Take a fascinating, informative, and entertaining tour of the park and don’t forget to take a sip of the fountain.


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2. Amelia River Cruises

Want to see horses in the wild? Go on a tour with Amelia River Cruises. You’ll see around 160 feral horses who have been roaming around Cumberland Island, in Georgia, for centuries. It is just a short day trip from Amelia Island and, trust us, it’s worth it. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures.


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3. University Of Florida Bat Houses

The University of Florida Bat Houses are right across from Gainesville’s little Lake Alice. Next to the student garden, these bat houses look like oversized birdhouses, but they in fact house more than 300,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats. The houses were built in 1991 as a solution for the amount of bat feces that was stinking up the University’s campus. Watch at sundown as they fly from the houses at an amazingly fast rate to feed.


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4. Theatre Jacksonville

Theatre Jacksonville is the oldest continuously operating community theatre in the country. Open since 1919, the small theatre is consistently putting on entertaining productions you need to see to believe. Theatre Jax also offers theatre programs for kids and babies, along with summer and spring break camps. You can get involved with the theatre by volunteering, sponsoring, advertising, or donating to the organization.


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5. Dark Of The Moon

Climb to the top of the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse, visit the 1876 Keepers House, and check out the Nature Trails for the Dark of the Moon events. These haunted hotspots have been featured on the television show Ghost Hunters. The Ghost Tour gives you history and hauntings of the lighthouse, while the Investigation Only tour is 2.5-3 hours of investigation. Limited space is available so be sure to get your tickets in advance.


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6. The Happy Grilled Cheese Truck

The Happy Grilled Cheese Food Truck takes your favorite comfort food to the next level. The ‘No Hangover Melt’ features three different types of cheeses, mac and cheese, pulled pork, slaw and pickles. The ‘OMG Melt’ is made with mozzarella sticks and topped with a tomato soup drizzle. Have a sweet tooth? The ‘S’mores Melt’ contains chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, graham crumbles, and chocolate sauce. If you’re feeling crazy you can even add bacon.


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7. Ichetuckee Springs State Park

Go diving or relax in a giant tube and float through crystal clear waters at the popular Ichetuckee Springs State Park, located on the lazy spring-water of the Ichetuckee River. It’s only a short road trip from the city of Jacksonville. Between the months of May to September there is a free shuttle service that brings you from the north to south entrance of the park. You can float for 45 minutes to 3½ hours, as there are launch points all along the river.


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8. Annie Lytle Elementary School

The Annie Lytle Elementary School, also known as Public School No. 4 or Devil’s School, is another one of Northeast Florida’s supposed haunted sights. The abandoned structure is located off of the I-95. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there is some pretty interesting graffiti to check out. If you’re on the hunt for a unique photoshoot location, this is the perfect spot.


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9. Palace Saloon

The Palace Saloon on Amelia Island is as nostalgic as it gets. Open since 1878, it is the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state of Florida. When you first walk in, you’ll notice the 40-foot bar is lit by gas lamps, the drapes are made of velvet, and there are mosaic floors along with painted murals. It’s quite the throwback. Come for the ambiance and stay for the cocktails at this historic pre-Prohibition bar.


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Know Your Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments

General Election is Nov. 6, 2018

 When Floridians head to the polls in November, they will decide on candidates seeking seats in the U.S. Senate and House, the Florida Senate and House and the state executive branch, among others. They will also vote on 12 proposed constitutional amendments.

Three of the proposed amendments – Amendment 1, Amendment 2 and Amendment 5 – may impact property taxes. The amendments are written by lawyers and contain a lot of information that is not easy to decipher. Political observers say voters could get confused and even vote against their true preferences.

“We know these initiatives are of the highest importance to every citizen,” said President and CEO Christy Budnick, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. “Constitutional amendments play a pivotal role in the governance of our state. We encourage everyone to review all of the amendments so that you can make an informed decision on Election Day.”

To pass, each amendment must receive at least 60 percent approval by voters. The following are summaries of Amendments 1, 2 and 5, including the impact of a yes or no vote.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1 – Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption. Grants another $25,000 homestead exemption with the exception of school district taxes. Those with homes valued at $125,000 and above would receive the full $25,000 exemption. Those homes valued between $100,000 and $125,000 would receive a pro-rated benefit.

A YES vote on Amendment 1 would allow homeowners to deduct an additional $25,000 from the taxable value of a home worth more than $100,000, starting on Jan. 1, 2019. It would exclude local school taxes from the new exemption. It would likely result in cuts to services or higher local rates to make up for the revenue losses, or possibly both.

A NO vote on Amendment 1 would retain the current homestead tax exemptions, which total $50,000, and have no effect on the amount of tax revenue collected by city and county governments.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2 – Limitations on Property Tax Assessments. Makes permanent what is a temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacation homes, apartments and commercial property, effectively limiting increases on tax bills.

A YES vote on Amendment 2 would make permanent the 10 percent limit on increases in tax value for non-homestead property, thus reducing tax bills. It would continue to deny local governments (excluding school districts) tax revenue they would otherwise collect from rising property values.

A NO vote on Amendment 2 would end the practice of limiting tax increases on non-homestead property by limiting property-value increases to 10 percent. It could possibly lead to higher tax bills for non-homestead property, resulting in additional revenue to local governments of about $700 million, according to the state Revenue Estimating Conference.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 5 – Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize or Raise State Taxes or Fees. Requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve any new or increased taxes or fees, rather than a simple majority in a bill containing no other subjects.

A YES vote on Amendment 5 would require a two-thirds vote by the state House and Senate to increase existing taxes and fees or impose new ones. It would require that any new or increased taxes or fees be voted on in stand-alone bills, and would exclude local governments from any supermajority requirements if they choose to raise taxes or fees.

A NO vote on Amendment 5 would allow the Legislature to continue approving increased or new taxes and fees through a simple majority vote, and bundling tax and fee increases with bills that include other measures.

“It is our personal responsibility to weigh each of the amendments objectively before heading to the polls.” said Founder and Chairman Linda Sherrer, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. “Be informed by reviewing all amendments and then make your voice heard by voting on Nov. 6.”

For more information, visit www.BeReadyToVote.org/Constitutional-Amendments.



  1. Clip Art
  2. Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments
  3. BHHSFNR logo 

Copy of artwork image #2:


Three Proposed Amendments

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1

Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2

Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

Proposed Constitutional Amendment 5

Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize or Raise State Taxes or Fees

6 Reasons To Move To Jacksonville


Are you thinking about a move to Jacksonville? In this post, we’ll break down the favorite reasons people decide to relocate to Jacksonville, and why the locals love calling it home.

It’s filled with fun in the sun, great amenities, good people and is picturesque, as these Instagram accounts prove. Jacksonville is a large city and a regional business center, located where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Popular recreational leisure activities include swimming, surfing, and golf. The later is solidified by the fact that the city is home to championship golf courses and the headquarters of the PGA Tour. It’s a relaxing yet fun city, and thousands of people from all walks of life are settling down in the area.

Here are six of the many reasons you should move to Jacksonville, Florida.


1. The weather is unbeatable.


jacksonville weather

The average temperature in Jacksonville are highs of 66 in January to highs of 92 in July, meaning it’s beautiful all year round. And it only rains about 32 inches per year.

A study from Stanford University states; “Sunshine provides the body with vitamin D, which is essential for bone development, as well as skin rejuvenation. It is through the vitamin D that the skin generates enough melanin to handle hot weather, and protect skin cells from UV light. The warm weather also makes work easier for body systems and functions, as the body does not have to strain to accomplish required tasks from within.”

Ultimately, being in better weather helps our brains and our bodies become healthier, which in turn makes us happier.


2. It’s all about the location (and the beaches).


jacksonville beaches

Jacksonville is filled with beaches, making it the tropical paradise you always dreamed of living in. This means there’s no shortage of great place to call home.

Some of the popular beaches are:

  • American Beach, a historical spot located in Amelia Island.
  • Atlantic Beach, a charming coastal community.
  • Fernandina Beach at the Northern tip of the Florida coast.  
  • Neptune Beach, boasting crystal clear waters.
  • Jacksonville Beach, where you can fish on the pier.

Jacksonville is also central to the Southeast, making it easy to road trip to other places from Jacksonville. The amenities in the city offer residents everything they could need and want out of a home base.

Jacksonville scored an A+ in regards to amenities, including grocery stores, schools, and public transit. If you’re a fan of hitting the gym or are planning on working on your fitness regime, there are many places to get fit in the area.


3. There’s so much to do in Jacksonville.


things to do in jacksonville

The dining and entertainment in Jacksonville are in a league of their own. From concert venues to recognized restaurants, there’s something for everyone. With an eclectic food scene and delicious, with new must-try restaurants popping up all the time, it’s no wonder people love calling this place home.


Favorite attractions include the Mandarin Museum, the Museum of Science and History, the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, and Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. If you’re into golf, there’s the Bent Creek Golf Course, Panther Creek Golf Club, and Hyde Park Golf Club. And the parks in the area are plentiful, like Jesse Ball Dupont Park, Pope Duval Park, and Crystal Springs Park.


4. The city is growing.


growing cities

From a population and employment standpoint, Jacksonville is growing at a rapid rate. The population growth is at 1.76%, job growth at 2.55%, and wage growth coming it at 2.18%. The housing market is healthy, with many neighborhoods continuing to develop throughout the year. Many new builds and communities are coming to fruition in the area, which is good news for homebuyers.  

According to the Census Bureau, Jacksonville is continually attracting new residents. There are 11,169 more residents in the city than there was a year earlier. Jacksonville is now ranked 13th on the list of the 15 large U.S. cities with the largest numerical population increases during that period.


5. Jacksonville boasts a low cost of living.


low cost of living

The cost of living in Jacksonville is low, making it a safe bet economically. In the state of Florida, the taxes are favorable too; there is no state income tax, no estate tax, and no inheritance tax. Social Security retirement benefits, pension income, and income from an IRA or a 401(k) are all untaxed. When it comes to property and sales tax rates, they’re on par with the national averages.

Living in Jacksonville is cheaper than the United States average. Saving money on rent, mortgage payments, and on your taxes is reason enough to pack up your bags and settle down in Jacksonville.


6. It’s a great place for people of all ages.  


great for all ages

From kids to retirees, Jacksonville is home to people from all walks of life. Regardless of age, the city is welcoming and offers everything you would want for your children along with everything you would need during your retirement years.

It’s a family-friendly city, with many seasonal activities parents and children can both enjoy. If you’ve recently graduated from college, there are many neighborhoods in the city for you to choose from to begin the next chapter in your life. Young professionals are moving into numerous suburbs throughout Jacksonville, due to the growth within the city’s job market. When it comes to retiring, Northeast Florida is one of the most beautiful places in the world to relax and enjoy your stress-free years. A lot of neighborhoods in the city are ideal for retirees.  

STOP. THINK. CONNECT – Security Awareness Tip: Think Before You Click

Cyber security risks are real, whether you are traveling new or far. Familiarize yourself with these simple tips to stay safe online.

Think before you click.

  • Use caution when downloading or clicking on any unknown links.
  • Delete emails that are suspicious or are from unknown sources.
  • Review and understand the details of an application before installing.

Guard your mobile device.

  • To prevent theft and unauthorized access or loss of sensitive information, never leave your mobile devices–including any USB or external storage devices–unattended in a public place.

Keep your devices secured in taxis, at airports, on airplanes, and in your hotel room.

One of Us: Christy Budnick

Special Feature in the Ponte Vedra Recorder.

An Atlantic Beach resident, Christy Budnick is the president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. Recently appointed to the position, Budnick is succeeding her mother and the company’s founder, Linda Sherrer, who is continuing as the chairman of the firm.

Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I joined the company in 2002 as branch manager of the company’s Beaches office and was promoted to executive vice president of residential real estate in 2006. Prior to joining the firm, I worked for Bank of America as its vice president of sales and leadership training, where my team and I traveled the country working with the consumer finance division.

What’s it mean to you to have been named president and CEO?
It really isn’t about the title; it’s about the vote of confidence from my mother, our team and the community at large. That meant the world to me. I am honored and humbled to continue the legacy that Linda has built.

You’re assuming the role your mother has held since 1988. What have you learned most from her?
Growing up in a real estate family in which my mother began here career as a single mother of two daughters, we had a front row seat to her work ethic. From my earliest memories, I remember just how hard my mother worked and that made a huge impression on me and molded who I am. Fast forward to working with her as an adult, I’ve learned to lead with my heart, to always do the right thing since your integrity means everything and to take the time to celebrate every success, big or little and preferably in costume, with a hat!

What are your goals for the company?
Our overarching goals haven’t changed a bit. They are:
1) To create a platform for success for our Realtors and employees. Our goal is to remove obstacles for our agents, allowing them to spend their time creating and maintaining relationships. This also allows them to achieve harmony in their work and home life, which, as a family-run operation, we believe is very important.
2) To create a seamless, one-stop shopping environment for our clients so that we maximize their time and savings, creating an overall better client experience. We recognize how busy our clients are and their desire to be able to handle contract to mortgage to closing under one roof, and we are proud to provide that service.
3) To be a good corporate citizen. We love Northeast Florida and appreciate all that this city has done for us, and we feel that it is extremely important that we give back. For every closing, we make a donation to Dreams Come True, a local organization that provides “dreams” to children battling life-threatening illnesses. Over the last five years, we have donated over $175,000 to this worthy organization. Additionally, we buy, collect, stuff and deliver hundreds of backpacks every year to ensure children begin the school year on the right foot. Then there are countless other charities we support; our team has such a huge heart and we love them for that!

What’s the future of the real estate market in Jacksonville? How is it changing?
Northeast Florida has a bright future in real estate. While we have seen 5 to 10 percent appreciation in nearly every area over the last several years, as interest rates tick up and builder product helps to fill the inventory void, we feel that the market will achieve a steadier growth rate of 3 to 5 percent, which is sustainable and more “normal.” This will be good for buyers and sellers alike. Some sellers are worried about selling because they feel their buying choices are limited since inventory is so tight. It will also be good for buyers because there will be slightly more inventory to choose from and fewer multiple offer situations, which drive prices up, pricing some buyers out of the market.

What’s your best advice for buyers and sellers in the local real estate market?
It really is a perfect time for both buyers and sellers for the reasons I mentioned above. For sellers, inventory is limited, which means if their home is priced well, in good condition and in a location that is desirable they will likely sell quickly and very close to asking price. It’s a great time to sell. For buyers, although home inventory is limited, builders are bringing more product, which means more choices. With rising interest rates, buyers who may be priced out of the market by a rate hike need to make their wish list and begin the buying process, which, on an existing home, typically takes 60 to 90 days minimum from finding the perfect home to closing.

What do you enjoy most about living on the First Coast?
I’ve lived in six different areas in Northeast Florida since I was 9 years old and have seen so much positive change. I love that we have the benefits of the ocean, the river and the Intracoastal and the outdoor life that comes with all of our waterways. I am so grateful that we are an NFL city. I feel that the Jacksonville Jaguars put our city on the map and we no longer have to answer the question, “So, where exactly is Jacksonville?” when talking with people from outside the area. Between having an NFL team, the PGA Tour headquarters, the oldest city in the nation and a large military presence, we are privileged to call this city home. We are also fortunate to have such a strong medical presence with Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and UF Health, the only Level 1 trauma program in Northeast Florida or Southeast Georgia. Each of these businesses bring notoriety to our area as well as transferees, further strengthening our economy. The icing on the cake is that we live in sunny Florida but benefit from a change of season, which our neighbors to the south of us can’t say. I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

What do you do when you are not at work?
When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family on the beach, riding bicycles, playing golf or enjoying time with friends or grandparents. We are so fortunate to have both sets of grandparents within a few blocks of our home in Atlantic Beach. We also love to travel, and some people think it is funny that my mother and I live one block away from one another, work together and vacation together, but that’s just the way we like it! Thankfully our husbands agree!

Edited by Jon Blauvelt

STOP. THINK. CONNECT – Security Awareness Tip: Think Before You Connect

The more we travel, the more important it is to be aware of the cyber security risks. Familiarize yourself with these simple tips to stay safe online.

Think before you connect.

  • Before you connect to any public wireless hotspot – like on an airplane or in an airport, hotel, train/bus station or café – be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate.
  • Do not conduct sensitive activities, such as online shopping, banking, or sensitive work, using a public wireless network.

Only use sites that begin with “https://” when online shopping or banking.

STOP. THINK. CONNECT – Know Before You Go

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, follow these simple tips to stay safe online.

Before You Go

Update your mobile software.

  • Treat your mobile device like your home or work computer.
  • Keep your operating system software and apps updated, which will improve your device’s ability to defend against malware.

Back up your information.

  • Back up your contacts, photos, videos and other mobile device data with another device or cloud service.

Keep it locked.

  • Get into the habit of locking your device when you are not using it. Even if you only step away for a few minutes, that is enough time for someone to steal or destroy your information. Use strong PINs and passwords.

While You Are There

Stop auto connecting. Disable remote connectivity and Bluetooth. Some devices will automatically seek and connect to available wireless networks. And Bluetooth enables your device to connect wirelessly with other devices, such as headphones or automobile infotainment systems. Disable these features so that you only connect to wireless and Bluetooth networks when you want to.


Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty is pleased to welcome April Benton Tischer to the Fleming Island/Orange Park office.

April, a lifelong Northeast Florida resident, joins Florida Network Realty as a newly-licensed Realtor and is beginning the fulfillment of a twenty-plus year goal. What April most looks forward to about being a Realtor is helping people identify the optimum home for their lifestyle and needs, and helping to make their home-buying experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.

Before becoming a Realtor, April had a long and successful career as an instructor and administrator in the disciplines of Science, Technology, and Adult Education for Florida State College at Jacksonville and Clay County School District. During her time in education, April excelled in improving the design and delivery of education for adult learners and managing process improvement and communications.

April has a life-long bucket list, and she is excited to experience these new adventures with her family and friends. Her bucket list includes hiking the Appalachian Trail, kissing her husband in front of the Eiffel Tower, living in Alaska, learning how to snow ski, appearing in the cast of a community theater production, and speaking to Florida’s legislature about the positive generational effects of adult literacy education.

“I am very excited to welcome April to the Fleming Island office of Florida Network Realty. April’s desire to help others is evident from the first time you meet her – and her goals and morals align completely with Florida Network Realty’s guiding principles. With this attitude and determination, I’m sure she will succeed in her career as a Realtor,” shares Linda Benson, Broker/Manager of the Fleming Island/Orange Park office.

For more information, April can be reached by phone at 904.477.0834 or at April.BentonTischer@FloridaNetworkRealty.com and website: AprilSellsHomes.us. The Fleming Island/Orange Park office is located at 3535 Highway 17, Suite 10, Fleming Island, FL 32003.

Security Tips While Traveling

The more we travel and access the Internet on the go, the more cyber risks we face. Follow these simple tips to stay safe online when traveling.

Unsecured wireless networks.moving to florida

  • While public wireless networks provide great convenience, they are unsecure and can allow cyber criminals access to your Internet-enabled devices. Beyond the typical public wireless networks found at airports, restaurants, hotels, and cafes, they are increasingly available in other places, such as on airplanes and in public parks.
    Publicly accessible computers.
  • Hotel business centers, libraries, and cyber cafes provide computers that anyone can use. However, travelers cannot trust that these computers are secure. They may not be running the latest operating systems or have updated anti-virus software. Cyber criminals may have infected these machines with malicious viruses or install malicious software. One example is keylogger malware which, when installed, captures the key strokes of the computer’s users and sending this information to criminals via email. Through this malware, criminals are able to receive users’ personal information, such as name, credit card numbers, birthdates, and passwords.
    Physical theft of devices.
  • Thieves often target travelers. Meal times are optimum times for thieves to check hotel rooms for unattended laptops. If you are attending a conference or trade show, be especially wary — these venues offer thieves a wider selection of devices that are likely to contain sensitive information, and the conference sessions offer more opportunities for thieves to access guest rooms.


Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty is pleased to welcome Benjaman Bliss to the Beaches/Intracoastal West and Southside office.

Originally from New England, but a Northeast Florida local for over a decade, Ben joins Florida Network Realty with a strong business and athletics background, having worked as an Events Project Manager in the Sports Media Technology industry for the past three years.

As a Project Manager, Ben was responsible for maintaining positive relationships between local vendors and the PGA, CBS Sports, and more. Monitoring timelines, defining clear targets and goals to be met, and coordinating meetings on site between team members and vendors – located in multiple destinations around the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, and South Korea – has not only given Ben a strong base for success as a Realtor, it also made this transition a natural next step.

Ben is currently a travel baseball and strength coach in the area, and he has also previously worked as the Assistant Coordinator and Head Baseball Coach of the St. Augustine Baseball Club. An avid outdoorsman, Benjaman is also an expert alpine skier.

“Benjaman will make a great addition to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty team! With his background and business and focus and dedication to his goals, he is sure to excel here. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard,” shares Don Cline, Assistant General Manager and Broker/Manager of the Beaches/Intracoastal West and Southside office.

For more information, Ben (or Benjaman) can be reached by phone at 954.593.4851 or at Benjaman.Bliss@FloridaNetworkRealty.com and website: BenBlissRealtor.com. The Beaches/Intracoastal West and Southside office is located at 375-1 Atlantic Boulevard, Atlantic Beach, Florida 32233