Friday, May 25 , 2018, 6:43 am | Fair 49º


Judy Crowell: Jacksonville, Fla. — A River Runs Through It

From luxurious accommodations and gourmet dining to day trips and golf, the 'River City' is a tourism hot spot

With the massive St. John’s River dividing downtown Jacksonville, Fla., in half, affording spectacular views of the skyline from lovely suburbs such as Ortega and Avondale, and activities as diverse as the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, the Mayport military port, the zoo, tours at Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, the symphony orchestra, the Museum of Science & History and Alltell Stadium (home to the 2005 Super Bowl), the city indeed has a split personality.

It claims to be the largest city in the United States in land area, with an ever-expanding total of 774 square miles. Beautiful beaches — miles and miles of them, each with its own flavor — follow the coast along the historic Buccaneer Trail, named for French and Spanish explorers and pirates who settled the New World.

Sophisticated and luxurious accommodations include the magnificent oceanfront resorts Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, the neighboring Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach and the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, all boasting amazing spas. A more nostalgic but no less sophisticated choice is The Riverdale Inn, one of the historic Riverside Mansions along the St. John’s River and beautifully refurbished in 2004.

For gourmet dining, try Matthew’s Restaurant or Pom’s Thai Bistro in San Marco, Medure in Ponte Vedra or the charming little Village Café in suburban Ortega.

Fascinating day trips are within easy reach of the “River City.” Fort George Island, about 30 minutes north, is steeped in history, spanning more than 1,000 years, beginning with the Timucuan Indians.

The Kingsley Plantation is one of many options for day trips within easy reach of the River City.
The Kingsley Plantation is one of many options for day trips within easy reach of the “River City.” (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

In 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley purchased the Kingsley Plantation, a self-sufficient plantation producing cotton, sugar cane and corn. He married a slave woman, Anna, who bore him four children. Freed by her husband in 1811, Anna was active in the management of the plantation and became a successful businesswoman in her own right. Slave quarters built of tabby, a mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand and water remain on the property.

Other easy and worthwhile excursions include Fernandina, birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, and a Victorian seaport filled with architectural gems. Amelia Island, with its marvelous antiquing and extraordinary fishing, is not to be missed. Amelia Island Plantation, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, is more a town than a resort. “In Harmony with Nature,” it is the ultimate in Florida luxury.

Oh, yes — and there’s golf. Is there ever! Home to one of the top golf tournaments, the TPC or The Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club at Sawgrass, there’s also Pablo Creek, Deerwood Country Club, Marsh Landing, Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, Golf at the Ritz-Carlton Club of Amelia Island, Lighthouse Point, Hidden Hills, San Jose Country Club, etc., etc. Fore!

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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