Local Getaways/Day Trips in Jacksonville, FL
North Florida and South Georgia’s coastal lands are some of the most picturesque you’ll ever see. And the best views are from above. Fernandina Beach’s Sky Coast Adventures offers helicopter tours covering some 30 miles of beautiful beaches, marshlands, forests, charming seaside towns and historic sites. See spectacular aerial views include the Cumberland Sound, Cumberland Island, Amelia Island and Tiger Island. Catch glimpses of the wild Cumberland ponies galloping down the coast, the formidable Fort Clinch, and dozens of working shrimp boats lining the Atlantic shore. With changing lights, tides and movements of wildlife below, no two Sky Coast tours are the same. A favorite: the Double Date Exclusive Tour for couples traveling together. Make a night of it with a stay at the luxurious Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort or one of multiple historic bed-and-breakfast inns.
Take a walk on the wild side with a trip to the White Oak Conservation Center, one of the world’s premiere wildlife breeding, research and training facilities. Nestled along the St. Mary’s River in Northeast Florida, White Oak spans 600 acres hidden by 6,800 acres of pine and hardwood forests and wetlands. There, in areas painstakingly designed to resemble their native habitats, you’ll find a menagerie of animals including Florida panthers, Eastern bongos, Indian rhinos and Nile lechwe, antelope-like animals found only in the Sudan and Ethiopia. Take a two-hour tour or spend a full, interactive day with the Keeper for a Day program or animal training sessions. If you’re a true animal lover, you might even leave with a new career goal in mind.
The Ancient City has a slew of attractions and activities for tourists and locals alike. If you’re a serious wine connoisseur or just a casual cork dork, you’ll definitely want to hit the San Sebastian Winery while visiting St. Augustine. It’s housed in one of Henry Flagler’s old Florida East Coast Railway buildings just outside the historic district, less than an hour’s drive from Jacksonville – and appropriately so. Historians contend that St. Augustine is the true birthplace of American wine, dating back to 1562. In that same spirit, San Sebastian today is considered a pioneer in the development of table, sparkling and dessert wines from hybrid and muscadine grapes. Tours of the 18,000-square-foot facility and wine tastings are offered seven days a week. Wrap your weekend daytrip to St. Augustine by lounging, sipping and listening to live jazz music at San Sebastian’s Cellar Upstairs.
If the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life has got you coming unhinged, it’s time to get back to the basics. For Jaxons (as Jacksonville residents are known), there’s no better place to reclaim your sanity than in the serenity of the woodland. Diamond D Ranch offers horseback rides deep into the beautiful, 23,000-acre Jennings State Forest lasting from two hours to two days. A favorite for those wanting a quick breather is the half-day trail ride and picnic. But if you’re in need of some serious me-time, opt for the two-day pack trip. Ride the trails, experience crossing Yellow Water and Black Creek on horseback, and camp out beneath the stars or sleep inside the hay barn. By the time you return to civilization, you’ll be recharged, refreshed and ready to take on anything.
Once a private playground for the nation’s wealthy elite, Cumberland Island today remains a place of seclusion and serenity. It’s accessible only by a ferry that docks in nearby St. Marys, Georgia and is inhabited primarily by wildlife, including turkeys, white tail deer, bobcats and otters, along with just a handful of families descended from the earliest property owners. But the most loved of the locals are the feral ponies that wander the live oak forests, marshland and beach. A tour of the island takes also takes you to the burned out ruins of Dungeness, a mansion built as a winter retreat for members of the Carnegie family. An hour’s drive and a ferry ride from Jacksonville, Cumberland Island is a favorite spot for wildlife watching, star gazing and short-term camping.