Explore Jacksonville: How to Travel Like a Local

From Boneyard Beach to Poe's Tavern, Jacksonville is full of hidden gems. For authentic travel tips on how to travel like a local, visit Alamo.com!

Unlike many of Florida's major cities, Jacksonville doesn't come across as a tourist destination. This quickly becomes evident to newcomers the moment they touch down at Jacksonville International Airport, thanks to the stark lack of tourist paraphernalia. But for travelers looking for an authentic “local” experience, it's for this very reason that you may want to choose Jacksonville for your next family vacation.

Boneyard Beach

Access via Big Talbot Island State Park ($5 entry fee per vehicle) at 12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226.

There is nothing more peaceful than a walk through the driftwood forest on Big Talbot Island before perching yourself on a 1,000-year-old tree to watch the sun greet the day.

Boneyard Beach Driftwood Forest on Big Talbot Island, Jacksonville, Fla. Photo credit: Ashley Morton Photography

Coined "Boneyard Beach" by the locals, this stretch of sand, surf and driftwood is one of Jacksonville's best kept secrets.

Photography Tip: For brilliant landscape photos, shoot just before sunrise for beautiful fiery skies.

Poe's Tavern

Shoppes of Northshore, 363 Atlantic Blvd, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233

If you ask about the best burger joint, or the best beach-adjacent restaurant, you will likely get a single word answer from the locals: "Poe's." At first this recommendation can be a bit disconcerting because no one feels the need to explain further. But one visit to Poe's and you will understand why. This unique, Edgar Allen Poe-themed restaurant does a few things really well: burgers, customer service and Edgar Allen Poe.

Featuring a simple menu of burgers (with the option to substitute grilled chicken), salads, soups, craft beers and delicious cocktails, Poe's will have you coming back for more. You can find our full rave of Poe's here.

Photography Tip: The indoor seating at Poe's is as dark as its namesake. Opt to dine outdoors to get the best lighting when snapping pics of your food.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

370 Zoo Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32218

With more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals, 1,000 varieties of plants, and numerous sculptures, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a great place to visit throughout the year. The Zoo and Gardens is constantly bringing in new and exciting exhibits so that no visit ever feels the same, but there are a few permanent, such as the giraffes and tigers that are highly favored by the locals.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Giraffe at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla. Photo credit: Ashley Morton Photography

The zoo also features a splash pad for children, a garden maze, 4D rides and animal shows. If you want to get up close and personal with the animals, you can sign up to be a zookeeper for a day. Guests can help prepare the gorillas' lunch, meet a cheeky monkey or even clean the animal exhibits.

Photography Tip: If you have a zoom lens, this is the time to use it! Most animals are active at dusk and dawn, so for the best wildlife viewing opportunities, schedule your visit around these times.

Historic 5 Points

2006 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204

Nestled within the Riverside district, the historic area of Five Points somehow manages to pull off all the charm and romance of a small town "Main Street" in the heart of a major city. This older section of the city is "hipster" in all the best ways complete with a vintage theater, muraled buildings, delicious restaurants and bars filled with craft beers - all adjacent to a picturesque little park where mothers perch on wooden benches and watch their children play. Yes, it really is that idyllic!

On Saturdays, start your afternoon at the free Riverside Arts Market where local food vendors, artists and musicians hang out under the Fuller Warren Bridge.

Korean Tacos Baos at Hawkers Asian Street Food Restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla. Photo credit: Ashley Morton Photography

Follow it up with dinner at Hawkers Asian Street Food Restaurant, a trendy Asian Fusion restaurant serving up fresh, delicious foods from throughout Asia as well as craft beers and sake.

End the evening by catching a movie or concert at the Florida Theatre.

Photography Tip: Use your best prime lens (50mm is great!) with the smallest f-stop to allow the most light in darker indoor situations. Remember, great food photography isn't always about just what's on the plate. Composition with organic fitting props (like the chopsticks above) always adds more interest to a food photo.

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Jeana Nioxin

About the Author

Rarely caught without a camera, Jeana is an adventurous traveler with a passion for people, cultures and food that has taken her to 35 countries in five years. Recently named by Social Media Week as one of eight people who have more social influence than some large travel brands, Jeana is also consistently listed in Klout’s Top 10 Travel Influencers. When she's not using her powers for social good, Jeana enjoys crafting delicious recipes and cuddling with her son.