Last Updated on June 7, 2023
Jacksonville Beach in Florida is one of three Jacksonville, Florida beaches. Got it?
Let me explain.
Jacksonville is the city covering Duval County. On Jacksonville, Florida’s Atlantic coast, there are three distinct beach communities: Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach. These are not separate cities, consider them more like neighborhoods within Jacksonville.
Atlantic Beach is furthest north, then Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach in the south. They’re separated by only four miles. South of Jacksonville Beach in Florida is swanky Ponte Vedra Beach, but that’s in St. John’s County, not Duval.
Jacksonville Beach is distinguished by a super-casual atmosphere with a bit of a college-y vibe. This is not an international haven for nightclub partiers in search of bottle service like South Beach or aristocratic Palm Beach. Jacksonville Beach in Florida – Jax Beach – is chill. It has a vibrant craft beer scene, enough noteworthy local bars and restaurants to fill a week’s vacation without doubling up and is not outrageously expensive to visit.
On the other hand, aside from the beach, and it’s glorious – long, flat, clean, free, rarely crowded and open to the public – there’s not much to do here. That’s a good thing and a bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. It’s not overrun with tacky t-shirt shops, mini-golf and go cart tracks like Myrtle Beach or Daytona Beach. However, unless your idea of a good time is 8-hours a day on the beach, you may get antsy in Jacksonville Beach on a week’s vacation if you don’t venture into Jacksonville proper.
Here are my favorite things to do around Jacksonville if you find yourself at Jax Beach looking for more action.
My suggestion is Jacksonville Beach for a long weekend. Show up Thursday or Friday afternoon, enjoy some big beach and/or pool time, take some walks on the beach, some walks through the retail/restaurant areas, grab a few outstanding meals, hit a tap room (or more), and then head home on Sunday afternoon.
Jacksonville Beach in Florida is easily accessible by car from I-95 and then about 15 miles from I-295. Jacksonville Beach is about a two-hour drive from Orlando. The Jacksonville International Airport is 30 miles away.
Where is Jacksonville, FL on Map
The City of Jacksonville is in the northeast corner of Florida; its downtown is about 35 miles south of the Florida-Georgia border and 90 miles north of Daytona Beach.
Jacksonville Beach is a little over 15 miles east of downtown Jacksonville right on the Atlantic Ocean.
Remember, this is north Florida. Winter – December through February – can be chilly. For every 70-degree day, there’s a 50-degree day. Nighttime lows routinely drop to near 40. If you’re looking for a frost-proof winter getaway, you’ll need to start south of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic side or head over to the Gulf side. I’d recommend Siesta Key or Sarasota.
Summer (May-October) is hot and humid like the rest of Florida, but Jacksonville and north Florida has real seasons. November along with March and April can be wonderful times to visit… off-season, too, although Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach are never overrun with tourists the way Daytona or South Beach or Panama City and Pensacola can be.
With its north Florida location, Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach in Florida feels more like the South than South Florida. This is the home of the Florida-Georgia football game and Lynyrd Skynrd after all. It’s nowhere near as cosmopolitan or international as Miami or Tampa. There are sand dunes here and live oak and pine trees – a few left anyway – to compliment the palm trees.
Getting to and Getting Around Jacksonville Beach
J Turner Butler Boulevard and Beach Boulevard are the main roads bringing people from Jacksonville to Jax Beach. Jacksonville Beach streets are laid out on a grid pattern. Roads running to and from the beach, perpendicular to it, are numbered “streets” – 1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street and so on. Those north of Beach Boulevard have a “north” distinction, those south, a “south.”
For example, there is both a 1st Avenue North and 1st Avenue South in Jacksonville Beach. Same goes for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on. That can be a little confusing if you aren’t clued in.
Streets running parallel to the beach are named “streets” and are also numbered beginning with 1st Street and then 2nd Street and so on.
The Jacksonville Beach city planners were clearly engineers and not “words” people.
1st Street is lively with hotels, bars, restaurants and sidewalks making it easy to get around on foot. 3rd Street has more of the chain restaurants, big box stores, grocery stores and shopping for locals. Beach Boulevard, likewise, has a lot of traffic and large retail.
Beach Access in Jacksonville Beach
There are public beach accesses with limited parking all along the roughly 4-mile stretch of sand that is considered Jacksonville Beach in Florida. Beach access is free and so is most parking.
Larger access points with public restrooms can be found where Beach Boulevard runs into 1st Street and at 5th Avenue South and 1st Street.
The beach front hotels all have their own beach accesses with parking.
Jacksonville Beach Florida Restaurants
For what amounts to a neighborhood, Jacksonville Beach in Florida punches well above its weight for good restaurants. These aren’t white tablecloth, go broke, fine dining restaurants either. If that’s what you’re looking for, try Casa Marina.
Again, Jax Beach is beachy casual, not beachy fancy. Don’t worry about buying new clothes, dressing up or putting together outfits to go out or go to the beach unless you want to. Cutoff shorts and flip flops are perfectly fine for most places.
Here are my favorite Jacksonville Beach Florida restaurants by category:
I’m a pizza guy. Jacksonville Beach has a Mellow Mushroom pizza baker which is cool if you’ve never been. Thicker, chewier crust. Tons of craft beer on tap. The best, most consistent chain pizza you can eat.
Closer to the beach is a local place, V’s Pizza. Thinner crust, brick oven style. A little walk-up window right across from the sand. You’ll like it.
Taco Lu down Beach Boulevard; a local legend and a local’s favorite.
Angie’s Subs right next to it.
Adventure Landing sort of theme park with a water park is next door to Tacu Lu and Angie’s subs. It has mini-golf, little roller coaster rides, an arcade, go-carts, laser tag and that sort of things if you have kids.
The Bearded Pig serves STRONG barbecue, southern style. You can order your brisket “fatty,” “lean” or “mixed.” Good burnt ends while they’re available. Spicy Sausage. Outdoor patio.
I love this place, not only for the food, but how it limits the use of single use plastics. We’re at the beach, remember, all those wrappings and straws and lids and cups can end up on the beach.
Another BBQ place I strongly recommend in Jax Beach is MOJO Kitchen which has other locations around Jacksonville as well as St. Augustine and increasingly across Florida. Brisket and ribs will bring you back for more; grits are unusually and delightfully spicey.
Casa Maria, not to be confused with Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant.
Metro Diner has locations around Jacksonville and is a local’s favorite.
Hoptinger is worth a visit if you like sausage… and beer.
Jax Beach is a haven for craft beer. Not only do most restaurants have a wide variety, there are a handful of specialty craft breweries and tap houses. This guide will get you started.
For suds and sandwiches, visit Engine 15 Brewing Company on Beach Boulevard in the same strip mall as Mojo Kitchen. During their “Liquid Lunch” Tuesday through Friday from 11 AM to 3 PM, guests receive a free Engine 15 craft beer with an entre order.
Jacksonville Beach Florida Oceanfront Hotels
From the luxe Casa Marina to the dependable Hampton Inn, here’s a link to my guide helping you find the best Jacksonville Beach Florida Oceanfront hotels for your visit.
What to do in Jacksonville Beach
I’m not trying to be a smart guy when I say this, but Jacksonville Beach is about the beach. There’s a small museum and the restaurants, but the emphasis here is the beach. If you don’t want to spend all day lounging at the beach, you might prefer vacationing on Amelia Island 40 miles to the north or St. Augustine 30 miles to the south.
The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier – you guessed it – allows for fishing, but you’ll need your own gear. Fishing charters do not operate out of Jacksonville Beach, nor do eco-tours or that sort of thing. Jax Beach also doesn’t have much in the way of seashells for beach combers and being in an urban area, while you may see some dolphins off shore, it’s not a nature-walk, bird watching kind of place.
You can surf at Jacksonville Beach in Florida, but it’s seasonal, the weather and water can be cold, and the waves are hardly predictable or world class. Check out these surf shops to rent boards, bikes or stand up paddleboards. Surf and Skate Surf Shop is an old-school local icon selling boards – both kinds – right at 1st Street and 2nd Avenue North on the beach and worth popping your head into.
1st Street throughout Jacksonville Beach is walkable and lined with bars, restaurants and shops. If you’re a big walker like me, you could walk the entirety of it and put together a DIY pub crawl.
Soul Waves is a cool, tiny vinyl record store at 351 15th Avenue South Suite A very near The Bearded Pig that is well worth a stop for music or nostalgia lovers.