Wedged between Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach is a community in the Jacksonville Beaches.
This is the smallest of The Beaches, with a population of less than 8,000, and a residential vibe. You won’t see the large resorts and sprawling beach parks that command the waterfront in neighboring communities.
Instead the beachfront is bordered by dunes, with walkovers at 20 different public access points. I doubt anyone can set their eyes on this beach and not fall in love right away.
While the shore is low-key and peaceful in Neptune Beach, you have restaurants, nightspots, visitor attractions and landmarks like the Jacksonville Beach Pier as close as can be.
1. Neptune Beach Public Beach Access
The city’s prime attraction is its continuous sandy shorefront, which will capture your heart at first sight. The entire beach is buffered by low dunes, broken by occasional walkovers at public access points.
There were exactly 20 public accesses when I wrote this list. As Neptune Beach has an unassuming residential character, parking can be limited, apart from in the south at Seagate Avenue.
As for the beach itself, it’s remarkably shallow along this part of the shore. At low tide there’s a huge shallow area, reaching out for hundreds of feet, and suitable for families.
I say this a lot when talking about Florida’s Atlantic beaches, but you simply have to set your alarm and catch the sunrise here.
2. Beaches Town Center
Partly in Neptune Beach and partly in Atlantic Beach, there’s a dynamic lifestyle district along several blocks of Atlantic Boulevard.
One thing that really appeals to me about Beaches Town Center is the walkability. You can stroll on brick-paved, palm-shaded sidewalks, browsing boutiques and deciding where to stop for lunch or dinner.
There’s a string of chain restaurants further west, while things are a bit more local nearer the beach on the east side.
Among specialty shops for candles, leather goods, handmade crafts, clothing, surf gear and more, you’ve got seafood, health food, French, contemporary American, Asian street food, Italian, Filipino BBQ, frozen custard, and much more.
3. Jarboe Park
Neptune Beach’s community park is a couple of blocks in from the Florida Boulevard beach access. This is a sizable space, with a large pond on the north side.
There’s a fountain on the water, as well a little causeway that leads to a little palm-shaded island. Going by my experience, be prepared to deal with some curious Canada geese, while there’s a lot of turtles to be seen in the water.
For active amenities, Jarboe Park has a basketball court, a volleyball court, and a tennis/pickleball courts. There’s a lineup of play areas for wee ones, one of which includes a sand area.
4. Beaches Museum
To get up to speed with the history and culture of The Beaches, there’s an informative museum close by in Jacksonville Beach.
In these galleries you can find out about intrepid pioneers, swanky Gilded Age hotels, and experience the sights and sounds of the boardwalk in days gone by.
Outside is a compelling history park, preserving a locomotive from 1911, a railway depot (c. 1900), the 1903 Pablo Beach Post Office, and more.
These structures sit among the delightful Heritage Garden, with growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables with an historical connection to the area.
Look out for periodic exhibits, which are always worth seeing. On my most recent visit there was an engaging timeline for tourism in The Beaches.
5. Tide Views Preserve
It’s normal to be drawn to the Atlantic shore in Neptune Beach, but there’s a breathtaking wetland environment bordering the city to the west.
On the north side of Atlantic Boulevard, this can be accessed at Tide Views Preserve. This is eight acres of parkland overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
It’s great place to launch a kayak or paddleboard, and if you’re just here to stroll there’s a long boardwalk traversing the wetlands. My tip is to be here when the sun goes down, because the low sun turns the network of waterways to gold.
Interpretive signs help you identify everything from fish to the preserve’s plant communities.
6. Castaway Island Preserve
Be sure to visit the Jacksonville side of the Intracoastal Waterway for a new perspective on the wetlands. With low traffic, Castaway Island Preserve is a beautiful spot, where you can survey the network of tidal streams and salt marshes.
The Island Trail is a joy, diverging from the paved road and leading out through the marshlands to an observation platform. In a few minutes I saw egrets, roseate spoonbills, and a lot of small lizards.
If you stay back on the road you’ll soon come to a kayak launch, fishing dock, and another sweeping overlook. In a place like this, with a lot of standing or slow-moving water, bug spray is essential.
7. Jax Surf & Paddle
Based at Beaches Town Center is one of North Florida’s leading surf schools and beach rental providers.
Jax Surf & Paddle is a multifaceted company, reflecting the many things you can do on the water around Neptune Beach.
Maybe you want to spend a magical half-day exploring the Intracoastal Waterway and vibrant ecosystems. Or perhaps you’re an experienced surfer, just in time for perfect swells at Jacksonville Beach Pier.
Boards are available for anything from one hour to seven days. You can also rent bodyboards, skimboards, and bicycles.
If, like me, you’re a total newbie at both sports, this operator offers a range of options from private lessons to public classes and camps.
8. Beaches Green Market
A couple of minutes away in Jacksonville Beach there’s a weekly farmers’ market for all of The Beaches. Held on Saturday afternoons, the Beaches Green Market is a producer-only market.
This means that many of the vendors are real farmers selling local, organically raised produce. In the season, there’s no better place to get hold of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Also available here are seafood, local eggs, pasture-raised meats, orchids and other houseplants, fresh breads, baked goods, and a range of pet treats.
This is also a wonderful spot if you need a handmade gift or souvenir from your visit to The Beaches. One of my favorite vendors was the Botanical Beverage Bar, offering iced tea, lattes, and kombucha.
As a dog parent, I can’t help but smile when I find a bar that welcomes dogs. In Neptune Beach, Brewhound doesn’t just allow you to bring your dog—dogs are at the heart of the concept.
On a whole acre there’s an off-leash dog park, with turf grass, separate areas for small and big dogs, ample shade and a doggy splash pad. Known as the Yard, this section requires a monthly membership.
Overlooking this space is The Porch, with a bar pouring local craft beer and wine, and stocking specialty canned beers and coffee. The Porch doesn’t require a membership, and you’re free to bring your leashed dog with you to this part.
10. Pete’s Bar
While Beaches Town Center has the feel of a newfangled lifestyle center, there are some businesses that have been here for a long time. The veteran is Pete’s Bar, which has been here since 1933, making it the oldest bar in Duval County.
What grabbed me about this local institution is its uncompromising dedication to its niche. This is a dive bar, but is loved for what it is. Around the time I went to press, the bar had recently changed hands, and became smoke-free, without losing any of its personality.
There’s now a backyard deck with its own bar, in a space that previously belonged to a neighboring residence. Inside you’ve got classic bar games for 25 cents a pop, as well as TVs and arcade games.
11. Jacksonville Beach Pier
Another extraordinary place to see the sunrise, Jacksonville Beach Pier is a short drive south on A1A.
When I was in town this 1,300-foot structure had recently reopened following damage in Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in the 2010s.
Whether you’re fishing or marveling at the view, there’s now a small fee to visit the pier. Especially in the winter months the pier helps generate some excellent surfing waves, and this is one of the best places in Northeast Florida for surfing.
The pier is also in a bustling part of Jacksonville Beach, with lots of eateries, and live events taking place at the Seawalk Pavilion close by.
12. Southern Breeze Cart Rental
Neptune Beach is one of a few communities in the Jacksonville Beaches to be served by this electric cart company. In fact, Southern Breeze Cart Rental is the only purveyor of street legal golf carts in the area.
Green, cheaper to run than a car, and way more convenient for the small beach town lifestyle, these carts are fully licensed and insured. You can drive them on any road with a speed limit no higher than 35 mph. I was amazed to see that the largest cart in the fleet, The Blue Surfer, can seat eight people.
Southern Breeze Cart Rental offers 24-hour, multi-day and weekly rentals, and will deliver your vehicle directly to you.
13. Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach
For a family day out there’s a fun center/amusement park, five minutes away in Jacksonville Beach.
The headline at Adventure Landing is the seasonal Shipwreck Island Water Park, with its 500,000-gallon wave pool, a pirate-themed play area, and slides including The Rage, the region’s first uphill water-coaster.
Also here is an impressive quarter-mile karting track, with a winding layout. You’ve also got an arcade, two 18-hole miniature golf courses, laser tag, batting cages, and more.
I should also mention Gator Alley, where for a small fee you can safely feed alligators via poles.
14. Jax Beach Golf Club
Right on the other side of Beach Boulevard from Neptune Beach there’s a highly-regarded municipal course.
Dating back some 60 years, this course was given a thorough renovation in 2018. Now Jax Beach Golf Club has new holes, hardy Platinum Paspalum grass, and state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage.
I think it’s safe to say that this course is ready to deal with almost anything the Florida climate can throw at it. This is clear on the greens, which are now close to perfect all year.
Since the update, the final three holes have been totally reworked, with a tough dogleg right over water to close out a round.
15. Fletcher Swimming Pool
If what you need is a no-nonsense public pool to get some laps in, this is the place for you. Fletcher Swimming Pool is actually at the back of the namesake high school, but is open for public use in the afternoons.
Lap swimming sessions will appeal to anyone in need of some exercise in a more stable environment than the ocean.
And while there isn’t much to thrill bigger kids and teens, this is also a useful attraction if you have younger kids, especially in the summer break. If you’re local to the pool, programs include classes and individual lessons.