The hidden gem just south of the city!
Jacksonville, Florida is certainly known for its main beaches – Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach – which are loaded with miles of wide white sand beaches, piers and plenty of restaurants and nightlife. While these lively beaches certainly attract the tourists, the surrounding area also has much to offer in the way of more secluded, quiet, natural beaches near Jacksonville.
Just south of Mickler’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach sits the GTM Research Reserve.
The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves in the country, with a variety of interconnected habitats from the ocean to the forests.
It’s an extra 20 minute drive and technically outside the city of Jacksonville, but it is absolutely worth it for the nature lovers among us!
Continuing south on A1A, you’ll pass through an area of stunning oceanfront homes and enter a narrow stretch of land located between the Guana River and the Atlantic Ocean, known as the GTM Research Reserve. This area spreads over St.Johns and Flagler county and features a wildlife management area and conservation land to the west and several parking areas with beach access to the east.
These beaches go on for miles and there are several different parking areas with beach access. Parking is $3.00.
There are no restaurants, shops and very few homes on this stretch, but what you will find is miles of beautiful untouched oceanfront, pink sand, and tall dunes. The crowds never make it this far, and on some days you can only spot a handful of others as far as the eye can see.
This family friendly beach is also perfect for kids an dogs!
This wide beach leads to a very shallow shoreline that seems to go out forever, which makes it perfect for young kids. Kids can also spend hours digging through the piles of shells deposited on shore. There is a ton of large birds here, as well as nesting turtles, plenty of fish and even dolphins and whales on occasion. Fishing is allowed, and so are dogs.
Not feeling the beach today? The GTM Reserve offers so much more!
You have plenty of options here! The southernmost entrance to the the GTM Research Reserve offers a visitor center, picnic area, access to the Guana Dam, and the Guana Outpost South offers kayak and paddleboard rentals for a day on the river or lake. The reserve also offers many miles trails.
Explore the wilderness on foot or bike on miles of well kept trails!
These lovely trails take you through the estuary’s beautiful wooded areas and marshland, for plenty of wildlife observation and can even take you all the way to the Tolomato River.
Whether you’re a nature loving local seeking a new weekend destination, or just visiting the First Coast – this is one place you don’t want to miss!
Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Minna Reid