Editor's note: Beaches and parks are listed geographically from north to south.
Beaches with this symbol have beach wheelchairs available, either provided as a courtesy, or available for (prearranged) rent and delivery from private companies.
In this northeast corner of Florida, you'll find peaceful, wide beaches lined with high sand dunes. If you are a nature lover, there are plenty of city, state and county parks where you can explore local wildlife and vegetation. From rustic and untouched coastlines to bustling ports with piers and boardwalks, this area boasts a rich history. Choose to keep your days busy swimming, surfing or fishing, or simply pull up your beach chair and enjoy the view.
Fort Clinch State Park
This northernmost park on the Atlantic coast features a beautiful coastline. The beach here is the perfect place to search for seashells and hunt for sharks' teeth. Once you have soaked up the sun and taken a swim, try one of the other activities the park offers. Walk or bike along the miles of nature trails - choose from a six-mile, off-road trail, or 3.3 miles of paved trail. You can also wet a line at the half-mile fishing pier or nearby jetties. There are showers, restrooms and a picnic area.
Beaches of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach
Made up of 13 miles of seashore lined with 40-foot, sea oat dappled dunes, Amelia Island is a beach lover's haven. Shelling and hunting for sharks' teeth are time honored diversions. Fernandina Beach is a quaint village that was once a Victorian seaport. It's the perfect place to explore the local flavor and grab some lunch. It is also the only beach of the bunch that provides beach wheelchairs at a nearby recreation area (a $50 deposit, given back upon return of the wheelchair, is required). The Main Beach, the largest public park on the island is located at Trout Street and has showers and restrooms. Seaside Park has showers. There are also 21 beach access point at the street ends between Main Beach and the south end of town.
This beach is a historic and cultural landmark. Abraham Lincoln Lewis, co-founder and president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, founded American Beach in 1935 when there were few beaches in the area blacks could enjoy. By the 1940s and 1950s, blacks were coming from across the South to vacation at American Beach. Located on Amelia Island approximately five miles south of Fernandina Beach, this historic site is a stop on Florida's Black Heritage Trail.
Amelia Island State Park
This 200-acre park offers beach and nature lovers a little bit of everything. Aside from being a good place to swim or relax, the beach is great for shelling and watching wildlife. Fishing is popular along the mile-long George Crady Bridge State Fishing Pier that spans the Nassau Sound, and you can even take a horseback ride on the beach from a stable nearby.
Big Talbot Island State Park
This natural park has a one-of-a-kind beach with black, rock-like outcroppings and fallen trees that have become bleached and weathered with time. The picnic area has a bluff overlook view of Nassau Sound. This is not a deep, swimming beach, but you can wade into the water to cool off. You can enjoy other activities like hiking the nature trails, fishing, canoeing and boating.
Little Talbot Island State Park
Little Talbot Island is an undeveloped haven in northeast Florida. The 2,500-acre island features plenty of space for biking, hiking, fishing and canoeing. To top it off, the park has more than five miles of wide sandy beaches with high dunes to enjoy. Spend hours exploring the maritime forests, dunes and salt marshes. Big waves perfect for body surfing break here year 'round, and the beach is easily accessible with plenty of parking, dune walkovers and bathhouses. There is also a full-facility campground only a half-mile from the beach if you feel like extending your communion with nature.
Huguenot Memorial Park
This 449-acre, city-run park is bordered by ocean, inlet and river. It's located on Fort George Island just over the St. Johns River from Mayport. The beach here is long and wide, and provides the perfect environment for wildlife. The park is popular with families since the area along the inlet is calm and shallow. Waterfront campsites, a bird observation area, and amazing views of some of North Florida's remaining natural areas await you. The park also features a jet ski and small boat launch area, picnic shelters, restrooms and showers. The park is designated a Great Florida Birding Trail site.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
This 450-acre park lies south of historic Mayport village and features 1-½ miles of sandy beach. Swim, sail, fish or surf in the sparkling Atlantic water. As an added treat, the park has a 60-acre freshwater lake that is nice for kayaking and canoeing. There are lakeside picnic tables and grills, and nature trails wind around the lake and through the park. There is a quarter-acre water playground with colorful fountains that will delight your children (open from Memorial Day through Labor Day). The park also has a full service campground, and there are showers, restrooms and concessions available.
Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach
The two mellow beach towns offer miles of white sand beaches that are perfect for swimming, surfing or relaxing. Beach access is available at most eastern street ends. Parking is limited, but there is a pay parking lot available in Atlantic Beach. There are showers at some access points.
Encompassing about 60 blocks along the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville Beach is the area's busiest beach. The more-than-four-mile beach is wide and lined by small, soft dunes. There are beach walkovers at most street ends, however, not all have restrooms and showers. Offshore boat races, beach volleyball, fishing, surfing and sunbathing are just a few of the treats that await you. The 1,300-foot Jacksonville Pier is good spot to watch locals catch some dinner; the one-mile boardwalk is a nice place to stroll or people-watch, and the Sea Walk Pavilion is host to many concerts and events.