From unknown fishing spots to hidden forests, North Florida has a habit of keeping some of its coolest spots under wrap. There is always fun to be had off the beaten path, so we’ve compiled a #1 in the 904 list exposing the city’s best kept secrets.
Jacksonville is home to a variety of offshore artificial reefs. Artificial reefs are created by sinking man-made objects to create marine habitats on the ocean floor, and these reefs are great spots for divers and fisherman alike. In 1983, four Gator Bowl press boxes were sunken in 80 feet of water offshore, and just last year, country superstar Kenny Chesney donated $30,000 to the Coastal Conservation Association for an artificial reef project in the St. John’s River. To get coordinates and more information on these reefs, visit: www.tisiri.org/Jacksonville-reefs.
A secret sliding bookshelf inside the Grape and Grain Exchange in San Marco leads to a forgotten world that is stuck in time. The Parlour is a dimly lit speakeasy jazz club that visitors have to know about to enter, whether through the secret door inside or the unmarked side door on the street. The speakeasy boasts hand-crafted cocktails and jazz performances, in an atmosphere that is nostalgic for the days of prohibition and flapper girls.
Starke’s Wild Flower Field
There is a whimsical wildflower field located in Starke that is every photographer’s dream. The catch? This secret spot can only be found when it is in bloom – and it is only in bloom three out of 52 weeks each year. Here’s a hint: the month of May. Your next step: find a local area photographer willing to reveal the field’s coordinates to you.
Diamond D Ranch
Diamond D. Ranch is a horse ranch that has been family owned and operated in the Jacksonville area for more than 60 years. The ranch offers a two-hour trail ride that extends into Jennings State Forest, a 26,000-acre protected wildlife preserve. This hidden forest is home to more than just horses: visitors can observe American bison, water buffalo, emus, rheas, deer, sheep, goats, antelope, and more during their ride.
School Number 4
This building, once a school, has been closed to the public since 1960, but wasn’t condemned until 1971. Despite countless revitalization efforts, the building still remains abandoned and shrouded in an air of mystery. Tales of murders and hauntings bring paranormal investigators out to the site each year, in addition to the homeless people and vandals who are known to frequent it.
Springfield on 10th
Another abandoned neighborhood is located in Springfield on 10th between Main and Hubbard. What used to be a thriving area of Jacksonville is now an endangered project for the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization, whose mission is to protect this historic district. A must see: The Drew Mansion, a rundown mansion with unique architectural features that was just recently put on the market. For more information, visit: www.abandonedfl.com/tag/springfield.
Dog Wood Park
Many people don’t know that Jacksonville is home to one of the nation’s largest fenced-in dog parks. Dog Wood Park is a 42-acre “swim and play park” where pups can run around unleashed and socialize both with their owners and other dogs. There are hiking trails, playground equipment, a doggy swimming lake called “Lake Bow Wow” and a sandbox for the dogs to play in. Your pup will be impressed with this secret spot!