If your kids have ever wanted to become a National Park Junior Ranger, Jacksonville is a great place to begin their adventure. North Florida is home to an expansive park system. We’re lucky to have access to city, state and federal lands designated for our enjoyment of the outdoors. One of our favorite activities in the National Parks is the Junior Ranger Program. This is a free program to teach kids about the parks and when they complete the required activities they earn a badge or patch. Here in North Florida there are several National Park sites where you can earn a Junior Ranger Badge.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center and take some time learning about the Timucuan people in the visitor center as well as the history of Fort Caroline as you hike around the fort. Fort Caroline offers two books, for ages under 8, and 8 and older.
Kingsley Plantation is located on the north side of Jacksonville and has lots of historic sites for kids to explore. Check out an explorer backpack that’s filled with tools like a compass and magnifying glass and you’ll be on your way to earning your Junior Ranger Badge.
Visiting Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine makes a great day of adventure for kids. You can take a short, 10 minute ferry ride over to the fort where you’ll be able to look around and learn a little about the history of St. Augustine. Be sure to pick up your Junior Ranger books before you get on the ferry. There’s a few questions that will need to be answered while you’re on the other side of the park.
Better known as the big fort in St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos is a great place for kids to learn about St. Augustine and Florida history. There is a small fee to enter the fort, but it’s well worth it because there is lots to see when you’re inside.
Although technically not located in North Florida, Cumberland Island National Seashore is just over the state line in south Georgia. Only accessible by boat, it’s just a short hour drive to the ferry from Jacksonville. You do have to pay for ferry access and entrance to the park, but it makes a fun day trip exploring the island with kids.
Shannon Beckham is a former Special Education teacher, turned SAHM 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 adventures at The Beckham Project.