Located in Duval County along the northern section of Florida’s Atlantic coast, Atlantic Beach is part of the Jacksonville Metropolitan area, along with the nearby community of Neptune Beach.
The state’s northern coast is known for its refreshing waters, scenic beaches, and abundant sport fish, which draw saltwater anglers from all over the region.
Atlantic Beach is within an easy drive of a few national forests and wildlife refuges as well; one of which is just over the border in neighboring Georgia.
With an abundance of dining, nature, and outdoor recreation options, keeping busy shouldn’t be a problem.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Atlantic Beach, Florida.
1. Howell Park
Atlantic Beach’s Howell Park isn’t the largest park you’re likely to find in the area, but it gets less traffic than others, which makes it a good choice for those looking to avoid the crowds.
Located just off Seminole Road, it features ponds, streams, and a ¾ mile nature trail that winds its way through a number of idyllic environments.
Previous guests have noted that despite the park’s small size, they felt like they were much farther away from civilization than they really were.
Howell Park is popular with picnickers, bikers, walkers, and those with little ones who need wide-open spaces to stretch their legs.
2. St. Johns River Ferry
The St. Johns River flows between the Atlantic Ocean and the barrier islands that lay just offshore of the Jacksonville and Atlantic Beach coasts.
It’s a scenic waterway that’s full of amazing views, interesting animals, and lots of history as well.
The St. Johns River Ferry is a convenient and inexpensive activity that many visitors take advantage of, and it’s usually one of the most memorable experiences of their trip.
Whether you take the ferry with a car or as a pedestrian, it’ll only cost a few bucks. Once across the water, you’ll have access to several beautiful and inexpensive beaches and parks.
3. Atlantic Beach Brewing Company
Featuring a hip and contemporary vibe and a variety of craft-made brews with a wide range of flavor profiles, Atlantic Beach Brewing Company is a popular stop for weary beer lovers who’ve just spent a long day under the Florida sun.
Atlantic Beach’s taproom includes both indoor and outdoor seating, and there is always an array of brews on tap to tempt nearly every taste bud.
There’s no kitchen on-site, but guests can order from an adjacent restaurant’s menu and have the food conveniently delivered.
For those who’d like to take a beer or two home with them, Atlantic Beach refills growler bottles; the cost is very reasonable but varies slightly based on the type of beer.
4. Pho Viet
Though it may not be the most traditional of all Atlantic Beach’s restaurants, Pho Viet is known for serving up steaming bowls of pho, which for those who aren’t familiar with it, is one of the national dishes of Vietnam.
It’s hot noodle soup that usually includes bean sprouts, strips of beef, meatballs, lime juice, and chili peppers.
Though the soup is the restaurant’s claim to fame, they also offer hearty sandwiches, fried rice, and spring rolls, and they’re known for their ample portion sizes and reasonable prices.
Pho Viet is an excellent stop for those looking to do a bit of culinary exploration without heading overseas or spending an arm and a leg.
5. Cummer Museum of Art
Located on Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum of Art is a cultural and artistic gem that deserves an hour or two of an art lover’s valuable time.
The museum’s collection features thousands of individual works that are a mix of contemporary, historical, and ancient; they include many international influences.
The Cummer Museum is spread over a few buildings overlooking the St. Johns River. In addition to its permanent collection, the grounds offer a variety of walking paths that lead to beautiful gardens, many of which were originally cultivated more than 100 years ago and include sculptures, ponds, and gurgling fountains.
6. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens are some of the area’s top attractions and feature thousands of plants and animals spread over acres of scenic ground along Zoo Parkway, near to where the Trout River empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The zoo is especially known for its big cat residents, including tigers from Southeast Asia, jaguars from South America, and lions from Africa.
Many visitors choose to show themselves around, but for those who’d like to take advantage of the staff’s knowledge, they offer a variety of tour and activity options, and many of them are specifically geared toward families with children.
7. Timucuan Ecological Preserve
Comprised of nearly 50,000 acres that include marshes, dunes, and forests, Timucuan Ecological Preserve is named after the Native American Timucuan people, who inhabited the area for countless generations before it was officially settled.
In addition to pristine natural areas, the preserve includes a number of historic sites, like Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline, both of which offer guests a unique look into the past when the area was remote, hostile, and often deadly.
The preserve’s staff offer a variety of historical and natural tours, programs, and activities, and there are even volunteer opportunities for those who’d like to help with the park’s upkeep.
8. The Hangar Bay Café and Gallery
Located on Mayport Road in Jacksonville, Hangar Bay Café and Gallery offers guests a unique blend of local art and tasty, inexpensive food that keeps many coming back time after time.
The café’s big sellers are ramen noodles done a variety of ways. There are both meat and vegetable-only options, and many of them are unique and quirky combinations that include many local and international flavors that work well together.
The café is a no-frills destination, but customers appreciate its reasonable prices and fast service, making it a perfect destination for families with empty stomachs and empty wallets.
9. Museum of Science and History
Of all Jacksonville’s museums, there’s probably none that encompasses such a wide range of subject matter like the Museum of Science and History.
Its interactive exhibits were designed to educate and entertain simultaneously, and they touch on animals and the natural world, space, technology, art, and culture.
The museum’s on-site planetarium is considered one of the most state-of-the-art in the country and offers several regularly scheduled shows featuring dim-lighting, comfy seats, and plenty of chilly air-conditioning.
The dinosaur exhibits are big hits too, and the theater offers a variety of live entertainment and community events throughout the year.
10. The Riverside Arts Market
Jacksonville’s Riverside Arts Market is part gallery, part farmer’s market, and part flea market. It’s one of the area’s most eclectic shopping destinations and has attracted a loyal crowd.
The market’s vendors include farmers, artists, chefs, and craftsmen, and many of the items you’ll see aren’t available elsewhere.
From jewelry and health and body products to prepared food items, fresh baked goods, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, there’s not much you won’t find; a Saturday morning stop at the market is as much a social activity as it is a shopping one.
The market is located adjacent to the river on Riverside Avenue.
11. Avondale Historic District
The Avondale Historic District is one of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods and is known for its quaintness, traditional architecture, parks, and easily walkable streets.
Much of the area has undergone a renaissance in recent years; now, in addition to the historic vibe, the area has acquired a trendy, Bohemian feel that includes hip cafés and coffee shops, galleries, and antique stores.
There are also a couple of nearby craft-breweries, and the restaurants feature everything from traditional southern favorites to all-organic and vegetarian.
The Avondale Historic District is within walking distance of the aforementioned Arts Market and covers about two square miles in total.
12. Friendship Fountain
Jacksonville’s Friendship Fountain is one of those amazing attractions that tends to far exceed visitor’s expectations.
More reminiscent of you’d expect to see in front of a Las Vegas casino, its 60 high-pressure nozzles are capable of launching streams of water more than 100 feet into the air.
At night when colored lights are added, it becomes a one-of-a-kind spectacle that’s usually one of the most amazing experiences of visitor’s trips to the area.
The large park surrounding the fountain is a great place for a picnic or an afternoon stroll. It is located along the St. Johns River just across from downtown, offering stunning urban and natural views.
13. Southbank Riverwalk
The scenic St. Johns River is one of the city’s natural focal points, and the Riverwalk is the perfect place to enjoy the area’s unique combination of natural and manmade elements that work together to create amazing vistas.
The Riverwalk is near to the city’s downtown area, but far enough away to give visitors the impression that they’re somehow removed from all that chaos.
Scattered along the Riverwalk area are a variety of dining establishments, retail shops, and even swanky bars.
The area is particularly popular in the afternoon and evening hours, and there is often live entertainment that’s a big hit with the happy hour crowd.
14. The Florida Theatre
The Florida Theatre was built in the mid-‘20s at the height of the art deco movement. It’s one of the area’s most well-preserved architectural examples of that eye-catching style, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Though the theater fell on hard times in the middle part of the 20th century, after a few ownership changes and renovation programs, it reopened once again in the ‘80s and has been providing locals and visitors with a variety of performances ever since.
Guests appreciate the theater’s old-world feel, state of the art lighting and sound, and the high-quality performances that are offered year-round.
15. Adventure Landing
Featuring a huge water park, mini-golf, laser tag, and a lazy river that’s perfect for tubing, Adventure Landing is one of those Jacksonville attractions that can really draw a crowd, especially during the often unbearably hot summer months.
The Shipwreck Island Play Village is the park’s centerpiece, and is generally where kids and their watchers spend most of their time, but when short attention spans win out, there are batting cages, go-cart tracks, and tons of arcade games too.
There are several food and drink concessions on-site, and they even offer adults-only events when the park is closed to little ones.