North Florida is home to an extensive park system with lots of city, state, and even National Park sites in our area. If you’re looking for a day of adventure with the kids and don’t want to travel too far from home, there are lots of great spots you can visit in and around Jacksonville. Many of the National Parks in our area are free to visit, and all of them have several days a year where you can get free admission.
Located in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Fort Caroline is a great spot to explore with kids of all ages. It’s completely free to visit and they have a small museum and gift shop on the property. You can hike some short trails and bring a picnic lunch by the water. Be sure to stop in the visitor center and pick up a Junior Ranger book so you can earn a badge.
The Kingsley Plantation is another great historic National Park site to visit in Jacksonville. Technically it’s part of the Timucuan Preserve, but since it has its own visitor center and Junior Ranger badge, we thought it deserved its own entry. This is another location that is completely free to visit and great for kids. You can tour the plantation estate and learn a lot about the history of the people who lived here years ago.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve covers the area which includes Fort Caroline and Kingsley Plantation. But there’s so much more to this National Park site than just those two locations. There are miles upon miles of trails, both on land and by water. One of our favorite ways to enjoy this area is through the 7 Creeks Recreation Area. This area, in partnership with the city, has marked trails and kayak launches to explore.
Just a short drive from Jacksonville, in St. Augustine, is Fort Matanzas National Monument. This park is one of our favorites in North Florida because it includes a ferry ride with the free admission. Perfect for the school aged crowd, kids can climb up the Fort, and try to spot dolphins in the river. This National Park site also offers a Junior Ranger badge for kids.
Located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is hard to miss. This giant fort sits on the water is offers visitors reenactments, history, a Junior Ranger badge, and so much more. This National Park site is a great place to visit if you’re looking to spend the day in St. Augustine.
An hour north of Jacksonville, Cumberland Island is one of our favorite spots for a day trip from Jacksonville. Only accessible by ferry, Cumberland Island is full of wonders unique to the area. You might spot some wild horses, or even see a sea turtle nesting on the beach. Be sure to pack drinks and snacks because there are no concessions on the island.
Shannon is a former Special Education teacher, turned stay at home mom that doesn’t spend a lot of time staying at home. Mom to Cole & Kiley, she loves cheering on the Gators, early morning visits to the beach and traveling with her family. She blogs about her family travel adventures at The Beckham Project and hosts the podcast, Jacksonville Momcast, where she chats with Jacksonville moms about motherhood and more in the 904.