Jacksonville’s prime location in North Florida offers easy access to numerous incredible spots around the state. You can see so many different towns, state parks, and beaches, without driving for longer than a few hours outside of the city. Fill up your gas tank, pack your snacks, and get ready to hit the road. Here are ten short road trips to take from Jacksonville.
1. Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs, a privately owned park in Gilchrist County, is less than two hours away from the city of Jacksonville. The waters are cool and crystal-clear, not to mention ideal for divers as they are filled with extensive caverns to explore. Get away from the city and snorkel, swim, or lazily float around the scenic blue springs. Your first visit to Ginnie Springs won’t be your last.
Two hours south of Jacksonville is where you’ll find Ocala, a city filled with natural attractions. In the Ocala National Forest, you can paddle in Juniper Run or visit the swimming holes in Silver Glen Springs. There’s even the opportunity to go horseback riding in Silver Springs State Park. This historic place was an important site during the Second Seminole War and there are pre-Columbian artifacts at the Appleton Museum of Art.
3. Amelia Island
Amelia Island is only 30 miles north of Jacksonville. It’s home to The Palace Soon, the oldest longest operating saloon in the state of Florida. There are also many art galleries and locally owned boutiques in the area. The downtown area is incredibly historic and you can tour it on the Amelia Island trolley. It’s a place where life moves more slowly, and a great quick getaway if you want to unwind.
4. Blue Springs State Park
Only a two-hour drive from Jacksonville, Blue Springs State Park is just west or Orange City and stretches across more than 2,600 acres. The 72-degree waters of the largest spring on the St. John’s River are perfect for swimming, kayaking, or paddling. Take in the natural landscapes and the famous West Indian manatees from the boardwalk or from boat tours that are offered throughout the area.
Palatka is an hour south of Jacksonville. A charming cultural city filled with homes and churches that were built in the 1800s, you can partake in the Palatka Mural Tour in order to see all the architecture and art that showcase the area’s rich history. Drive or bike through the Ravine Gardens State Park to check out the large ravines that are up to 120 feet deep and the 59-acre gardens.
6. Ichetucknee Springs
It’s a short trip to Ichetucknee Springs, an area only 90 minutes away from Jacksonville. The state park is the right place to go to if you’re looking for some outdoor recreation. Set up a picnic under the area’s old trees, check out the wildlife, snorkel the clear water of the springs, tube on the river, take a refreshing swim in the cool waters, or go canoeing. It’s a quiet area to spend the day relaxing.
7. Ponce Inlet
Enjoy some fun in the sun at the Ponce Inlet, less than two hours from Jacksonville near Daytona Beach. The beaches are picturesque, the shoreline is filled with beautiful colorful shells, and the waves are surf-worthy. The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the state of Florida. Climb the 203 steps up to the top to be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the entire area.
8. Winter Park
Winter Park is two hours south from Jacksonville. The city is filled with outdoor spaces that are not to be missed, including the Mead Botanical Gardens, Central Park, the Harry P. Leu Gardens, and Rose Garden. If you want to learn more about the local culture of the area, visit the Winter Park Historical Museum and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.
Gainesville is just an hour and a half outside of Jacksonville. Home to the University of Florida, this college town is filled with state parks and natural attractions. There is so much to see and do in Gainesville, including the 62-acre Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, the live butterflies at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and the sinkholes in Devil’s Millhopper State Park.
10. Big Talbot Island
20-miles east of Jacksonville is Big Talbot Island, an ecologically diverse and beautiful state park. Have a picnic at the water’s edge of The Bluffs or check out the wild birds that populate Sarabay. Don’t skip out on Boneyard Beach, named for the tree skeletons on the shore that are sun-bleached and salt-washed. It costs $2 to fish on the pier and $3 for vehicle access to the park.