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Weekend in the Florida Wildlife Corridor: Jacksonville Edition

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From lush gardens to refreshing springs, the Corridor is calling your name with these local gems!

Boasting an average of 270 sunny days a year, Jacksonville is practically begging you to get outside. Luckily, “The River City by The Sea” offers easy access to several spots throughout the Corridor. We planned a weekend getaway—with a short or longer trip option each day—for Jax locals to embrace their Live Wildly spirit and discover the Corridor’s thrilling activities, sceneries and critters.

Not a Jacksonville local? Don’t worry—we planned spots from nearby St. Augustine, too!

What to pack:

  • Hiking boots or waterproof shoes
    Cooler
    Water bottle
    Snacks
    Lunch
    Bathing suit
    Towel
    Change of clothes
    Sunscreen
    Bug spray
    Hat
    Camera
    Camping and/or fishing gear (optional)
    Kayak or canoe (optional)

Saturday

All Day Trip: Lafayette Blue Springs State Park

Ready for a road trip? Your first adventure kicks off at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park, about two hours west of Jacksonville. The park sits just off the Suwannee River, which stretches from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico and features towering oak trees and a limestone natural bridge. Head out in the morning to ensure enough time to explore the park’s diversity, including one of Florida’s 33 first-magnitude springs, Lafayette Blue Springs, which remains a comfortable 72 degrees year-round.

Live Wildly Tip: Pack a lunch for this adventure! Cook hot dogs or burgers on the park’s grills or enjoy a picnic beneath towering oak trees and shaded pavilions.

Warm up with a half-mile hike along the Green Sink Trail. In less than 30 minutes, you’ll see the abundant nature and wildlife that make Lafayette Blue Springs unique. Look out for beavers, otters and turtles as you journey through several sinkholes shaded by cypress trees.

Cool off with a swim beneath the rocks in the teal blue watering hole. You can also scuba dive or snorkel through underwater caves. After wading through the refreshing waters, paddle along the Suwannee River in a rented kayak or canoe.

Live Wildly Tip: Several nearby businesses offer canoe or kayak rentals. To scuba dive, you must be certified and go with at least one other diver. 

Make sure you stop by Casa Frias Mexican Cuisine for dinner, a hidden gem in the rural town of Mayo. 

Live Wildly Tip: Order the guacamole—they make it fresh right in front of you!

Not ready to head back to Jax just yet? Spend the night at one of the park’s campsites equipped with restrooms, electricity and water hookup. If camping’s not your thing, five furnished cabins are also available. Screened-in porches provide stellar stargazing views of the glittering night sky.

Mini Getaway: Osceola National Forest

Don’t have all day to get away? No problem. Peaceful Osceola, Florida’s youngest national forest, offers hiking, swimming and fishing just 45 minutes from the city

Begin your visit at the Olustee Battlefield, which commemorates Florida’s largest Civil War battle. A one-mile interpretive loop will guide you through the events of the historic day. The forest boasts long-leaf pines, palmetto, ferns and if you’re lucky, "rainbow swamps,” which are caused by chemicals released from fallen cypress needles.

Live Wildly Tip: Wear waterproof hiking boots or shoes you don’t mind getting wet; the trails are often swampy.

Next, take a 10-minute drive to Olustee Beach overlooking Ocean Pond. Here, you can cool off with a swim, fish on the pier or hike half a mile through the Trampled Track Trail and learn about the old sawmill community. Longer hikes along the Great Florida Birding Trail and Florida National Scenic Trail also pass through the pond. 

Live Wildly Fact: Did you know that some geologists believe Ocean Pond was created by a meteorite hitting earth? The theory originates from the pond’s unique, almost perfectly round shape.

Day one was pretty wild! Ready for more? Gear up for another day of wild adventures in the Corridor.

Sunday

All Day Trip: Washington Oak Gardens State Park

If you need time to recover from Saturday’s jam-packed activities, take an hour drive to the relaxing Washington Oak Gardens State Park (only 40 minutes from St. Augustine!). Located on a barrier island, the park features exquisite gardens and a winding reflection pond surrounding a live oak tree.

Live Wildly Fact: The resilient Washington Oak is estimated to be 200-300 years old and has survived hurricanes, droughts, floods and more.

Bursting with native and non-native flowers such as azaleas, camellias and birds of paradise, the garden is a peaceful escape from the bustling city. Picnic under one of their shaded pavilions and look out for songbirds, peregrine falcons or bald eagles flying overhead.

After strolling through the garden, trek through one of the Bella Vista trails or walk along the nearby shoreline of coquina rock formations. With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Matanzas River to the west, you may spot dolphins or manatees playing in the water.

Live Wildly Tip: Although swimming is not allowed due to the strong undertow and large rocks, licensed fishing is welcomed—with plenty of trout, redfish, flounder and drum to catch!

End your trip with a pulled pork sandwich at local favorite Captain’s BBQ, only 2 minutes from the gardens. Time everything right and you’ll catch the sunset on the Atlantic.

Mini Getaway: Jennings State Forest

You don’t need to travel far outside Jax’s city center to experience the Corridor. A 30-minute drive will take you into the heart of Jennings State Forest. It features five pet-friendly hiking trails ranging in difficulty and length.

We recommend the Dunn’s Farm Trail, a flat and sandy 3.5-mile loop through oak trees, magnolias, orchids and bright yellow untouched deer moss. Look out for several mini waterfalls along the way, with benches to rest and observe the diverse wildlife, including otters, wild turkeys and songbirds.

Live Wildly Tip: If you have extra time, Jennings State Park has more to offer—from horseback riding on equestrian trails, to camping with incredible stargazing, to fishing and swimming in Black Creek.

On your way home, grab a pint and relax with your pup at Wicked Barley Brewing Company’s waterfront, dog-friendly beer garden.

That’s a wrap on your wild weekend exploring Jacksonville’s nearby Corridor. Have you visited these spots or do you want to share other local favorites? Let us know on social using #LiveWildlyFL so we can share your finds!

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With your help, we can ensure that Floridian flora, fauna, and fun will thrive for many years to come.

Join the movement to save the Florida Wildlife Corridor.


Econfina Creek
Photo by Carlton Ward, Jr.
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