Known for its wide, hard-packed white sandy beaches, gaudy carnival attractions, and as a mecca for leather-clad bikers, revheads and spring breakers, Daytona Beach is most famous as the birthplace of the ultra-Southern and mega-popular motorsport of NASCAR racing and as home of the Daytona 500.
At a whopping 840 sq miles, Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the contiguous United States and the most populous in Florida. Sprawling along three meandering rivers, with sweeping bridges and twinkling city lights reflected in the water, it has a brash big-city charm.
History buffs adore this glorious sea island, just 13 miles from the Georgia border, which combines the moss-draped charm of the Deep South with the laid-back beach culture of Florida. It is believed the island's original inhabitants, the Timucuan Indians, arrived as early as 4000 years ago.
Jacksonville Area Beaches
The stretches of beach closest to Jacksonville are delightfully sparse. Moving from south to north, Ponte Vedra Beach is the posh home of the ATP and PGA golf tours: golf courses, resorts and mansions are here. Urban Jacksonville Beach is where to eat, drink and party, while cozy Neptune Beach is more subdued.
Talbot & Fort George Islands
The most scenic way to reach Amelia Island from Jacksonville's beaches offers plenty of reasons to stop along the way: exceptional kayaking, distinctive state parks, and riverbank and beachside camping galore. It's a wonderful day trip if you have wheels and time. Heading north from the beaches along State Rd A1A, you'll have to jump on the St Johns River Ferry in Mayport.
Flagler Beach & Around
Just 30 miles north of Daytona, isolated Flagler Beach is far removed from the towering hotels, dizzying lights and tire-tracked sands of its rowdy neighbor. On a 6-mile stretch of beach, this string of modest residences and smattering of shops has a three-story cap on buildings to preserve its spectacular sunrises and an end-of-the-earth feel.
An unspoiled paradise, a backpacker's fantasy, a site for day trips or extended stays – it's clear why the family of 19th-century industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie used Cumberland as a retreat long ago. Most of this southernmost barrier island is now occupied by the Cumberland Island National Seashore.