15 Places to Explore the Great Outdoors In & Around Jax

Craving a little fresh air? You’re in good company when it comes to exploring the great outdoors — and it can work wonders for our mental and physical health! In addition to this list, some state parks we love include local gems Pumpkin Hill Creek Park, George Crady Fishing Pier, Olustee State Park, and Amelia Island State Park. Find the full list at Florida State Parks. Note that sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and water are also good ideas when trekking to most of these locations.

Hiking Trails

Jacksonville Arboretum: The Jacksonville Aboretum has several trails to enjoy outdoors and is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Sunday. Restroom, picnic, and pavilion areas are closed. The Lake Loop trail is the easiest to navigate and encircles a lake. Admission is $3 for nonmembers, but when you join you have unlimited visits!

UNF Trails: There are several trails at UNF, located at 1 UNF Drive Jacksonville, FL 32224. You will want to park in the lot with the small building labeled Parking Services. There is usually a $5 parking fee, but when UNF is not in session there is no fee. There is a map on the side of the building showing the different trails, which are accessible from the parking lot!

Castaway Island Preserve: This gem of a preserve is perfect for young kids. Castaway Island Preserve is a quiet oasis off of San Pablo and Beach Blvd. My three kiddos always enjoy the scavenger hunt aspect of the Island Trail. Animal footprints guide you along and help you guess which marsh animal you will learn about next. The boardwalk trail gives a beautiful view of the Intracoastal Waterway and marsh wildlife.

Baldwin Trail: The Baldwin Trail has almost 15 miles of paved trails, which is great for biking. There are also lots of trees that are fun for climbing! About halfway through the trail, you run into Camp Milton, which you can read more about below.

Camp Milton: Rich in history, “Camp Milton Historic Park was once the encampment of over 8,000 soldiers during the Civil War. It started as Confederate domain until lost in battle to Union soldiers in 1864. The park was named in honor of John Milton who was the governor of Florida during the Civil War.” Camp Milton has boardwalk trails, trails to bike on, and is great for bird watching!

Tree Hill Nature Center: You can find family fun at the Tree Hill Nature Center with trails, and little ones (and adults, too) can have fun visiting the mini zoo. Chickens, goats, and a few reptiles are among the animals you can experience!

Dutton Island Preserve: Located in Atlantic Beach, Dutton Island Preserve has two entrances. The first one you come to has longer trails than the second entrance. My kids and I explored the second entrance, which we found to be the perfect length for their ages (6,9, and 10). It would be hard to get lost, as the options of trails that branch off all lead back to the parking lot. We loved finding small crabs along the trails that were closest to the Intracoastal Waterway.

READ: Guide to Great Family Hiking Trails in Jacksonville

Other Outdoor Options

Jax Surf and Paddle: Jax Surf and Paddle offers private paddleboarding tours and surf lessons for family and friends in groups of up to six. They even have summer surf camp for ages 6-16. Rentals for surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, bikes, and beach equipment are also available. Call the shop for more info at (904) 372-9083.

The Beaches: We can never go wrong with a day at the beach, or even a morning or evening stroll. My kids love to get ice cream and take it for a walk on the beach. Whatever you do at the beach, be sure not to be a beach-hole!

READ: 20 Must-Have Beach Accessories for This Mama and Her Brood

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens: Our beloved Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is always a great idea when trekking outdoors! Free space to roam (get there early and head back to the tigers and gardens for the quietest area), Kona Ice trucks and a splash pad. What more could a mom ask for?

St. Augustine Alligator Farm: The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is open to the public and features a host of alligators, crocodiles, reptiles, exotic birds, and more exciting animals throughout their outdoor exhibit. If you are in search of a full-day adventure, check out some pirate fun before or after your alligator adventure.


Congaree and Penn: Congaree and Penn is a gorgeous farm with over 300 acres to explore and enjoy. There are so many activities for the whole family throughout the year, including berry and pumpkin picking, special dining opportunities, and animal viewing! Farm passes start at $5 per person, and no outside food or drink is allowed.

Schedule a Fishing Charter: Get out on the open water! Jacksonville waterways are full of amazing fishing, and a great day outdoors of fun in the sun is waiting for you!

Blueberry Picking: Blueberry picking (or strawberry picking!) is a great way to be out and commune with nature. My biggest piece of advice for blueberry farms is to check their Facebook pages or call ahead of time to be sure they are open. Make sure the berries are in season before you head out!

Lee’s Tomato and Produce Farm: This small, family-run farm can be found just outside Jacksonville in Callahan, Florida. Right now, Lee’s Tomato and Produce Farm is open for the season, from Wednesday-Sunday, 9am-5pm. Check their Facebook page for details.

Where do you like to go exploring outdoors throughout the First Coast? Comment so we can try it!

Nicki Wiggins
Nicki Wiggins is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to three kids, a boy and two girls. She is a wife to her wonderful hubby, Jayme, who works hard to support her Disney obsession. They met at Stetson University in undergrad and have been married for 13 amazing years. When not planning her family’s next visit to Disney, Nicki enjoys time at the beach (with the occasional paddleboarding), volunteering in her kids’ classrooms, hanging with friends and family, and exploring Florida. She recently started a blog called Date Your State, which gives tips and ideas for having fun with your family in this amazing state of Florida. She hopes to be a Floridian for life!



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