Nestled up against the Georgia border, this is a different kind of Florida than you may have experienced further south. Almost alone among Florida’s major cities, Jacksonville was never primarily a tourist destination. An important point for the railroads of David Yulee and Henry Plant, it made its mark as a working town—paper mills, a port, transportation hub and later an insurance industry town. The city’s districts are defined by the St. Johns River, which runs north into the city, then makes a right turn to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport. Although it has beaches—both tourist-kitschy and pristine—at its doorstep and elegant resorts, it’s not a resort town. As a visitor, you’ll find yourself surrounded by residents when you go to area attractions and restaurants. If you decide to stay cloistered inside a visitors-only resort, you can do that, too.
1 Check into your hotel and head for the beach to decompress and get acclimated.
2 If you’re in Ponte Vedra, just hang at the hotel and eat. If you’re in one of the Jacksonville Beaches, find your way over to Roy’s for lunch.
3 After a nice siesta, head back to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Bring some “slip on” clothes with you—khakis for the guys, sundress for girls—and head up to the Casa Marina’s Penthouse Lounge for drinks as the sun goes down.