Jacksonville

I had originally planned to go to the west coast this past weekend with some disc golf buddies to play the courses over there, but those plans fell through. So I ended up in Jacksonville instead. Since it’s a good 5 hours to get up there, I left after work Friday night and camped out just north of Jacksonville in Yulee. On Saturday morning, I drove over to Amelia Island where I walked around the historic section of Fernandina Beach and then headed over to Fort Clinch State Park. As I drove along the road to the fort, I stopped at a few places, including a lookout over a swamp at the Amelia Island lighthouse and a nice hike around Willow Pond. I also went over to the half-mile long fishing pier, where the fish where being caught left and right. I then made my way to the fort, which was built in 1847 and its only skirmish occured during the Civil War. Three Civil War-area soldiers depicted how life was like back then, and the fort bricks contained the handprints of the slaves who helped build the fort back in the 1840’s. Inside the massive fort where a few buidings, including the barracks and the storage house, It reminded alot of Fort Jefferson, and though not as big, definitely as impressive.

I then drove over to the Amelia Island lighthouse, which is open to the public on Saturdays but can only access the first floor. Afterwards, I continued driving south along the beach, stopping a t a few more parks, including Amelia Island State Park and Little and Big Talbot Island State Parks. Ironically, I found Little Talbot Park to be bigger than Big Talbot. I next went to Fort George Island Cultural State Park. There is no longer a fort there, but there is the historic Ribault Club from 1928 and the Kingsley Plantation, bulit in 1814 and owned by Anna Kingsley, a freed slave.

My next destination was the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. I was last here about 10 years ago, and I remembered quite a bit of it, including how cool of a zoo it is. I really enjoyed the exhibits, particularly the penguins and the monkeys. After the zoo, I drove back over the coast where I checked into my campsite at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. There’s also a 9-hole disc golf course so I got in a couple rounds before it got dark. I then went to the beach where I got some pictures of the St. Johns lighthouse on the Mayport Naval Station. There’s another lighthouse on the base so I decided to drove to the north section of the base to check it out. As I made my way there, I stopped for some beautiful sunset photos on the Chicopit Bay. I got to the St. Johns River lighthouse too late to get some good photos, but I was going back there on Sunday morning.

After getting little sleep due to some loud drunk campers, I took a nice Sunday morning walk on the park’s beach where I got to watch a dolphin frolic around in the water. I also got in one more round of golf before I headed back to the naval base for some pictures of the St. Johns River lighthouse. I next drove to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, where I visited Fort Caroline, which features a reconstructed fort from the 1560’s. My next stop was at Ed Austin Park for some more disc golf. After a quick 18, I drove over to the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens. I was expecting a beautiful botanical garden layout, but instead there were some really cool hiking trails that meandered through the woods and small ponds.

Having a long drive ahead of me to get back home, I started my way back south as I drove through beautiful Ponte Vedra, most famous for its Sawgrass Golf Course. I continued along the beach road until I reached St. Augustine, where I hit a couple more forts. The first one was Fort Mose Historical State Park, which was a settlement back in the 1730’s for freed slaves. The next fort I visited was Fort Matanzas. Built in early 1740’s, a ferry takes you out to this small but charming coquina fort, where you get a great view of the Matanzas River while a soldier tells the history of the fort and the surrounding areas. As I continued south towards home, I played a couple more rounds of golf at the Daytona courses before embarking on the 3 hour drive home through the driving rain.

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