Top 16 Outdoor Activities in Jacksonville
Jacksonville beach pier
Catch some rays in the Bold New City of the South

One of the premier coastal destinations in the Sunshine State, Jacksonville is an outdoor explorer’s playground. The largest city by area in the lower 50 states, the city is home to a mecca of parks, beaches, and cultural landmarks. 

The warm, tropical climate in Northeastern Florida means there is no shortage of outdoor things to do in Jacksonville – no matter the time of year. 

Whether you’re a Jacksonville native or visiting for the first time, here are some of Red Roof's top recommendations for outdoor activities in Jacksonville, FL.

Jacksonville Zoo
Explore the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Marvel at the giraffes or get up and close with the tigers. The Jacksonville Zoo is a must-visit outdoor activity for locals or visitors.

The zoo is home to over 2,000 animal species and rare plants from across the world. Learn about the zoo’s Manatee rehabilitation program or stroll the gardens. There’s so much for the entire family to see and do here. It’s also the only walking safari in Northeast Florida.

For those with little ones, there is a Splash Ground in the summer months as well as children’s play areas.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Discover the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is a US National Preserve and National Park, so you know this spot is special. It’s one of the last untouched coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast.

At over 46,000 acres of wetlands, the size of this park is staggering. From fishing and kayaking to camping, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve could easily be a multi-day trip for you and your family. 

As you wander the trees and salt marshes, you’ll also find key historical and cultural landmarks, including the Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline.

Wander the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Wander the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Formerly the home and private collection of the Cummer family, the namesake fine art museum and garden is a hidden gem along the St. Johns River. The permanent collection features works by prominent artists like Mildred Thompson and Normal Rockwell. But the museum also presents limited collections and exhibitions.

The museum itself is technically indoors but the gardens here are worth a trip on their own. The meticulously designed gardens feature some of the most unique and sophisticated landscaping in Northeastern Florida. You’ll also find sculptures and outdoor art that make the Cummer Museum a truly seamless indoor-outdoor experience.

Jacksonville Riverwalks
Walk, run, or bike Jacksonville’s Urban Parks

One of the best things about Jacksonville is the city’s dedication to preserving park space – even in the downtown core. Whether you want to run by the river or want to take your afternoon walk under the trees, there’s no shortage of parks all around the city. 

Jacksonville isn’t known as the River City for no reason. Many of the city's parks are an ode to the St. Johns River that flows majestically through the center of the city. The Jacksonville Riverwalk is a scenic park along the south bank where you can enjoy over a mile of water views while taking in sights of the city.

Memorial Park in the Riverside neighborhood is another Jacksonville favorite. The park-like settings, peaceful picnic areas, and walking trails make it the perfect spot to spend a leisurely afternoon.

Jacksonville Beach
Relax at one of Jacksonville’s Beaches

Sun and sand – you can’t go wrong! Besides, it wouldn’t be Florida without a beach and Jacksonville is no exception. The coastal city boasts miles of soft sand and clear water. Most beaches here are perfect for any beach activity, from sunbathing to swimming and water sports. Stay close to the city and head to Atlantic, Neptune, Mayport, or Jacksonville Beach. 

Feeling like a little drive up the coast? The beaches at Little Talbot Island State Park and Hanna Park are also popular beach day picks. Head in the opposite direction to Ponte Vedra or even further south to St. Augustine.

Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Visit the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Plant and wildlife lovers rejoice. Just a stone’s throw from the downtown area, the Jacksonville Arboretum is a nature lover's dream. 

The Arboretum boasts well over 100 acres of gardens and trails to explore. Enjoy a hike or take a leisurely stroll around Lake Ray or follow the winding paths into the marshlands. You’ll feel completely grounded surrounded by the impressive flora and fauna. 

The diverse grounds of the Arboretum feature 13 distinct ecosystems. If you’re not a nature buff, QR codes are carefully stationed throughout the park so you can learn all about the ecosystems as you explore.

Little Talbot Island
Hike Little Talbot Island State Park

Take a break from the city and escape to Little Talbot Island State Park. But you won’t need to go far, because Little Talbot is only a 30 minute drive from downtown Jacksonville.

Nestled on the coast of the Atlantic, Little Talbot is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Florida. Fortunately, this means the island is full of beautiful sandy beaches. You could spend a whole day here searching for driftwood, or exploring the dunes and marshes. 

It’s also a great spot for birding and fishing. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can go paddling or surfing along the coast.

St. Johns River Lighthouse
Hop on a boat tour

Want to see Jacksonville from a new perspective? Hop on a boat in the St. Johns River. Explore the city from the water and see some of Jacksonville's famous sights, such as the Main Street Bridge and the St. Johns River lighthouse. From cycle boats and river taxis to charter boats, drift down the river in whatever (literally) floats your boat! 

Outside of downtown Jacksonville, you’ll also find boat tours that will take you through the marshlands or into the Atlantic ocean.

Go dolphin watching

Dolphins are some of the smartest mammals on earth. But they’re also incredibly beautiful and fun. Try and spot some on a guided boat tour off the Jacksonville coast. You might not have to head very far to spot these whistling creatures. They’ll often be seen hanging out right off the docks or down by the beach.

Bottlenose dolphins are also known to make appearances in the St. Johns River. So keep an eye out when you’re strolling down the Riverwalk – you never know when one will breach the surface!

Paddle or kayak down the rivers

Water sports are a must when in Jacksonville. Being a city surrounded by rivers and creeks, paddling and kayaking is a great way to explore the local waterways. 

There is no shortage of spots to launch into the water. Whether you’re kayaking, paddle boarding, or canoeing, you’ll find boat ramps and launch points scattered throughout parks and marinas in the city.

Rentals are plentiful and guided tours are also available for those unfamiliar with the area. For a change in scenery, take a paddle through the marshes in Little Talbot Island State Park, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, or the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Catch some waves

Craving a little adventure? Try your hand at surfing and take advantage of the warm Atlantic waves. Jacksonville is one of the best destinations for surfing in Florida. 

You’ll find waves of different swells up and down the Jacksonville coast. For newer surfers, Atlantic Beach and Huguenot Park are popular spots. If you’re more experienced, you’ll find more challenging waves at Jackson Beach Pier or down in Ponte Vedra. 

New to the sport? Take a lesson with a pro! There are several private or group surf lessons to choose from in Jacksonville. Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is another great alternative to those looking to hang ten on the Jacksonville coast.

Jacksonville Farmers Market
Shop the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market

A favorite among locals, the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market has been a staple for almost 100 years. From locally-curated wares to fresh seasonal produce, you could spend hours browsing the indoor and outdoor vendors. The market is free to visit and open every day of the year – except Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. 

Pick something up for dinner or pack some homemade samples to take home with you. You never know when you’ll discover your new favorite pantry staple! With new items arriving daily, there’s never a bad day to visit the Farmer’s Market.

Reel in some fish

Jacksonville has a pretty great fishing scene. Between the Atlantic Ocean and the local waterways, you’ll find a wide variety of species to reel in. One unique thing about Jacksonville is that you’ll find both freshwater and saltwater fish. 

In the river, you’ll typically reel in a variety of bass, crappies, or catfish. Closer to the ocean, you’ll often find flounder, trout, redfish, and mackerel. From inshore to out on the Atlantic, there are tons of fishing spots to choose from.

Top Jacksonville fishing spots include the Pier at Jacksonville Beach, Stinson Park, and Dutton Island Preserve. Fishing is such a Jacksonville staple, you’ll even find fishing contests throughout the year!

Play a round of golf

Golf is a time-honored Floridian (and American) past-time. You’ll find locals and tourists flocking to the local greens on weekends and throughout the week. 

Jacksonville is home to several top-tier golf courses for all skill levels – from beginner to pro. Most notably, you’ll find TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach south of Jacksonville. Sawgrass is the home of The Players Championship and arguably one of the most famous golf courses in the world. 

Many of Jacksonville’s golf courses are part of private clubs but you’ll also find many open to the public.

Take in a concert at Metropolitan Park

Metropolitan Park is a picturesque stop along the St. Johns River in Downtown Jacksonville. While you can explore the park at any time, it’s also a popular spot for outdoor events and concerts. 

Take in a show under the stars or spend a day under the sun enjoying a music festival. Previous concert and festival line-ups have included Welcome to Rockville, Warped Tour, the World of Nations Celebration, and so much more.

Looking to make it a full-day family affair? Take advantage of the park’s picnic areas and BBQs and set up for an outdoor lunch or dinner.

guest room
Stay at Red Roof in Jacksonville

Make your next Jacksonville stay memorable at Red Roof. Our hotels are well-appointed and affordable – so you can spend more time enjoying all the outdoor activities that Jacksonville has to offer.