"Jacksonville Beach, Florida" Jacksonville Beach by HSC123
Jacksonville Beach Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 134 photos
Just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville sits San Pablo Island, a long barrier island containing a string of funky, laid-back and cosmopolitan beach communities known collectively as the Jacksonville Beaches. The most populous of these towns, Jacksonville Beach (also known as "Jax Beach") attracts most of the tourists and lots of "townies" from across the Intracoastal Waterway for a variety of reasons. Families come for the wide and highly accessible beach, the abundance of family-friendly restaurants, and the fun games and water flumes of Adventure Landing (a popular water park and amusement complex located near the Intracoastal). Fishermen come to take advantage of the long ocean pier while surfers come to catch the wave breaks caused by that pier--and get their gear from local surf shops. Of course, there are also those wishing to see and be seen, who come to flaunt themselves on the area's most crowded stretch of sand, party at the festivals, and imbibe in rowdy bars.
At the town's active center is the oceanfront Seawalk Pavillion ampitheatre, and Latham Plaza, a manicured greenspace located across the street. Together they provide a recreational focal point surrounded by numerous restaurants, nightspots and hotels. Throughout the year both venues host popular festivals that celebrate foods, cultures and music including George's Music Springing in the Blues Festival, Florida's largest outdoor free blues concert.
In terms of its natural attraction, Jax Beach, like its neighboring communities, boasts a beautiful wide strand of soft sand fronted by sea oats and sand dunes. Fortunately, the past couple decades have also seen the town itself get a dramatic facelift. Birthplace of today's insanely popular and frequently parodied "Salt Life" clothing and bumper sticker marketing phenomenon, Jacksonville Beach has certainly come a long way since the 1990's. Once a victim of urban neglect that was becoming a bit of an embarrassment to locals, today the beach town is a thriving hub of activity with numerous boutique and surf shops, casual beach-inspired restaurants, fine dining establishments, family-friendly chain hotels, and not-too-tall high-rise condos lining coastal route A1A and the oceanfront. The city even now has a noticeably distinctive collection of "beachy" and eclectic architecture styles that even caught the eye of HGTV. In 2013, the network chose a Jacksonville Beach neighborhood as the site of its first "Smart House."
Like in its neighboring beach towns, surfing is a huge part of Jax Beach culture. A few blocks north of the Seawalk area, the Jacksonville Beach Pier creates enticing wave breaks for the hang ten crowd and great fishing for rod and reel Salt Lifers. Furthermore, the pier gives pedestrians a remarkable view of the coast and oceanfront skyline from as far as a quarter mile offshore!
Visitors should note that South Jax Beach and North Jax Beach boast the town's quietest and most family-friendly stretches of sand. In contrast, the popular entertainment and special events area surrounding Latham Plaza and the Seawalk (basically bounded by Beach Blvd. to the south, the pier to the north, Second St. to the west, and the beach to the east), is where the "ready to party" people flock to restaurants, bars, and live entertainment during the weekends and where some lacking a place to call home even assume residence when the crowds are away.
Three blocks west of the ocean, running the length of Jax Beach is Third Street, also known as A1A. This is the main artery that connects Atlantic, Neptune, Jax and Ponte Vedra beaches and is lined with a broad assortment of restaurants, retailers, fast food joints, and other businesses that serve the needs of residents and visitors alike.
Overall, the Jax Beach dining scene is very diverse with many interesting restaurants from which to choose. The mix includes popular local spots like the Salt Life Food Shack, Sneakers Sports Grill (which boasts giant-sized television screens and a museum-esque collection of sports memorabilia), Casa Marina, and Campeche Bay Mexican Cantina, along with a plethora of national chains like Joe's Crab Shack, Mellow Mushroom, Roy's, Bonefish Grill, Outback, Carrabba's, Chili's, and Applebee's. Freebird Live, owned by relatives of an original Lynyrd Skynyrd band member, is a popular live music club across the street from the ampitheater, where nationally touring rock and reggae bands perform.
While Jax Beach has certainly become more sophisticated over the years, it's a laid back, swimsuit and flip flops kind of place that is still far from being pretentious.
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