Campus Attractions at the University of North Florida

    By Florence Snyder

    The welcome mat is always out at the University of North Florida, where the Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. 

    There’s no better place to enjoy the natural wonders of the Sunshine State than the "home of the Ospreys." The majestic bird was elected as UNF’s mascot over stiff competition in a crowded field of Florida fauna, including the armadillo, the manatee and the seagull.

    UNF was born in 1969 with a gift of 500 acres previously used in the logging business. The campus has grown to 1,400 acres of wildlife sanctuary, which includes the 300-acre Sawmill Slough Preserve.

    The five miles of highly diverse pathways are named for one of UNF’s most distinguished faculty members and designated by the United States Department of the Interior as National Recreation Trails.

    Loftin was a member of UNF’s founding faculty and the driving force behind its first volunteer organization, the Sawmill Slough Conservation Club. His spirit is felt everywhere in the wetlands and woodlands he fought to preserve, inviting you to bring your curiosity, and leave behind your cares.

    The Loftin Trails are color coded for easy navigation. The Red Trail is wheelchair and baby stroller accessible. Seating areas are provided as well, so the whole family can enjoy the serenity of the Buckhead Branch Swamp.

    Gopher Tortoise Ridge, appropriately marked by turtle-green signs, is the sandy home to these peaceful land-dwelling reptiles. Full grown gopher tortoises pack about 25 pounds inside a foot-long shell, and punch
    well-above their weight in importance to the ecosystem. Gopher tortoises are honored by environmentalists as “keystone species” because they dig burrows that provide shelter for at least 360 varieties of amphibians, mammals and fellow-reptiles.

    Follow the Blueberry Trail through the pine flat-woods and deep swamp surrounding Lake Oneida. Birds and deer are there in abundance to feed upon — you guessed it — blueberries, and to watch the two-legged
    animals who stop at the workout stations and perform suggested exercises.

    Linger at the Big Cypress Loop to admire the 500-year-old eponymously named tree which also marks the jumping-off point for the longest of the Loftin pathways. The Goldenrod Trail is named for the flowers that bloom there each fall. It’s nearly three miles long and takes in the full range of UNF habitats.

    The UNF Fine Arts Center is home to the University’s Music Flagship program. The school’s 1,400-seat Lazzara Performance Hall and 200-seat recital hall attract internationally respected faculty, guest artists and exceptionally talented students. Performances are fresh, frequent and mostly free.

    The Cummer Family Foundation Chamber Series “offers a diverse range of music from tango music for flute and guitar to Brahms' clarinet quintet to the Russian school of virtuosic piano master pieces.”

    The UNF Wind Symphony takes center stage for the annual Upbeat Pink celebration honoring breast cancer survivors. Florida Clarinet Extravaganza! lasts four days and lives up to the exclamation point in its name. Opera Ensemble Presents and the holiday Feast of Carols round out a calendar highlighted by the Great American Jazz Series featuring UNF’s Jazz Ensemble I. You may not have heard of them, but more than 100 guest artists from the “everybody-who-is-anybody” list has shared the Ensemble’s stage. We’re talking jazz legends Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Arturo Sandoval, Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck and
    various members of the Marsalis family.


    The University of North Florida boasts a large collection of more than 20 outdoor sculptures. One of the largest is John Henry’s “Axiom,” a 35-foot high and 20-foot wide sculpture that weighs 18 tons and is made of steel and painted in safety red enamel.

    - Daron Dean for VISIT FLORIDA

    UNF is a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears. Scattered throughout the campus lawns, plazas, buildings and permanent gallery in Founders Hall, are works of art from celebrated professionals, as well as pieces created by students and faculty. Even the bike racks make an artistic statement.
    UNF has competed in Division 1 of the NCAA Atlantic Sun Conference since 2009. The Osprey athletic nests are first-class facilities in which to watch many of your favorite collegiate sports.


    University of North Florida’s Chris Thibideau gets a hit against the University of Central Florida at Harmon Baseball Stadium, on the campus of UNF.

    - Daron Dean for VISIT FLORIDA

    UNF Arena is home to men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. You'll know you’re there when you spot the iconic Osprey Fountain.

    UNF’s men’s and women’s soccer, track and field, and cross country teams train and compete at Hodges Stadium. Hodges boasts one of only seven tracks in the United States certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Harmon Stadium is the home venue for UNF baseball; there's also a Softball Complex and a Tennis Complex.

    Hayt Golf Learning Center is a state-of-the-art practice facility. It’s open to the public and a great place to meet locals working on their game and getting inspiration and perhaps some tips on their swing from members of the Osprey golf teams.

    UNF offers over a dozen dining options. If you only have time for one, consider The Boathouse, a UNF tradition since 1978.  The Boathouse has been re-imagined and rebuilt twice since then, and is now serving hearty meals and happy memories in the Student Union.

    “We will swoop you up” is the mission statement of the UNF shuttle system. When school is in session, the Osprey Connector is a free and fast way for visitors to sit for a bit and get acquainted with students, faculty and staff.

    When you go…
    University of North Florida
    1 UNF Dr.
    Jacksonville, Fla. 32224
    (904) 620-1000