Jacksonville might be Florida’s most populous city, but it’s also its greenest—this coastal city boasts the largest urban park system in the US. Urban explorers can take their pick of seven state parks, three national parks and preserves, and some 400 parks and gardens, all within a half-hour drive of downtown. Once you’ve browsed Jax’s art museums and visited the Fort Caroline National Memorial, check into an RV park along the St. Johns River, pitch your tent on the beach at Little Talbot Island State Park, or kayak around the wetlands in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.
The mighty St. John’s River meets the Atlantic just east of Jacksonville and flows south of the city, affording plenty of options for riverside camping, fishing, hiking, and paddling. Closer to the city, birders won’t want to miss the Huguenot Memorial Park, a prime spot on the Great Florida Birding Trail, while history buffs can explore Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park and the Kingsley Plantation.
Miles of white-sand beaches lie within a short drive of Jacksonville, where you can swim, surf, and enjoy water sports. At the mouth of the St Johns River, Hanna Park has a surf beach, fishing lake, and miles of hiking and biking trails, plus camping and cabin rentals. Further north, you can horseback ride on the beach and camp right on the sand at Amelia Island State Park.
For a change of scenery, head inland to explore the wild woodlands of Osceola National Forest. The forest not only has RV and tent campgrounds with easy access to hiking, OHV, and horseback riding trails, but self-sufficient campers can also venture into the backcountry for dispersed camping.
Summertime is fun in Jacksonville, when visitors flock to the lakes, rivers, and beaches, and highs climb over 90°F. Jax’s far-north location means that it rarely gets hit by hurricane season (expect some summer thunderstorms nonetheless), and it’s still hot enough to hit the beach through spring and early fall. In winter, the mild weather and diminishing crowds can be a bonus for campers, but don’t expect the balmy temperatures of the south.