Local Getaways/Day Trips in Jacksonville, FL
There are luxury spas, and then there is the Cloister Spa and Fitness Center at Sea Island. This Forbes five-star rated resort spa offers 65,000 square feet of sumptuous amenities and one of the world’s finest treatment programs. Personalized spa treatments are designed based on ancient wisdoms and modern advancements in skincare, massage and relaxation, much of which draws from the sea. A top pick is the Sea Creations facial treatment, which includes a smooth seashell and essence of sea algae massage. Or go for the full body Sea Island Collection treatment, a customized body exfoliation and massage with your choice of aroma blends including Indian jasmine, Moroccan rose or Italian blood orange. Make a day of it with a workout and a meditative walk in the circular labyrinth. Or make a full weekend of it with a stay at the historic Cloister hotel, Lodge or cottages.
Ever dream of running away and catching the first boat out to a deserted island? It’s possible – for a while anyway – with a stay on Eagle Island. This 10-acre private island vacation rental nestled in the Georgia marshland offers days of seclusion in a gorgeous, 3,343-square-foot rustic lodge that sleeps 12. Bring your entourage or opt for a romantic stay with your sweetheart. Eagle Island is accessible only by boat. Owner Capt. Andy Hill will drop you off for the day, the weekend or the week, and pick you up for mainland excursions or trips to the grocery store. But we’re betting you won’t want to leave the island. Eagle Lodge boasts a 1,500-square-foot screened porch with hot tub and fireplace, a fully equipped chef’s kitchen DIRECTV and wireless Internet. It’s located near St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, less than an hour and a half from Jacksonville.
Just outside of Ocala, a two-hour drive from Jacksonville is the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, a nature and zoological park with a tourism history that dates back to the Civil War. Shortly after the War Between the States ended, tourists flocked to the Sunshine State in droves. A mandatory stop on the "grand tour" of Florida come the 1870s was the tiny town of Silver Springs and a ride on the then-brand-new glass bottom boat, which offered a spectacular underwater show. The crystal clear waters of the Silver River soon attracted Hollywood, too. Underwater filming there began in the 1930s with the original Tarzan movies and later hosted several James Bond movies, among others. Today, the park still offers the famous glass bottom boat tours, plus wildlife exhibits and shows, a Wrangler Jeep tour through the forest, botanical gardens, open-air shopping and an on-going concert series.
Florida’s hot summer temperatures sometimes call for a wet reprieve. When you just can’t take the heat anymore, Wild Waters Water Park in Silver Springs, Florida offers a serious cool-down. Just a two-hour drive from Jacksonville, Wild Waters features a 450,000-gallon wave pool, multiple water slides and flumes, sand volleyball courts and several pool and play areas designed just for the little tykes. Rent a cabana for the day and enjoy access to a private menu complete with frozen blended daiquiris and margaritas. Wild Waters is a bit smaller and offers a more relaxed atmosphere than its mega water park competitors – a big plus if you’re traveling with young children. It’s open each March through September.
Got a soft spot for our hard-shelled friends? The Georgia Sea Turtle Center essentially is a hospital for ill and injured sea turtles. The only facility of its kind in the state of Georgia, the center focuses on rehabilitation, research and education programs that help boost awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges affecting sea turtles. It’s located in historic Jekyll Island, Georgia, just over an hour’s drive from Jacksonville. Tours bring you face-to-face with many of the center’s patients. And check the website regularly to find out when the next patient will be released back into the ocean. It’s always a party when a healed and happy sea turtle heads back home.