Best Day Trips From Jacksonville Florida (By a City Local)

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Thanks to its amazing location, there are tons of fun day trips from Jacksonville, just a short drive from downtown. Jacksonville is located next to gorgeous islands and beaches, nature preserves, and historical sites. I never get sick of exploring this area – there are so many fun day trips from Jacksonville to be had.

After visiting the area for five years and living south of Jacksonville for over a year, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the many things to do in Jacksonville and dozens of day trips. The best part? I know there are still so many places to visit near Jacksonville that I haven’t discovered yet!

SEE ALSO: Best Time To Visit Jacksonville, Florida (By a City Local)

Best Day Trips From Jacksonville Florida

From beaches and kayaking to historical sites and museums, just hop in the car, and you’ll be a short drive away from many incredible day trips from Jacksonville. It’s hard to choose the “best” excursions near the Bold City because there are so many fantastic ones. I’ve narrowed down this list to my favorite day trip destinations; there’s something for everyone;

1. Saint Augustine

A historic architecture, a miniature fountain, and a landscape with trees.

Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Jax is the gorgeous city of Saint Augustine. What makes this such a special day trip from Jacksonville is that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the nation – founded in 1565. So, expect a ton of rich history, an old fort/monument, museums, parks, restaurants, and more.

I live halfway between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, so I’m lucky enough to visit the “Ancient City” quite often. To me, it’s by far one of the best places to visit near Jacksonville, FL. No matter if you’re a frequent visitor or a first-time tourist, it’s a city that’s always worth checking out. Just by turning a different corner, you’ll find something new.

St. Augustine is also home to lots of great shops, breweries, parks, and coffee shops. Personally, however, I find simply walking around the historic downtown area fun to do on its own. The architecture and cobblestone streets are just incredible.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 45 minutes – 40 miles/64 kilometers from downtown Jacksonville
Location: Downtown St. Augustine
Getting There: If you want to head down to St. Augustine from Jacksonville, your best bet is to rent a car. You can also take the bus if a car isn’t an option.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: St. Augustine: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour with Museum Entry
Must-Do Activities: Taking a trolley tour is an absolute must in St. Augustine. Walk through the grounds of Castillo San Marcos. If you happen to be visiting during the holidays, I highly recommend the Nights of Lights Pirate Ship Tour – it’s one of the best things to do in Jacksonville at night.
Where to Eat: Llama is one of my favorite restaurants in the world – and I’ve been to 25 countries! It’s Peruvian and the food is to die for. The Conch House is a fun restaurant and bar right on the water. And River and Fort has an awesome rooftop bar with an incredible view.

2. Amelia Island

A large stone on the side sea and an extensive bridge in the middle of the water. at sunset

Amelia Island is located 45 minutes northeast of downtown Jacksonville and is another fantastic option for a day trip from Jax. The family-friendly island has a pristine beach, an adorable downtown area/main street, and great restaurants and bars. Not to mention an almost endless list of outdoor/nature-centric activities as well.

Amelia Island can become crowded during the summer months, so I prefer visiting during the shoulder seasons months of April and May or September and October. It’s still warm enough to sunbathe at the beach, but the crowds have subsided.

I love going to Amelia Island to get some fresh seafood, a craft beer, and relaxing in the sun for a couple of hours. It’s really hard not to love this area.

SEE ALSO: Is Jacksonville Safe? Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 45 minutes – 33 miles/53 kilometers
Location: Amelia Island
Getting There: Traveling to Amelia Island is easiest by car. Unfortunately, there isn’t any public transportation to the island, unless you take an Uber.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Amelia Island Guided Kayak Tour of Lofton Creek
Must-Do Activities: Taking a stroll down the charming main street in Fernandina Beach is a blast. There’s tons of shopping, a brewery, and lots of eateries to try out. Renting an electric bike to cruise along the beach is a great outing as well.
Where to Eat: Whenever I visit Amelia Island, going to Amelia Island Brewing Co. is an absolute must. Their beer is great, and the shrimp chowder and gouda short rib sandwich dishes are super delicious. Another great option for a fun environment is the Salty Pelican Bar & Grill.

3. Little Talbot Island State Park

The sea water was divided by a wavy beach and a large number of large stones.

The Talbot Islands offer a great day trip from Jacksonville – and Little Talbot Island is my favorite. Here, you’ll find five miles of gorgeous beaches, bike trails, and wildlife-watching opportunities. I love hiking the ancient dunes, looking for seashells, and taking a swim.

Many people don’t think of camping in Florida, but this state park is a really fun and beautiful option if you want to sleep under the stars. What’s great about Little Talbot Island is that it’s only 30 minutes outside of Jacksonville.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 30 minutes – 26 miles/42 kilometers
Location: Little Talbot Island State Park, 12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Getting There: When visiting Jacksonville, it’s best to have access to a car; driving is the easiest way to get to Little Talbot Island State Park. You can also take the car ferry.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Talbot Island Kayak Tour
Must-Do Activities: Basking in the glory and beauty of nature is what it’s all about at Little Talbot Island State Park. Take a kayak tour, go hiking, or break out the binoculars to do some bird watching.

4. Cumberland Island

A small pier with a parked small boat, a solar light, and a beach view.

Georgia’s largest barrier island is Cumberland Island, and it’s located an hour away from Jacksonville. It’s known for having one of the most spectacular natural habitats in the world with stunning, undeveloped beaches.

The island is home to the largest nesting of loggerhead sea turtles, and there are also feral horses, armadillos, wild hogs, and many species of birds. It’s truly a wild and beautiful place to visit for a day trip.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: Hour and a half – 38 miles/61 kilometers
Location: Cumberland Island
Getting There: You’ll need to drive and take a ferry from St. Mary’s, Georgia.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Cumberland Island Walking Tour
Must-Do Activities: It’s all about nature and history on Cumberland Island. Go hiking, swimming, or fishing. Visit the First African Baptist Church, tour the famous Plum Orchard Mansion, and explore the Dungeness Ruins.
Where to Eat: There’s only one restaurant on the entire island at the renowned Greyfield Inn, run by the Carnegie family. They only offer one seating per night at 7 p.m., so it’s probably not the best option for a day trip. You might want to pack a picnic and some snacks.

SEE ALSO: 15 Best FREE Things To Do in Jacksonville (By a City Local)

5. Jekyll Island

A beach with some tree branches at sunset

A little over an hour from Jacksonville is Jekyll Island, Georgia. You’ll have to pay a toll to get on the island, but it’s a small fee and so worth it. This beautiful island features quiet, gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, golf courses, museums, and more.

Whenever I go to Jekyll Island, going to Driftwood Beach is a necessity. I always make time to go to Tortuga Jacks for a waterside drink and a bite, and I recommend you do the same! You can easily spend the entire day exploring this fun hidden gem.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 15 minutes – 74 miles/119 kilometers
Location: Jekyll Island
Getting There: Traveling by car is your best option. You can also take a bus from the Jacksonville airport.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Jekyll Island Dolphin Tours
Must-Do Activities: Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, play mini golf, or visit the Summer Waves Water Park. There’s so much to do!
Where to Eat: As mentioned earlier, Tortuga Jacks is one of my favorite places for a bite. Some other great options are Harry’s Lounge, Salty’s Oceanside Bar & Grill, and The Anchor.

6. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

A stairwell and a little balcony with views of a lake surrounded by green trees.

Florida is home to some of the most beautiful geological features. The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is just outside of Gainesville and makes for a super cool day trip from Jacksonville.

The main attraction of the park is the 120-foot-deep sinkhole. Take a small hike to the staircase that leads you close to the bottom of the sinkhole with lush vegetation and cooler temperatures. It’s a nice respite during the summer heat!

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 20 minutes – 74 miles/119 kilometers
Location: Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, Millhopper Road, Gainesville, FL
Getting There: Driving to the state park is the easiest and best option.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Daily ranger-led tours
Must-Do Activities: The main point of the visit is to admire the beauty of the limestone sinkhole. Hiking down and up those stairs is sure to get your heart pumping!
Where to Eat: Gainesville is just a short drive away with lots of dining options. I usually always stop at The Social at Midtown, Satchel’s Pizza, or El Indio Mexican Restaurant.

7. Osceola National Forest

There are forests, lush grass, and a blue sky.

Less than an hour from Jacksonville is the Osceola National Forest. This beautiful gem is the perfect place to go when you’re looking for a peaceful day in nature. It’s also a great day trip in Jacksonville for couples.

There are miles of trails for hiking, beaches for swimming, and ponds for fishing. There’s also an area for target shooting and trails for OHV riding. Although located just 45 minutes from the city, you’ll feel like you’re hours away.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 48 minutes – 49 miles/79 kilometers
Location: Osceola National Forest, 24874 US-90, Sanderson, FL 32087
Getting There: Traveling by car is your best option.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: There aren’t any tours available, but try and time your visit with the annual Civil War reenactment.
Must-Do Activities: With over 200 acres of nature, you can spend hours wandering the trails, swimming at the beach, or just keeping a watch out for wildlife.
Where to Eat: Lake City is the closest town to the park. This tiny but adorable town has some yummy options for food, like Jessica’s Bistro, Marion Street Bistro, and Cedar River Seafood of Lake City.

8. Gainesville

An Aerial view of green mountains, lakes, and building structures.

Gainesville is a super fun option for a day trip from Jacksonville. The University of Florida college town is lively, and hip, and offers tons of ways to spend your day. There are gorgeous parks, delicious restaurants, and fun activities in this inland Florida town.

The perfect day in Gainesville, in my opinion, looks like going to the Florida Museum of Natural History or the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens before heading to Swamp Head Brewery for an IPA. Although, there is something to offer everyone – no matter the age.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 22 minutes – 72 miles/115 kilometers
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Getting There: A car is the most convenient and fast way to get to Gainesville. You can also take the bus from Jacksonville.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Butterfly Rainforest at Florida Museum of Natural History
Must-Do Activities: Start your day with a walk in nature at Sweetwater Wetlands Park then head to the Harn Museum of Art. Take a stroll on the University of Florida campus before finding someplace to eat downtown.
Where to Eat: Gainesville has a ton of restaurants to choose from but some of my personal favorites include Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill, Alpin Bistro, and Underground Kitchen.

9. Saint Simons Island

An old fishing pier on St. Simons Island beyond rock seawell.

Saint Simons Island, Georgia is one of the best places to visit near Jacksonville. It’s been named one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands in the Continental U.S., and U.S. News’ 16 Top Romantic Getaways in Georgia, as well as 15 Most Romantic Small Towns in the United States.

The small island is the perfect day trip to hang out at the beach, stroll the oceanside main street, and eat some delicious seafood. I was recently in Saint Simons Island with my sister, and we couldn’t get over how charming it was.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 13 minutes – 75 miles/120 kilometers
Location: Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Getting There: Driving by car is the best travel option.
Must-Do Activities: Walk around Pier Village and stroll the grounds of Fort Frederica. Then, spend a few hours on the perfect sandy beaches.
Where to Eat: This small island has a lot of great dining options! When I recently visited, I loved Porch, Barrier Island Brewing, and Mallery Street Cafe. I’d recommend any of these spots.

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Cafes and Coffee Shops in Jacksonville, FL (By a Local)

10. Daytona Beach

A structure and an amusement park, people enjoying themselves on the beach, and a cloudy sky.

It’s a little bit of a drive from Jacksonville, but if you’re up for it, head south for a day to Daytona Beach. This world-famous beach town is bustling during the peak summer months and the celebrated Bike Week.

Home to the Daytona International Speedway and the renowned Daytona 500, this city welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists each year; not only for the race – but also for its vibrant beach scene.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 28 minutes – 95 miles/153 kilometers
Location: Daytona Beach
Getting There: Driving yourself is the fastest option, however, you could also take a bus.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Daytona Beach: Guided Kayaking or Standup Paddling Tour
Must-Do Activities: The Daytona International Speedway is a sight to behold, the beach’s boardwalk has a Ferris wheel and other rides and games, and you can also drive your car on the beach, which is a really cool experience.
Where to Eat: Ocean Deck Daytona Beach has an awesome, relaxed vibe with incredible food. Crabby’s Oceanside and Fratelli’s Pizzeria are also fantastic.

11. Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka

The long wooden staircase on the trail in Ravine Gardens State Park with green plants and trees.

Palatka is a quiet and charming inland, riverside town with a lot of character. The Ravine Gardens State Park is a day trip from Jacksonville that is seriously underrated. I went here about a month ago and was blown away by how beautiful it was.

Take a hike through the park and its lush vegetation, cross two suspension bridges, and marvel at the waterfalls. It’s a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Location: Ravine Gardens State Park, 1600 Twigg St, Palatka, FL 32177
Getting There: Driving by car is the best and easiest option.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Guided tours are offered by the park.
Must-Do Activities: Walk the 1.8-mile paved road through the breathtaking ravines with beautiful views. Try and time your visit during the peak flowering season for azaleas – January through March.
Where to Eat: The downtown Palatka area has some great dining options. My favorite eateries are The Magnolia Cafe, Corky Bell’s Seafood at Gator Landing, and Velchoff’s Corner.

12. Ginnie Springs

Beautiful view of the turquoise crystal clear waters of the lagoon of Ginnie Springs, Florida. USA

If you’re looking for a unique spot to cool off during the hot summer months, Ginnie Springs is such a fun day trip option. It’s a little bit of a distance from Jacksonville, but trust me when I tell you that it’s totally worth it.

Kayak, paddleboard, or float the crystal clear waters of the Sante Fe River. You can also rent a snorkel and a mask to explore the waters filled with large bass, catfish, and turtles. It’s without a doubt, some of the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 37 minutes – 85 miles/133 kilometers
Location: Ginnie Springs, 5000 NE 60th Ave., High Springs, Florida 32643
Getting There: Traveling by car is the best option.
Must-Do Activities: It’s up to you how you’d like to spend your day at Ginnie Springs – it depends on what activities you like to do! You can chill out on an inner tube, enjoy a more active day on a paddleboard, or play a game of volleyball.
Where to Eat: You’ll want to drive into north Gainesville for a meal after a day of swimming. Head to Northwest Grille, Country Foodly, or Las Margaritas.

13. Juniper Springs Recreation Area

Crystal-clear waters of Juniper Spring are reflected against a lush forest canopy of ferns and oaks.

One of the oldest and most popular recreation areas on the East Coast, the Juniper Springs Recreation Area looks like something out of a postcard. It’s an oasis under a dense canopy of palms and oaks.

The crystalline pool of fresh spring water is a magical place to swim, and you can take a short walk on the Juniper Run Nature Trail. There are plenty of picnic areas as well.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 50 minutes – 111 miles/178 kilometers
Location: Juniper Springs Recreation Area, 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488
Getting There: Getting to the springs is easiest and fastest by car
Must-Do Activities: Simply soaking in the perfect, clear waters is enough to make the day trip worth it. There’s a shallow end to relax and cool down in, and a deeper end for jumping.
Where to Eat: Unfortunately, there are no dining options near the park. It’s best to pack your own snacks and a picnic.

14. Savannah

A wide green field with scattered trees

One of my favorite things about living in Jacksonville is its close proximity to the amazing city of Savannah, Georgia. If you get up early and hit the road, you can spend all day in Savannah and be back home before it gets too late.

Savannah is known for its history, French architecture, massive oak trees with hanging Spanish moss, and thriving arts and culture scene. There’s something about this city that oozes the epitome of Southern charm. Plus, they have some fantastic restaurants and breweries.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 2 hours and 2 minutes – 139 miles/224 kilometers
Location: Savannah, Georgia
Getting There: You can get to Savannah either by car, train, or bus.
Best Tour from Jacksonville Florida: Savannah Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour
Must-Do Activities: There’s SO much to do in Savanna; stroll through Forsyth Park, spend a couple of hours on Tybee Island, walk through the historical Bonaventure Cemetery, and admire the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.
Where to Eat: Savannah is overflowing with delicious food. My favorite restaurants are The Olde Pink House, Alligator Soul Restaurant, and The Ordinary Pub.

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Pubs in Jacksonville (By a Local)

15. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens

A connecting bridge flanked by a garden and a lake.

Another day trip from Jacksonville, that’s a little further afield, but totally worth it, is to Cedar Lakes Woods and Garden. With over 50 garden displays to admire, these botanical gardens have koi ponds, waterfalls, and gorgeous views.

The trails take around an hour and a half to complete and each step is surrounded by pure beauty. It’s another peaceful and tranquil trip to get you out of the city’s bustle.

Distance from Jacksonville Florida: 1 hour and 52 minutes – 96 miles/154 kilometers
Location: Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, 4990 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696
Getting There: Traveling by car will be your best and easiest choice.
Must-Do Activities: The trails will guide you through garden displays like Bamboo Island, Ginger Gardens, and others.
Where to Eat: Southern Gainesville will be your option for yummy food. I’d recommend Blue Gill Quality Food, Red Rice Kitchen, or Yummy House.

Best Day Trip Tours from Jacksonville Florida

If you want to take the guesswork out of planning a day trip from Jacksonville, you can always take an organized tour. Here are some highly-rated, fun tour options to choose from:

1. CraigCat Boat Tour from Fernandina Beach: Have a blast on Amelia Island by taking a CraigCat Boat Tour out of Fernandina Beach. The 2.5-hour tour will have you on the water on a CraigCat Boat, which is essentially a go-cart on water. Spot wildlife such as dolphins, manatees, and turtles. Click here for more details.

2. Big Talbot Island Self-Guided Tour with Smart Helmets: Explore Big Talbot Island at your own pace on this 2-3 hour tour. You’ll cruise on electric bikes with smart helmets that allow you to communicate with other riders. Click here for more details.

3. Jacksonville: Florida Wildlife Guided Airboat Adventure: Get an adrenaline rush by taking a guided airboat tour. The 1.5-hour tour leaves from northeast Jacksonville and you’ll skim across the water with 500 horsepower – hold onto your hats! Click here for more details.

4. Private Guided Boat Tour up to 6 passengers in Fernandina Beach: Explore Amelia Island by water on your own private boat. The boat will be driven by a USCG-certified captain and will take you around Amelia Island, Cumberland Island, and Fort Clinch State Park. Click here for more details.

5. Downtown Fernandina Historical Walking Tour: Downtown Fernandina is full of rich culture. Learn about 300 years of Fernandina history on this 1.5-hour guided walking tour. Pirates, historic homes, and local figures are covered topics. Click here for more details.

Day Trips Around Jacksonville Florida: FAQs

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about the best day trips from Jacksonville, FL:

What is the most popular day trip from Jacksonville, Florida?

The most popular day trip from Jacksonville is the CraigCat Boat Tour from Fernandina Beach.

How many days do you need in Jacksonville, Florida?

I recommend spending at least 3 days in Jacksonville, or ideally a week. For more tips to help you plan your Florida vacation, check out this post: 15 Travel Tips for Florida (By a Local).

What are the best day trips from Jacksonville, Florida with a car?

The best day trips from Jacksonville, Florida with a car are kayak tours, bicycle tours, and history tours.

What are the best day trips from Jacksonville Florida by train?

The best day trip from Jacksonville, Florida by train is to head up to Savannah, Georgia, to explore the area. Tickets start from just $30.

What is the most beautiful place near Jacksonville, Florida?

The most beautiful place near Jacksonville, Florida, in my opinion, is St. Augustine. Other beautiful areas include Amelia Island, St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island.

Can you take a day trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Orlando?

Yes! You can take a day trip to Orlando since it’s less than 2 hours away.

Which popular place is very close to Jacksonville, Florida?

The popular destination of Saint Augustine is just 45 minutes from Jacksonville, Florida.

In Conclusion

No matter where you’re staying within the city, Jacksonville’s geographical location makes it a great place to have some excellent day trip excursions. That’s one of the biggest reasons I love living here so much. Within a short drive, you can be somewhere totally different.

Whether you’re looking for a day on an island or a dip in some natural springs, Jacksonville has a day trip outing for every interest.

Ashley Fike Authors Bio Picture

Written by

Ashley Fike

Ashley Fike is a travel writer and local of Jacksonville, Florida where she travels around the entire state of Florida on her own, and with friends and family. Having lived in the state her entire life and showing people around for much of it, she has a unique perspective of things to do and places to visit in Florida.

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