You don’t have to head to our 50th state to carve some of the gnarliest waves around. Jacksonville Beach, also known as “Jax Beach,” is home to the best surf culture and beach life in the Sunshine State.
It’s easy to spend a weekend on the white sand conquering the Atlantic whitecaps with others who love the sport as much as you do. Here’s where to stay, play, eat and surf on a weekend of wave riding in Jax Beach.
In the 1600s, French Huguenot explorers founded the area that’s now Jacksonville. Today, Huguenot Memorial Park is Jacksonville’s premier surfing, fishing and camping beach. It’s the only beach in Jacksonville where you can drive on the sand, so there’s no difficult trek to schlep your surfboards. The beach is open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the spring and summer and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the fall and winter; entry to the park is $5 (cash only).
On the south side of the inlet, Mayport Poles is another favorite surfing spot. Hit up the beach at low tide when the waist-high surf breaks a little farther out. The best wind direction for Mayport Poles is from the west, and the best way to find out the surf forecast for this or any other Jacksonville beach is by visiting the Surfline website, which has real-time updates on conditions at each beach.
Atlantic Beach is one of the longest strands in Jacksonville, and because of that, you should have plenty of room to spread out your gear. High tide is best for surfing this break, and chest-high waves are a common occurrence. Waves break more consistently during the winter, so you’ll want to don that wetsuit for sure, since Jacksonville’s water temps can get chilly — about 60 degrees in January. If you don’t have a suit, or a board for that matter, rent one from Sunrise Surf Shop.
Two major surf cafés from big brands adorn the strip of 3rd Avenue where you’ll spend most of your out-of-water time.
Surfer magazine owns just two cafés in the U.S., and one of their Surfer The Bar locations is in Jacksonville (the other is in Hawaii, FYI). You’ll want to nosh on the ramen noodle burrito at the two-story digs, and try to get a table facing the water for the best views.
Salt Life Food Shack is another favorite for beach bums who need a good meal. The tuna poke bowl with avocado and sticky rice is a must.
It sounds far-fetched, but there might be a day when you want to take a break from the wave breaks. If that’s the case, don’t miss the Beaches Museum & History Park, just across the street from the Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront hotel.
Admission is free, and you can easily spend an afternoon meandering the exhibits, especially the ones highlighting the history of surfing and photographs and paintings by local artists.
The 80-room, all-suite Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Beachfront is where most well-heeled surf bums center their stay in the area. It’s just steps from the surf, so you won’t have to go far to catch your first waves. The cool, modern design and roomy suites make for a perfect surf shack for a couple of nights.
When it’s warm, open that sliding door and let the sound of the waves rock you to sleep. The in-house restaurant is a great place to refuel between surfing sessions.