Strange as it may sound, Florida will always hold a special place in my heart. I did my undergraduate at Florida State University in glorious Tallahassee, then spent a few years at home in Jacksonville. Most of my closest friends are from Florida, and somehow I manage to make new Florida friends wherever I go. I spent a week over the holidays exploring and appreciating the little beach town I grew to love. Jacksonville is actually quite massive, so I’m focusing on one sliver. It’s the place where I spent most of my time—the beach. I spent a lot of my two years at home eating, shopping and drinking all around Jax Beach. The community was easy going, friendly and simple. Here is a little guide I pieced together of some of my favorite spots! Enjoy this little peek into my Jax Beach life.
Photos of Jax Beach, by Me.
Since eating is my favorite part of the day, I’ll start with it first.
Breakfast: My go-to’s are First Watch, Delicomb, Beach Diner, Metro Diner, Another Broken Egg Cafe and Vitality Bowls. I like my breakfast quick, healthy and easy. Unfortunately, I can’t eat gluten, but if you’re not a sucker like me, you should definitely go to Maple Street Biscuit Company. Order the “Sticky Maple” — a fresh biscuit topped with fried chicken, pickles and maple syrup. YUM. The food network recommends the “Squawking Goat” but I can’t eat that either. It’s not all about me though, so go ahead and order it if you’re a fan of goat cheese! My mom and sister love it. I mean, LOOK AT IT…
Lunch: So many choices, so little time! Some of my personal favorites include Taco Lu, Sun Deli, Safe Harbor and The Blind Rabbit. If you have to choose one, it’s Taco Lu. Try the “Bangin Shrimp” taco, because the hype lives up to the name. The jalapeño margarita is also an absolute delight. Who says you can’t have a Margarita at lunch? You’re on vacation!!
Dinner: For the grand finale, I recommend Palm Valley Fish Camp (or North Beach Fish Camp), Valley Smoke, Hawkers Asian Street Fare, and The Flying Iguana Taqueria and Tequila Bar. I’m biased towards Palm Valley, because I waitressed there for a bit. Bias aside, it’s truly amazing—the setting is small and cozy, right on the inlet. The chefs are top notch and serve decadent specials every day. The seafood is fresh and what better cuisine to eat when you’re in Florida? Everything on the menu is amazing, but make sure you leave room for desert. The bread pudding is to die for. I can’t eat gluten or dairy anymore but I’d GLADLY take a large bite of this mouthwatering dish. :P Valley Smoke is another restaurant owned by the same couple, but this one features real good southern barbecue. Think smokey meats that fall off the bone and the whiskey wall of your dreams. Plus, they bring you a basket of homemade sauces for your entree. Ya girl LOVES sauce, so sign me up.
What is it about sunshine and the beach that makes you want to drink copious amounts of cold beer and fruity cocktails? Asking for a friend!!
Lemon Bar: For the ultimate beach vibe, Lemon bar is your spot. It’s a seasonal outdoor bar located right on the beach. The drinks are cheap, the vibe is nice and the breeze is delightful.
Hoptinger: This one is probably my favorite—it has a classier vibe than most of the Jax Beach bars. They take their beer selection very seriously and have a great menu for snacking as well. There’s a full liquor bar for those non-gluten folks like myself. The best part? Live music!
Surfer [the bar]: This spot is super bro-ey, but it’s also real cute. Surfer Magazine opened this bar a few years ago in place of one of the best music venues in Jacksonville. I was sad to see the original venue go, but happy this fun spot is in it’s place.
Green Room Brewing: If you like playing games while you drink—you’re in for a treat. This tasty microbrewery has an entire game room in the back, including giant Connect Four and a ping pong table. They’ll even let you bring in your own food. :P
Lynch’s Irish Pub: This bar is kind of the worst and kind of the best. It’s one of those trashy, divey Irish bars with dollar bills all over the ceiling. The reason everyone loves it so much? It’s a damn good time. They have some of the best live music on the beach and you will most definitely be dancing.
I love me some nature, but sometimes it’s fun to just browse the local shops and spend too much money. Happy to help!
Inguz: This cute beachy boutique fits perfectly into the Jax Beach aesthetic. First of all, the store is beautifully curated and there’s even a tasty coffee bar to enjoy while you shop! Cara Monte, the owner, is a delightful human with impeccable taste. The boutique sells mostly Aussie labels, with a very simple, minimal and boho vibe. Beware, you will want to spend all of your money. :P
Jaffi’s Boutique: This shop is a hit or a miss for me. Sometimes they have some great basics and fun sales! It’s worth a peep, especially since it’s right around the corner from Drift.
Drift Boutique: This is another beach favorite, with many bohemian labels coming from California & Australia. Based in Neptune Beach, it’s a fun stop while exploring this cute little neighborhood. They even have frosé on tap to sip while you shop! Yum.
Cottage by the Sea: If you love antiques and one-of-a-kind kitchy beach finds, this place is for you. I once found a gorgeous vintage table cloth with a map of Florida that my mom hung on a canvas for me. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Sea Shells and Coral: Honestly, I like the outside of this store even more than the inside. It’s hot pink & super beachy—great photo opp. The store itself is your classic tourist shop. I don’t support all of the plastic and unnecessary items, but some of the shells and pukka necklaces are kind of cute. If you’re looking for a beach souvenir or a towel & sunscreen, this is the spot!
Beam Thrift: If you’re like me, you love sifting through thrift stores. You know the game—you might not always find something, but the dig can be fun! This thrift shop has been a success for me in the past. It’s massive, so either have patience or go with some pieces in mind. Good luck!
Sunrise Surf Shop: The perfect little shop for all your surfing, skating & sunning needs.!
Now that you’ve eaten, drank & shopped, I’m sure you’re wondering what else there is to do. Plenty! The great thing about Jacksonville is it’s location. It’s close to the Georgia boarder, where you can explore places such as Amelia and Fernandina Island. In just two hours you can be in Savannah! Here are a few of my favorite adventures to go on and places to explore…
1. Go for a walk! This is probably the most obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Whenever I’m home, I love to go for walks on the beach or around the small streets. There are so many cute beach homes worth drooling over. Walk along Ponte Vedra Beach for a real treat (mansions on mansions)!
2. Big Talbot Island. This is my absolute favorite place to visit in Jax. It’s about a 45 minute drive, almost in Georgia, so definitely take a day to explore. This semi-secluded beach is covered in fallen trees. It’s pretty other-worldly honestly—it feels like a scene out of Jurassic park. I usually bring a hammock to string between the trees, but it’s just as fun to climb around and lay on the big branches! If you have the time, this adventure shouldn’t be skipped.
3. Kingsley Plantation. This is an old plantation home close to Big Talbot, so make a whole day out of it! The house is classically southern and the grounds have some pretty cool ruins to explore.
4. Bike on the beach. At low tide, Jax beach is HUGE. The sand is also really flat and perfect for a fun beach bike ride. Obviously, I have my own so I’m not too familiar but there are definitely spots to rent! Stop at Lemon Bar for a post-ride drink. :)
5. Cruise down A1A. This road is the quintessential Florida drive. Follow the coast all the way down to Saint Augustine—another cute town to explore! Stop by Caps on the way for food, or Guana Beach Reserve for a gorgeous open beach covered in sea shells. Search long enough and you might spot a shark tooth. :P
Photos by Me.
I’m sure I left some places out, but this guide took me a while and my fingers hurt. It’s time to hop off the screen. If you have any more questions or are looking for specific suggestions, comment below! <3