1. Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks
State Road A1A between Amelia Island and the Mayport Ferry
For the nature lover and the adventurer in all of us, the Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks contain thousands of acres of coastal forests, dunes, and marshes. These parks, located only 20 miles east of Downtown Jacksonville in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, are two of the few undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida, and home to a diverse variety of animals and trees. Formerly occupied by the Spicer plantation on the north end of the island and the Houston plantation at the south, Big Talbot Island features Blackrock Beach, easily one of Jacksonville’s best kept natural secrets. Blackrock is covered by dozens of bleached tree skeletons, a site you can’t see in many other places - only four percent of land in the entire world contains the unique geological soil formations found here. The Talbot Islands also feature five miles of beaches, nature trails, and waterways - the many tidal streams, rivers and marshes are great for fishing and kayaking. Picnic, restroom and camping facilities, tours and wildlife viewings are also available. For information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/littletalbotisland.
2. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
829 Riverside Avenue
If you’re an art lover, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is the place to be. The Cummer is home to one of the finest collections in the Southeast, housing nearly 5,000 works in the permanent collection, spanning from 2000 BC all the way up into the 21st century. In addition, the museum’s gardens spread out over 2.5 acres, housing reflection ponds, arbors, and one of the city’s oldest trees. Alongside both the gardens and the art, the Cummer works to enhance the visitor experience by including a nationally recognized, interactive learning center. Thanks to generous sponsors, admission to the museum is free every Tuesday and Friday night from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. as well as the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For location and event information, visit https://www.cummermuseum.org/.
3. Durkeeville History Museum & JP Small Memorial Stadium Baseball Museum
1293 West 19th Street (Durkeeville History Museum) 1701 North Myrtle Avenue (JP Small Memorial Stadium)
Long before the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville or Wolfson Park, J.P. Small Memorial Stadium was the home of Jacksonville’s professional baseball community. Amazingly, it’s still standing today. Once called Durkee Field and dating back to 1912, this ballpark once served as the home of the Negro American League’s Jacksonville Red Caps. Some of the first teams to play here include the Jacksonville Tars and the Jacksonville Athletics, a team on which James Weldon Johnson was a member of. Baseball legends who played here over the years include Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Hank Aaron. Aaron also lived nearby and met his future wife in Durkeeville during his brief stay in town. While playing for the Jacksonville Braves, along with Felix Mantilla and Horace Garner, he would break baseball’s color in in the south in 1953.
Acquired by the city in 1932, the stadium was slated for demolition in 1982. However, the surrounding community rallied for its preservation and reuse. Originally renovated in 1985, a small museum was added as a part of a 2006 renovation. A potential tourist attraction in the making, a recent renovation project included an upgrade and expansion of the museum. The museum is operated by the Durkeeville Historical Society, which also operates the Durkeeville History Museum. The Durkeeville History Museum includes a collection that showcases the rich history of the segregation era Black Middle Class community. For more information, contact the Durkeeville Historical Society at (904) 598-9567 or visit: https://www.durkeevillehistoricalsociety.org/
4. Fort Caroline National Memorial
12713 Fort Caroline Road
If you’re a history buff, you’ll probably like this next stop. In 1564, Fort Caroline was established under René Goulaine de Laudonnière as a new territorial claim for the French, and a safe haven for the Huguenots. In 1565, the Spanish founded St. Augustine and sacked Fort Caroline, killing and expelling the French. While the actual location of Fort Caroline is lost, a replica stands here at the National Memorial, which encompasses almost 50,000 acres in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. In addition to the fort replica, there are also miles of trails and the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center. Elsewhere in Jacksonville’s massive Timucuan Preserve, you can visit Kingsley Plantation, the Spanish Pond, and Cedar Point. To plan your trip, visit www.nps.gov/timu.