Chris picked me up from my bachelorette party in Tybee and said he had a little something planned. This is always a nice treat, because I am ALWAYS the planner. We ended up going to Oatland Wildlife Center. They have a trail that loops around, and they have different animal enclosures throughout! It was $5 per person to get in and we ended up walking almost 2 miles. I would say this was worth going back to again.
We drove into Savannah for lunch and had a bite to eat at Treylor Park. I would say overall it was underwhelming, and I definitely would not return. We walked around River Street after and I ALWAYS have to stop at River Street Sweets: they have the most decadent and indulgent treats and they are ALWAYS worth the sugar crash afterwards.
From there we decided to get on the road and head to Jacksonville, which was only a 2 hour drive. When we got in we unpacked, grocery shopped (Publix is only 2 blocks away and so I made sure to purchase this grocery cart beforehand), and had a nice meal outside on the back patio, which I learned is really my happy place in the evenings. Speaking of the house…
This home was totally adorable, but also very homey. Very spacious and honestly pretty deceiving from the outside. The backyard is PERFECTION in the evenings. It is a 4 block walk to the beach, and 2 from a Taco Bell ;). This would be the perfect spot for a family vacation with room for 6 to sleep in a bed, and honestly more room for air mattresses etc. I am a little scared to share the link with you all, because I don’t want you all to book it out and then I can never stay there again!
There were 2 paddle boards included in the listing as well, which is fun if you’re adventurous and stuff. Chris and our friend Spencer took them out one day and it provided TONS of entertainment for me personally while sitting on the beach.
I feel it’s important to mention something- WHY ARE THERE SO MANY LIZARDS IN FLORIDA!? I mean literally I saw more lizards at the house than I ever have in my life. Thankfully they are harmless and stay away from you, but it did crack me up.
We found this Airbnb was pretty well stocked with pots and pans, utensils, etc. This is an important note for anyone traveling for a longer duration of time.
As with every pro there is always a con… I found the layout of the living room to be odd. Chris liked the couch, but I found it awful and ended up sitting in the bed to do my work most days and we would watch TV at night on my ipad in the bed. The king sized bed had a little dent in the left side of it as well. Hey, this is a detailed review, okay!? But seriously these cons are NOTHING in the scheme of things, and we LOVED our stay.
The owners, Shandy and Trey were so nice, responsive, and hospitable. The back door broke while we were staying there, and they came out ASAP and fixed it. While Trey was there, he let us know that his brothers run a surf school in Jax Beach called Thompson Surf School. And naturally, we stepped out of our comfort zone and booked!
There is no person on the planet more scared of any activity that is considered fun by most people than I am. There’s a lot I can unpack here about why, but just know that childhood trauma + the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves matter.
I was NOT going to be the person who sat on the sidelines and watched while everyone else was participating in a bucket list worthy activity.
The first lesson we had, we went with a couple friends who had come to visit. I’m not going to lie- they don’t really even give you time to stop and think and be scared. You kinda just get right out into it. They are pushing you into the waves when you go and telling you when to pop up, so it’s actually a lot easier than you would think. I mostly rode the waves on my knees, but on the last wave I stood up and let go of my hands and it was THE BEST FEELING. In fact, It was such a great feeling, we ended up booking another lesson the next week.
This lesson didn’t go as smoothly for me, personally. Not sure if I was expecting to be shredding waves like Auto on Rocketpower or what on my second lesson, but it did not go as such. In fact, I was being such a scary cat and was so stuck in my head. On my last wave I wiped out pretty good. In fact I went flying SO high and far that it provided a great laugh for my audience (Chris and Mal) who were 5 feet in front of my wipeout. I wasn’t laughing at first, and I was actually pretty rattled..BUT It was nothing that a little oat milk latte and Advil couldn’t fix afterwards.
We started off so many of our mornings with a really nice walk on the beach. I want to know what it is about the beach that just instantly brings me peace? I definitely had preconceived notions about Jacksonville Beach, but I am not sure what anyone is talking about because it was truly lovely. I must say this beach is so unique compared to many other ones I have been to. I think it was that SO many locals come out in the evenings to partake in various beach activities. I saw so many surfers, wind surfers, paddle boarders, frisbees, dogs, kites, and my personal favorite: THE most eclectic group of people dancing to Party in the USA on the beach. I found out that it was “A Social Affair” Dance Studio and I actually wanted to take a class while I was there, but ultimately never made the time to go.
I wish I wasn’t the type of bitch who feels the need to shop EVERYWHERE, but I got a message from Whitney who is the owner of Whitney Barlow Photo LLC (find her on IG like this) and she asked if I would be interested in a sunrise beach photo shoot… DUH!
Honestly I ended up going out to eat WAY more than I initially intended, but hey this whole adventure is truly a learning experience. I think the easiest way to do this is going to be to categorize by meal and give a little write up of each!
Beach Hut Cafe- Chris and I went here on a whim on our second morning in Jax. I would describe it as a few steps up from Waffle House. But don’t get me wrong- I LOVE waffle house! It was really good and I HIGHLY recommend ordering the large fruit bowl which they serve to you in a cut up cantaloupe and it’s super adorable, tasty, fresh, and a GREAT price!
Brunch Haus- 10/10. We ate here on our last full day because I wanted to save the best for last. Their menu is extensive and honestly can be a little overwhelming. I cannot recommend the biscuits and chorizo gravy MORE. *Drools on keyboard*
Bold Bean- Only coffee we got in Jax beach and it was REALLY good + a cute environment!
Angies Subs- This was recommended by 3 different people. And I love a sub so I had to try it for myself. Not only was the place charming in a dirty old familiar way, but the sandwiches were OUTSTANDING and not something I would typically eat. SO good. The sweet tea was as amazing as advertised and we are not sweet tea drinkers usually!
GROM- This is an offset of Angies and right on the same street as our house was and RIGHT by the beach. I was talking up Angies SO much and so I brought our friend Mal there when she came, and OMG. This was not Angies. It didn’t even make sense how they could be so similar and so different all at the same time. LOL. Anyway- take my word for it and save your calories!
Eurpoean Street Cafe- I thought this was pretty good. Not really memorable in my opinion. They do have a cute little candy shop and sweets up in the front, and the reuben was pretty damn good. I didn’t care for their sides options. Chris got the hummus and I tried it- it was homemade and pretty decent- a little too salty for my liking on a homemade hummus.
Hawkers- I did a little meet up with any gals on IG who were local and wanted to hang out midday on a Tuesday! It was a small but mighty group and we went over to Neptune Beach and had lunch at Hawkers- which by the way can totally be a dinner spot too! It was more casual, but the food was AWESOME. Really. One of the gals ordered Roti Canai and it was the best thing I might have eaten all week.. MIGHT HAVE BEEN…
Graffiti Junktion- Before Mal came to stay with us, she was in town with her family and we ended up crashing their vacation! This was where they had us meet them for dinner, and I am not going to lie… I was skeptical. It smelled weird inside to be honest, but ⅔ of us ended up enjoying our meal. Chris ordered badly, so I think that's why he didn't like his. I got a burger with cheddar, onions, mushrooms, and I asked for a side of the horseradish aioli. I should add I didn’t order them- but others in the group got the zucchini fries and they looked great!
Flying Iguana- This was MEH. It was a split second decision because it was late and we needed dinner. Green salsa was good and there was live music which was really really good, but truly the best part was the amount of drunk people. One woman was dancing on her booth at dinner with her man, and they asked her to get down. I’m still not over how comical it was.
Taco Lu- We went here twice actually, and both times I thought it was OK. I am a pretty big mexican food snob though. The queso was great, but the best thing I had was the street corn! Get it as your side! And the bang bang shrimp taco was the best one that I had.
Oku- We actually have one of these in Atlanta, but we had never been. It was one of the nicer restaurants by the beach so we decided to go one night. FYI- you need a reservation and it was not exactly easy to get. Luckily, we like a late dinner so ended up making a 9pm reservation, got there at 8pm and they sat us early! We ordered the Kakuni as a starter. For rolls we got the Blazing Saddles and the Firecracker, and shared the Curry Udon but got it with rice instead of noodles and added chicken. It was actually pretty good, but I will say I have had better.
Terra Gaucha- This was our first brazilian steakhouse experience. It was giving very cruise ship vibes. The service was spectacular. The meat was great. The salad bar was fresh. The brazilian cheese bread was INSANE. But be careful! They charge you for refills! I wish someone warned me because I spent $7 on 24 oz of diet coke! LOL. If you want to leave a place feeling full- highly recommend.
Mayday- SO good. SO SO good. Nothing much else to say here. A definite must go when you’re in Jacksonville!
Whits Frozen Custard- Reminded me of a cookout fancy shake. I liked it a lot.
OTHER THINGS WE DID BESIDES EAT
Riverside Arts Market- This was one of the best markets I have ever been to. The art was so fun. They had some really unique vendors including a guy who takes portraits of your dog there at the market and then prints them onto posters and other things for you. And the pics were incredible. SO talented. They have lots of produce, desserts, bread, meats and the way they organize the vendors is awesome! My favorite vendor was “Olive My Pickles”. They had barrels of pickles and sauerkraut and olives and all of it was outstanding. I ended up taking home a container of the spicy kraut. We all went different ways for lunch, because there was food trucks! I had Celys- which was Filipeno food! It was SO good, but Mal and Chris both hated it! I would eat it again in a heartbeat. The flavor was amazing!
Tang Dynasty Foot Spa- I am a foot massage girlie, okay!? I love them. I found this place online with decent reviews, but honestly didn’t have high hopes. You go in in the same room as everyone else, which I think is why it was only like $75 for 90 minutes! LOL. It also could have to do with the fact that they were in the news last year for human trafficking and operating with unlicensed therapists. Hehhehehe *nervous laughs*. Didn’t find that part out til a few days later! LOL. Needless to say…Don’t recommend it.
Incahoots- Off the bat- don’t go here. Not only is it kinda sketch, but the drag show was one of the worst I have ever seen. There was no dancing. The queens walked around asking for money the whole time, and most weren’t even dancing. One queen didn’t even know the words to her song. Ru would NOT approve.
Cinemark Tinseltown- We saw Top Gun in a matinee and spent $8 on seats that were so comfy and reclined. It was also a really clean theatre which is a nice change from Chris and my last experience in a theatre which was SO fucking dirty I couldn’t believe it and I was convinced I’d get covid from it lol.. The movie was great by the way and I never even saw the first one! Highly recommend.
Casa Marina- We went here for a drink on the rooftop and it was PERFECT. The bar inside is a little weird, but the hotel is historic and there was a wedding going on below so there was lots of entertainment!
Lemon Bar- This is definitely where the young people hang out. It was a cute place and I highly recommend the Cherry Limeade. They close really early for a bar FYI, so plan accordingly.
PLACES WE DIDN’T MAKE IT TO THAT CAME RECOMMENDED
Poppy’s italiano (Make a reservation)
Le Petit Paris (yummy coffee/breakfast)
Guana Preserve (good walking trails/ beach access that feels secluded)
11 South (for dinner)
St. Augustine (for a quick day trip)
Silver Springs State Park (glass bottom boat rentals and another day trip)
The Mini Bar (really cute donut spot)
Beach Buggy instead of Uber (we never ended up using it but it’s a cool concept and apparently all the bars and restaurants pay into it so it is free and prevents drunk drivers!)