Family Fun On Florida’s First Coast

Jacksonville, Florida is known as Florida’s First Coast.  The name “First Coast” is a reference to the first permanent settlement in St. Augustine, which lies within its boundaries and it is the “First Coast” within the state of Florida that one would encounter while traveling southbound along the Atlantic Ocean.  Surprisingly enough, Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the United States!  With the Atlantic coast beaches and 35 miles of the St. Johns river meandering throughout the city, outdoor activities are abundant.  There are several options for families to play together, share adventures, and make memories in Jacksonville.  Here are just a few of my favorites!

1. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is located on Anastasia Island and it is the site of Florida’s first lighthouse and one of only six in the state that is open to the public. Visitors can climb 219 steps to the top for a beautiful view of the ancient city and surrounding waterways. The museum features interactive exhibits that tell the story of the lighthouse and it’s keepers. The kiddos will have loads of fun in the shipyard play area.

2. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

Once a part of CSX Transportation railway, this area is now 14.5 miles of a multipurpose public trail.  It is used for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and rollerblading.  Several types of natural habitats such wetlands, water, fields, and forests appear along the trail.  A very dense canopy of trees covers most of the trail which provides shade on sunny days.

3. Tree Hill Nature Center

Tree Hill is a 50-acre non-profit wildlife preserve.  The park offers hiking trails, guided nature tours, a natural history museum, a 250-seat amphitheater, picnic areas, a butterfly house, hummingbird garden and live animal exhibits.There are two hiking trails, a one-mile trail and a one-and-a-half mile trail.  The self-guided trails are clearly marked with informational markers on the way.

4. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

This 450-acre oceanfront park features a one-and-a-half-mile long beach, nature trails, wooded campsites, picnic areas, and 60 acres of freshwater fishing lakes.  Activities include swimming, sailing, fishing, surfing, kayaking, paddle boating, canoeing, hiking, and biking.  A children’s water playground is open in spring and summer. This park certainly provides hours of fun for the entire family!

5. Recess & Results

Don’t feel like venturing out too far on a given day?  Why not host a Recess & Results session and invite your friends and families.  Children (and even adults) are encouraged to play a variety of games and get fit while having fun!  A certified instructor comes to you with lots of enthusiasm and all of the play equipment.  A fun time will be had by all!

Guest blog written by Suzanne Vierling, a Recess & Results certified instructor and owner in the Jacksonville area.