15 Best Things to Do in Macclenny (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The seat of Baker County is in a landscape of pine flatwoods and cypress swamps a half-hour west of downtown Jacksonville.

Interstate 10 bypasses Macclenny to the south, but there are quite a few reasons to pull off at Exit 335. One is for an exceptional outdoor museum at Heritage Park Village. This collection of historic buildings offers a perfect time-capsule for different phases of Baker County’s history.

Even though the big city is right next door, Macclenny has a lot of nature to experience. You might camp on the sandy shores of the St Marys River, visit the scene of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, or zoom through the wilderness on an ATV.

1. Heritage Park Village

Heritage Park Village, MacclennySource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia
Heritage Park Village

If you’re in Macclenny for the first time, I think your priority needs to be this open-air historical attraction. The origins of Heritage Park Village go back to a community effort to save the McClenny Train Depot (1924) from demolition in the 1980s.

It was moved to this idyllic park and has since been joined by a host of original and replica buildings from around Baker County. 

A couple that stuck in my mind were the Blue Have Restaurant (1947) frozen in the 1950s, and the trove of local artifacts in the Gilbert’s Trading Post exhibit. 

More than a simple museum, Heritage Park Village is also known for its events. These  include holiday festivals, an outdoor movie series, and even a circus. It’s also a great place to relax and walk, and a favored location for weddings.

2. Jennings State Forest

A short drive southeast and you’ll be in 25,000 acres of protected land, home to more than 15 different biological communities.

These range from the sandhill to dome swamp, blackwater stream and slop forest. Heading from Macclenny, I reckon your best bet is the North Fork Recreation Area. This sits on the spring-fed North Fork of Black Creek, ready for swimming and fishing.

A kaleidoscope of wading birds have been sighted here, as well as racoons, otters, and timid alligators. Another local pick is the nearby Long Branch Recreation Area, laced with miles of horse trails through the pine woods.

3. Baker County Fair

The time to celebrate the area’s rural character is fall, when the Baker County Fair takes place in the north of the city. Billed as the Biggest Little Fair in Florida, this event punches above its weight.

As you can imagine there’s a full program of 4H and FFA activities at this event, with an emphasis on beef and swine. Added to that are horticulture and home arts displays, as well as an annual Queen Pageant.

In the mix is a midway of course, with tons of rides and games, as well as pulsating live entertainment, a rodeo, and all the fair food we know and love. 

I’d also keep an eye on the schedule at the fairgrounds, with car shows and NBHA races throughout the year.

4. Osceola National Forest

Osceola National ForestSource: Robert J Richter / shutterstock
Osceola National Forest

A few miles west of Macclenny on I-10 you’ll enter 200,000+ acres of protected land, much of which is pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. Before  becoming a national forest at Herbert Hoover’s proclamation in 1931, this was a key source of pine timber and turpentine.

The forest’s trails are big with hikers, bicyclists, wildlife enthusiasts, and amateur photographers. For those who’d rather not get their feet wet and dirty, there are long stretches of elevated boardwalk from which it’s common to see a variety of wildlife.

One easy to reach from Macclenny is the Fanny Bay Boardwalk Interpretive Trail. Passing through cypress swamp, this 1.1-mile loop is right by a rest stop off I-10. 

Near this very spot you can also get onto the Florida National Scenic Trail, which runs for 28 miles across the forest.

5. St. Mary’s Shoals

On the white sandy banks of the St Marys River, there’s a lovely space for recreation, over more than 2,600 acres.

In a landscape evoking the Florida of old, St Mary’s Shoals caters to both motorized and non-motorized activities. So on one side there’s more than 24 miles of for ATVs and other Off-Highway Vehicles.

On the other side is terrain reserved exclusively for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling, with over 22 miles of trails. 

The landscape is a joy to traverse, with mature woodlands, downed trees, and a lot of wildlife. I learned that, as well as deer and wild hogs, black bears have been spotted in St Mary’s Shoals.

6. Macclenny Memorial Park

The city’s other municipal park can be found on the northwest side of downtown. Something I thought was neat about Macclenny Memorial Park was the lighted trail with exercise stations. 

This stays open 24/7, even though the other amenities are open only during daylight hours. So if you need to get a workout in during the evening this is an option, tracing the park’s northern half for about half-a mile. 

Also at the park are a pair of picnic pavilions, a gazebo, a children’s playground, and a pond with a dock.

7. Island Oaks RV Resort

On 121 picturesque acres five minutes away in neighboring Glen St Mary, the Island Oaks RV Resort had only recently opened when I passed through.

First up you’ve got close to 400 fully-appointed RV sites, with everything from free Wi-Fi to daily trash pickup. You can also rent an RV here, and there’s a whole host of amenities to make a stay more fun.

These include a heated swimming pool (open all year), as well as a hot tub, arcade, mini golf, a summer swim lake, and a fishing lake. The resort has facilities for a wide range of sports, from basketball to pickleball, as well as a fitness center and a kids’ playground.

8. Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail

At Brandy Branch Road, five minutes east of Macclenny, you can reach the western trailhead for the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail.

For more than 14 miles to Imeson Road in Jacksonville this trail takes up a strip 100 feet wide. Running through this is a 12-foot paved section, on an abandoned railbed first laid down by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad at the turn of the 20th century.

There are also parallel trails for horseback riding and off-road biking. The route leads through bucolic rural scenery dominated by hydric pine flatwoods and wetland mixed forest.

Something that intrigued me along the trail is the site of Camp Milton. In 1864 this became Florida’s largest encampment of Confederate Forces during the Civil War, with more than 8,000 troops.

9. St Mary’s Cove

Marking the line between Florida and Georgia, the St Marys River boasts some beautiful scenery. This watercourse meanders lazily past pines, giving the clear water a tannic quality, while the banks have perfect white sandy beaches.

This is the scene that awaits you at St Mary’s Cove, a riverfront RV campground in Macclenny. For my money, the beach here is the best in Baker County, while the entire property is embedded deep in the pine and oak woods, ideal if you want to reconnect with nature.

Staying at the campground, you can launch a kayak on the river, and picnic under magnificent live oaks.

10. Old Baker County Courthouse

The finest work of architecture in downtown Macclenny is the former Baker County courthouse, built in 1908. 

This was raised in the Colonial Revival style, and served its original purpose until 1948. The replacement at 339 E Macclenny Ave was a WPA project, begun in 1941. 

As for the original, this is an exquisite building, with octagonal wings and a cupola, all reflecting the area’s transition from subsistence farming to industrialized agriculture in the early 20th century. 

Now the courthouse is the Emily Taber Public Library. This is a fine asset for Macclenny, especially for parents with young children. There’s a great kids’ section and a lot of programs, among them storytimes and seasonal events.

11. Olustee Battlefield State Park

Olustee Battlefield State ParkSource: Kevin Winkler Photography / shutterstock
Olustee Battlefield State Park

Florida’s largest Civil War battle took place about 15 miles west of Macclenny. A Confederate victory, 

The Battle of Olustee was fought on February 20, 1864, and was particularly bloody. The losses incurred on both sides were some of the largest by percentage in the entire war. By the end of battle, a third of Truman Seymour’s Union force of 5,500 was either killed, injured or missing. 

In 1912 the battlefield became Florida’s first historic site. You can retrace the events of the day along an excellent mile-long interpretive loop. This goes into depth on the buildup and the tactics employed during the battle.

A large-scale re-enactment of the Battle of Olustee takes place at the state park every year, around the anniversary.

12. The Coop

The Coop, MacclennySource: The Coop / Facebook
The Coop

Known for its wings, this spot opened on W Macclenny Ave in 2014. It has earned a reputation as a go-to for delicious comfort food, at reasonable prices with a comfy, rustic atmosphere.

Wings come boneless or traditional in a heap of flavors, including classics like Buffalo, BBQ, Lemon Pepper, Cajun Ranch, and Honey Mustard. If you want to keep it authentic, the only sensible accompaniment is tea by the gallon. 

Keep in mind that unlike nearly all other restaurants in the area, they’re closed on Saturday and Sundays. So plan to visit during the week if you’ve got a flexible schedule.

13. Sixth Street Steakhouse

Despite the name, this spot along S Sixth St, not far north of the interstate, is more of a diner with a Southern twist.

Yes, steaks are on the menu, including sirloin, T-bone, filet mignon and prime rib, all cooked to temp. But there’s also a huge choice of breakfast plates, sandwiches, Southern-style seafood, burgers, soups & salads, and shareable appetizers. The salad bar is a true highlight, while the banana pudding is an authentic way to finish up. 

If you show up early in the day with an appetite, I’d consider the enormous Sixth Street Breakfast, with ham eggs, grits and toast.

14. Baker County Veterans Memorial Park

Heading out of Macclenny, a couple of minutes west on US 90 and you’ll be at another gorgeous park. On the margins of the city, this space feels very remote, and for me is a fantastic place to bring a picnic on a sunny day.

The park is on the South Prong of the St Marys River and there’s a large-ish lake with four fishing docks and pavilions on its shores. 

True to its name, Veterans Memorial Park is the location for events organized by the Baker County Veterans Council, including fishing derbies and Memorial Day ceremonies.

15. Jacksonville

Downtown Macclenny is literally just a couple of miles from Jacksonville’s city limits. What I should point out is that Jax is the largest city in the USA by area, continuing from here all the way to the Atlantic coast, some 40 miles away.

Downtown Jacksonville can be reached within half an hour, which puts a lot of regional attractions in easy reach. A cultural mainstay is the Cummer Museum of Art, with its sensational gardens on the St. Johns River.

Florida’s longest and most celebrated river meets the Atlantic at Jacksonville and should be seen from the Riverwalk, or on the St. Johns River Taxi. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is the prime family attraction, while there’s jaw-dropping natural scenery to check out.

Don’t miss the awe-inspiring estuarine habitats of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve Florida, or the miles of sandy Atlantic shoreline at the Jacksonville Beaches.

15 Best Things to Do in Macclenny (FL):

  • Heritage Park Village
  • Jennings State Forest
  • Baker County Fair
  • Osceola National Forest
  • St. Mary's Shoals
  • Macclenny Memorial Park
  • Island Oaks RV Resort
  • Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail
  • St Mary's Cove
  • Old Baker County Courthouse
  • Olustee Battlefield State Park
  • The Coop
  • Sixth Street Steakhouse
  • Baker County Veterans Memorial Park
  • Jacksonville