City Escape: Jacksonville, Florida

Text: Philip Buonpastore • Photography: Philip Buonpastore

While Florida roads are mostly straight, a ride around the St. Johns River offers a curvier experience. After starting south on San Jose Blvd, making a detour out to Mandarin Rd helps with traffic. The last 60 miles to Palatka go along a winding, scenic river road. The way back on Hwy 17 runs adjacent to the river with detours out to the water. Riding farther north presents excellent opportunities for pleasant riverfront residential riding.

Length

Approximately 125 miles

Meetup Spot

Trader Joe’s, 11112 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, FL.

Lunch Stop 

Angel’s Dining Car in Palatka is Florida’s oldest diner, established in 1932. The diner features typical American fare—sandwiches, burgers and fries, and breakfast. Find it at 209 Reid St, Palatka, FL, (386) 325-3927.

Scenery (4 out of 5) 

The St. Johns River was a major commercial seaway with a recorded history going back approximately 500 years. CR 13 runs adjacent to it for most of its length, with views of the river, boats and ships in transit and at marinas, and live oak and cypress trees with overhanging Spanish moss.

Difficulty (3 out of 5) 

This is a relaxing ride, not a taxing ride. Curves are moderate, adding interest but requiring only an occasional shift.

Road Conditions (4 out of 5)

These are well-maintained county roads, with no serious issues of any kind. Scenic roadside pullouts may not be completely paved, but they are hard-packed dirt so reasonable caution will suffice.

Points of Interest

  1. Walter Jones Historical Park
    Built around an 1875 farmhouse, the Walter Jones Historical Park includes a slew of fascinating buildings—including a winery and a sawmill—in addition to a museum. For those wanting to get the most out of the site, guided tours are available for reservation. www.tinyurl.com/walter-jones-park
  2. The St. Johns River Center
    The St. Johns River Center is a haven of local history and fauna. Various exhibits showcase the river’s rich history and culture, and tell the stories of the animals and people that have built their homes along its shores. www.tinyurl.com/st-johns-river-center
  3. Bayard Conservation Area
    Protecting a seven-mile stretch of pristine riverside woodland, the Bayard Conservation Area offers outdoor activities in abundance. Fishing, hunting, canoeing, and even geocaching are all on the table. Weary travelers can rest their heads at the conservation area’s two campsites. www.tinyurl.com/bayard-con