Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the United States with over 80,000 acres of parks, nature preserves, athletic fields, playgrounds, dog parks, boat & kayak launches, an arboretum and much more!
The list includes over 450 city parks, 7 state parks and 5 National Park sites & facilities. That Jacksonville has so many parks could be because it is the largest city by area in the lower 48 states. But it is also the result of a unique partnership between the city, state and national park systems, and local land conservation organizations as well as visionary leadership from governmental and civic leaders. With July as National Picnic Month (and with most families celebrating school summer breaks), we wanted to share some of our best local parks for picnics.
Parks with Pavilions
Many of our Jacksonville parks have pavilions suitable for gatherings of family and friends. And, many also have playgrounds. Reservations and a small fee may be required to use the pavilions. Our favorites include:
- Little Talbot Island State Park – with its oceanfront beach setting – tops most Jaxons’ list. After your picnic, check out the 4-mile nature trail that goes through a pristine maritime hammock habitat and return to your pavilion with a beach walk. Pavilions are on a first-come-first-served basis.
- Betz-Tiger Point Preserve, located in the 7 Creeks Recreation Area, offers fishing, canoe/kayak launches, biking & equestrian use and is the northern trailhead for the 7-mile long 7 Creeks Trail that illustrates the city/state/federal partnership by traversing through 4 separate preserve areas
- Kingsley Plantation was established on Fort George Island while Florida was under British rule. It has several historic structures dating back to that period. Take a drive on beautiful oak-lined Ft. George Rd or rent a kayak at Kayak Amelia and paddle down Fort George River to Kingsley Plantation; you can picnic at tables overlooking the river. Then tour the grounds of this historical and culturally significant landmark (take the audio tour). [It should be noted that the access road is not an easy drive after a summer’s heavy rains: the pot holes take some navigation!]
- Beach and Peach Urban Park is just off Beach Boulevard, one of the main roads from downtown to the beaches. The park has several small pavilions alongside a lake and a nature trail that circles the lake. Fishing is allowed in the lake.
- Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park, located across from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, which was once home to the vibrant community of Yukon and later a World War I training camp, has several pavilions, a playground, an overlook and several miles of nature trails and an historic brick road where you can see the remains of numerous elements of its prior existence.
Large Grass Areas For Picnics and Play
If you would prefer to spread out a blanket or large beach towel and picnic on the ground, many of Jacksonville’s parks have lush, grassy, shaded lawns with plenty of open areas for the kids to run around, play games, toss frisbees and just enjoy the nature around you. Some good parks to check out include:
- Boone Park, located in the historic Riverside-Avondale neighborhoods, “is top of this list because it is where my future wife and I had many picnics many years ago”, shares Master Gardener, Walter Bryant. It is a long, narrow park spanning about six city blocks; there is always a good spot to settle down. There are picnic tables, shelters, and a playground, in addition to other amenities.
- Willowbranch Park, also located in the Riverside-Avondale neighborhood, is one of the most picturesque parks thanks to its immense canopy of live oaks. It has a playground and picnic tables. The historic Willowbranch Library is located on the grounds.
- Memorial Park, alongside the St. Johns River in the Riverside neighborhood, has a large open lawn that invites picnics. The park features the large bronze sculpture Life that was created in 1924 by American sculptor Charles Adrian Pillars to honor those from Florida who died in World War I.
- Alexandria Oaks Park, in the San Marco neighborhood, has perhaps the largest open lawn of any of the city parks. It has many scattered oaks, pines, palms, sycamores and other trees that provide inviting places to spread out a blanket and have a picnic.
- Henry J. Klutho Park, located in downtown Jacksonville, is a meandering park that follows Hogans Creek. The park has shelters, a playground and a disc golf course.
- Native Parks 1 and 2 are small parks in the Avondale neighborhood that showcase plants indigenous to northeast Florida. In Native Park 2 has an open lawn and walkways alongside beds of native wildflowers. Our Native Park 1 has a picnic table and a variety of native trees and shrubs. Plants are labeled with their common and scientific names for easy identification.
The Jacksonville area has hundreds more parks you can check out for picnics, hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, and may other outdoor activities. Use your favorite internet browser to find more information about these and the many other parks in the Jacksonville area. Here are a few links to help start your search:
- A convenient listing of city parks and clickable links – https://www.coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/recreation-and-community-programming/all-parks
- The City of Parks – https://www.visitjacksonville.com/things-to-do/outdoors/parks/
- City of Jacksonville Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services – https://www.coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation
- Link to the city pavilion reservation system (you will need to create an account to use) – https://web1.myvscloud.com/wbwsc/fljacksonwt.wsc/splash.html
- State parks in Jacksonville – https://www.talbotislands.com/our-parks
- National parks in Jacksonville – https://www.nps.gov/timu/index.htm
- A convenient link to Jacksonville’s “wilderness parks”, including national, state, and city preservation parks in Jacksonville – timucuanparks.org
This list has been curated by Master Gardener, Walter Bryant. For more information on the agricultural services offered by the University of Florida in Jacksonville, please scroll back up to the top of the post and click “About”.