A Quick Trip to Jacksonville, Florida

I recently took a last-minute weekend road trip to Jacksonville, Florida to visit family. Below are the things we checked out while exploring the area in one busy day. Warning, this is a very picture-heavy post but since documenting visually is such a big part of the experience and expression for me, I thought I’d share them here. First up we headed to The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

The weekend that we traveled ended up being an unusually cold one in North Carolina so it was nice to escape the weather temporarily in the very temperate Florida climate. It was a treat to see plants growing in the winter there that are only hot-season annuals here in North Carolina.

Here, versus some other zoos that I have been to, you could see that the animals and the facility itself were well taken care of and you could get very close to the animals as well.

In addition to the animals and exotic birds there were many landscaped garden areas.

After a morning trip to the zoo (to avoid the crowds) we headed off to lunch. Whenever I travel to a new place I like to scour the internet and research behind the scenes to try to find the underground pulse of that place. Almost every place has one if you are willing to do some digging. Though it is also hard with limited time to just pick one place when you’ve never seen it in person and are only going on instinct.

Still, my instinct lead me to the perfect spot for a quick bite to eat in the hip Pheonix Art District Neighborhood: a bakery called 1748 Bakehouse. This light filled bakery serves up pies, pastries and breakfast and lunch items such as the savory french toast that I had and muffins that reminded me of a beloved local favorite of mine in Durham that is no more, Scratch (RIP). The 1748 Bakehouse is a family run business with celebrated husband and wife chefs at the helm.

A trick to finding cool stuff when you are in unfamiliar territory is to just ask others, especially when you are at a place that already resonates with you. I usually cross reference a few things on my list with a cashier or ask them simply, what should I check out? It’s always interesting to hear what people’s “must visit’s” are in their hometown. We were told to visit The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and the Riverside Arts Market, a big farmers market and craft event that takes place below a highway underpass.

The museum has a permanent collection of over 5000 art pieces on display inside as well as sculptures in their gardens. The 2.5 acre gardens overlook the St. John’s River and are filled with hundred year old oaks.

Next up, we drove about 45 minutes south to St. Augustine not really sure of what we’d find but with a tip to seek out a milkshake and knowing that the city is the oldest in the United States. We sought out what National Geographic calls “one of the 10 prettiest streets in the country” on Magnolia Avenue and we discovered a lot of very touristy things which we tried to sidestep.

We walked down the less touristy Aviles Street and came across a handsome old cemetery and lots of historic buildings. The New York Times recently did a 36 Hours in St. Augustine which you can read here.

We got our milkshakes from a place called Cousteau’s and they were, as promised, delicious. We shared the “Ping Island” which was a combination of vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers in a one drinkable dessert. We skipped dinner this night. 😉

At dusk, the buildings along the waterfront in St. Augustine were lit up with Christmas lights and ornaments despite it being 70 degrees and January.

To cap off the whirlwind day, we stopped by the ocean for a quick look at the beach since we were so near to it.

On our way home the next day, we decided to take a short detour to Jekyll Island, Georgia. The spot has a handful of buildings made with “tabby” a material made from crushed oyster shells.

Jekyll island is also known for being the spot where the Federal Reserve System was planned out in secret in the early 1900’s. The island is filled with marshlands and beaches and trees covered in drapey moss. At the northern end of the island is Driftwood Beach which features a number of driftwood trees on and near the sand.

I have lots of images like this from all the places I’ve visited. Should I share them here – even if they are 5-7 years old, would you be interested in seeing them? Do you like to live vicariously through them? Do they inspire you to take your own exploratory trips?

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

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