Jacksonville’s regional nickname, The First Coast, has a double meaning…the region was the location of the first European settlement (St. Augustine), AND it was the “ first coast ” encountered by travelers along the Atlantic Seaboard upon entering the state of Florida. Counties on the First Coast include Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns. The major cities/municipalities are Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, Orange Park, St. Augustine, and Fernandina Beach. The city of Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the continental U.S.
Sections of the unspoiled natural landscape are peppered throughout the First Coast. The region offers more than 90 miles of beaches and is the perfect home for the outdoor enthusiast with its natural unspoiled marshes and wildlife preserves, the St. Johns River, the Intracoastal Waterway the Atlantic Ocean, abundant golf courses and more than 131 square miles of the city, state and national parks. First Coast locals have a talent for tailgating and a passion for sports as Jacksonville is home to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns.
More than 1.3 million people call Northeast Florida home. The region has a culturally diverse workforce of 750,000 with a median age of 37. Northeast Florida is a place where businesses are thriving, natural resources are preserved and the quality of life is exceptional. The future has never been brighter for the First Coast. With a cost of living below the national average and several Fortune 500 companies, Northeast Florida is attracting a young dynamic workforce.
Jacksonville, often referred to by locals as “The River City by the Sea”, offers abundant sunshine, soft sand beaches, vibrant business and cultural centers, and many appealing residential neighborhoods. The First Coast offers excellent health care services as well as choices of providers and facilities just a couple of which include the esteemed Mayo Clinic and Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital which is ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the U.S. for the treatment of diabetes as well as endocrinology, urology and neurology/neurosurgery specialties.
Our public school systems are dedicated to providing students a solid education in a safe learning environment. There is also an array of highly regarded private schools throughout the city as well as several impressive institutions of higher education.
Riverside & Avondale
Sitting just southwest of Jacksonville’s downtown, the Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods date back to the late 1800s, when wealthy residents began building impressive abodes along the picturesque St. Johns River and amid the expansive Florida oak trees. Today, the Riverside-Avondale area is just as charming and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This area has a distinctive mix of history, culture, charm, and modern design and is considered the “hip” part of town with its young population, waterfront homes, and posh apartments. There is nothing pretentious about Riverside and Avondale. The ambiance here is that of community, urban living, and “keeping it local”. These two neighborhoods characterize a vibrant and artsy pocket of the city that offers an urban lifestyle on a livable scale. The neighborhoods are home to many parks and green spaces, which often host art shows, farmer’s markets, and cultural celebrations on the weekends. In the Five Points area, which is becoming known as Jacksonville’s “Food District,” you will find an impressive spread of local restaurants, craft breweries, and funky cafes. The impressive eateries are coupled with antique shops and quirky boutiques. Located nearby in Riverside on the St. Johns River is Jacksonville’s world-class Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.
Just south of Riverside, the charming neighborhood of Ortega is a peninsula bordered by the banks of the St. Johns River on the east and the Cedar River on the north. Another of the city’s historic districts, Ortega features many impressive historic homes and riverfront mansions, built in the early 1900s by Jacksonville’s prominent citizens, which reflect Mediterranean and Tudor Revival architectural style. It is marked with a distinctive southern culture and is almost solely residential. The neighborhood is graced with massive oaks and a series of parks and is widely considered one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Northeast Florida. In Ortega’s quaint square, known as “Old Ortega”, you will find a small collection of boutiques, restaurants, and businesses offering a meet-and-greet place for joggers, dog walkers, and neighbors.
Across the river from Ortega, San Marco lies just minutes from downtown’s Southbank. San Marco is one of Jacksonville’s four historic districts and offers residents an array of housing including small enchanting bungalows, riverfront homes and mansions as well as quaint brick apartment and condominium buildings. This area consists of gently curving tree-lined streets, charming homes, parks, and the popular San Marco Square with its fountain of lions, which reflects the neighborhood’s association with the Venice, Italy business district. In the square you will find local art galleries, upscale trendy clothing boutiques, some of the best restaurants in the city and the historic San Marco Theatre, restored to reflect its golden years, where you may enjoy dinner, a drink and a movie. The San Marco dinner theatre and Theatre Jacksonville is the oldest continuously running community theatre in Florida dating back to 1938. San Marco is emerging with many nightlife hotspots and local breweries that attract folks of all ages.
Set apart from inland Jacksonville by the Intracoastal Waterway, Jacksonville’s beaches, often referred to as “The Beaches,” encompass over 20 miles of white sand coastline. The Beaches consist of four distinct areas, each with its own culture and defining characteristics.
Jacksonville Beach is the city’s southernmost beach and offers vast stretches of beautiful beach, a newly designed public golf course, a famous fishing pier and boatloads of water activities. With mild temperatures year-round, there is always something happening here from beach volleyball, surfing and fishing to a regular host of concerts, movies, and festivals held at the Sea Walk Pavilion, an outdoor ocean side amphitheater. Jacksonville Beach also offers an active nightlife scene featuring oceanfront clubs, bars, and restaurants. Visitors and natives alike never tire of the dolphins rolling at the surf line, while surfers continue to be drawn to the area by some of the best waves in the region. With a laidback atmosphere and no shortage of activity, Jacksonville Beach attracts both families and singles who love a casual and active lifestyle.
Atlantic Beach & Neptune Beach
Just north of Jacksonville Beach are Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, both lively beach towns with an array of shopping and dining options and an active local art scene. Both cities claim miles of peaceful beaches with beach access at the end of most blocks. The Beaches Town Center sits at the intersection of Atlantic and Neptune Beach. Here you will find a variety of casual and upscale dining options, enchanting shops and boutiques, and several beachside hotels. This area is active at any time of the day, but is especially noted for its nightlife. Well-known for their small town charm and beach cottage appeal, many are proud to call Atlantic and Neptune Beach home.
Mayport is the northernmost area and holds a rich history. This quaint fishing village is home to an operating naval base, as well as fisheries, casino boats, and charter boats. Book a fishing trip or stop into one of the quaint restaurants to dine on freshly caught seafood including the local specialty, Mayport shrimp. Or, take a ride on the Mayport Ferry to explore Fort George Island and Kingsley Plantation. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is also not to be missed. A magnet for surfers, beachcombers, bicyclists and campers, it sits along Atlantic Beach’s northern border where a bit of Old Florida is still alive.
Ponte Vedra Beach
Just a short drive toward the coast from Jacksonville, nestled directly between Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine, lies the resort community of Ponte Vedra Beach. Its reputation as a resort community is due in large part to its year-round mild weather, golf and beach clubs, and private residential communities. Ponte Vedra Beach offers a country club lifestyle for golf, tennis, and beach enthusiasts. This seaside community is home to the PGA Tour and the PLAYERS Championship, the home of the famed 17th hole island green, as well as the American Tennis Professionals Tour and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, a five-diamond resort. Ponte Vedra’s dunes are among the highest in Florida and the white sand beaches are made from Appalachian quartz and ancient coquina. Many private escapes can be found among the twisted oak hammocks and wild palmettos. There are miles of freshwater streams, creeks and lagoons throughout the natural preserves of this area- perfect for fishing, boating, and kayaking.
Just south on A1A from Ponte Vedra you will find the Guana River Estuarine Reserve offering something for everyone from birdwatching to hiking, biking, horseback riding, and hunting. The area is comprised of a number of real estate options, ranging from condominiums and single-family homes to luxury beachfront estates. The area’s schools round out its top features with public schools consistently ranking among the best in the state and mostly “A” rated.
The nation’s oldest city holds a rich and exciting history. St. Augustine is characterized by well-preserved colonial and Spanish architecture, and a mild, sunny climate. The area is home to about 14,000 year-round residents, of which the average age is 49, who know there is something especially captivating about this charming historical treasure.
St. Augustine was founded in 1556 by Pedro Menedez de Aviles. Its coquina fort, Castillo de San Marcos, and lively historic district are popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. St. Augustine is situated just 25 minutes south of Ponte Vedra Beach and encompasses more than just the original historic area. Today’s city stretches west to the St. Johns River, east to the ocean, and south to Crescent Beach. The area is home to a variety of real estate options for all income levels. Think waterfront and beachside homes with historic value and charm, rustic coastal cottages, newer condominiums and single family homes.
For its residents, the city of St. Augustine maintains a casual, small-town feel, yet allows a lifestyle that is rich in culture. The city also draws students from all over the world to Flagler College, which is located in the heart of historic St. Augustine.
Rich in history and natural beauty, northeast Florida’s Amelia Island invites you to reconnect with the things that matter most. With 13 miles of unspoiled beaches this barrier island is abundant with wildlife and clear, calm waters. Amelia Island has been a cherished destination for generations. Upscale resorts, world-class spas, championship golf and exclusive restaurants combined with delightful bed and breakfasts, historic sites and alluring festivals make it the perfect place for home or vacation.
In the summer, temperatures can soar into the 90s, but those temperatures are offset by constant ocean breezes and cooler evenings that are perfect for walks on the beach and outdoor dining. Conversely, Amelia Island’s winters are characterized by crisp temperatures and dry air.
For seven consecutive years, Amelia Island has been voted among the top 10 North American Islands by Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards. It is conveniently located 30 minutes north of Jacksonville’s international airport and is a scenic hop-skip-and jump from Jacksonville’s metropolis.