What's cool in Jacksonville Beach? Moving from NYC soon...
December 10, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Moving to Jacksonville Beach, FL after living in big cities all my life. Looking for recommendations on stuff like apartment hunting, cafes, bars, shops, arts, etc.

I am moving to Jacksonville Beach to work at a great company. I'm excited about the idea of living somewhere new - I'd been planning to leave my hometown of NYC again, but I really thought it would be somewhere in Europe, not... Florida. However, I've visited FL several times and have found that, as usual, my preconceptions were wrong, and mostly based on my limited experience in Orlando:)

That being said, I've lived in NYC, SF, LA, and Paris. I'm aware that Jax Beach is a wildly different change of pace, and that my lifestyle is going to be different. I'm hoping for this! However, it's going to be a major adjustment for me so I'm wondering... where should I live? I have an aversion to gated communities and the like, so not in any of those (I found several in my limited searches online). I've heard Shelby's has good coffee; I'd go there over Starbucks. What about bookstores? Bars? Bicycling? I love riding my bike, and I'm thinking this would be a great place to do so.

How dog friendly is it? I have a small pomeranian.

Do people surf there? I used to, although its been so long I fear I've forgotten how.

Anyway, any kind of advice would be welcome. I'm moving early January!
posted by jacquilinala to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total)
Hanna Park has a good amount of trails, and I always see people riding along 3rd ST in Neptune Beach.

The 3rd St Diner, is a great little Greek diner that's the perfect place to sober up.

The neighborhoods near the ocean aren't gated, neither are the ones in Atlantic or Neptune beach. If you go south towards Ponte Vedra, or across the Intracoastal into Jacksonville you'll start running into the gated communities.

I wish I could be more helpful, but I'm drawing blanks on my memories of the Beaches are (I blame alcohol). Feel free to MefiMail me, and I'll try to help. I have several friends who've moved here from NYC, I'll see what advice I can glean from them.
posted by nulledge at 11:01 PM on December 10, 2008

I learned to surf at Jax Beach as a kid. It's not the best surfing on the east coast, but it'll do in a pinch. Especially if you like knee high surf. The water is pretty warm, which is a plus. Also, on the storm swells (and outright hurricanes) in the fall and winter, things get big there (overhead).

I never lived there or anything so I can't help you with the lay of the land or other questions about how to find some culture there. I can, however, recommend, Bono's BBQ. Go to the one on Beach Blvd. It's the original restaurant, which is now a local chain, but the same guy has been doing the BBQ there since the 1950s. It's great southern BBQ and they have both Georgia / South Carolina style sauces (red, sweet) as well as mustard-based sauce (yellow, tang).
posted by zpousman at 6:37 AM on December 11, 2008

I live 10 minutes from the beach, and party there twice a week. The nightlife is fun, but it's not your typical club stuff. I live in the southside area just west of the intercoastal. What is it about the beach area that makes you want to stay there? Southside is a great area, and the beaches can be kind of dirty. The commute in the morning is a real pain if you are going to work downtown. how old are you and what are your interests? i can certainly recommend bars based on your interests. Oh and I surf the pier during the summer all the time. its great for that and fishing!
posted by l2yangop at 7:15 AM on December 11, 2008

The social life of coastal Florida towns is all but defined by the beach bar scene that each town has. The Jax Beach area has always got something going on, although the quality of what's going on is always a little suspect. It's chock full of bars and chain restaurants and nightclubs featuring bands that consist of surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet. There's always cheap beer and cheap wings and general good cheer, and the small size of the town and its proximity to the beach gives it a sort of laid-back collegiate feeling, with lots of familiar faces and generally good walk/bikeability. Culturally speaking, however, that area is pretty much a wasteland; if you're looking for something stimulating, chances are you're either going to head inland for the San Marco/Five Points neighborhood of Jacksonville (the city's small bohemian enclave) or trek south to St. Augustine. The restaurants, bookstores and coffeeshops in those areas are generally going to be quite a bit better than the ones in Jax Beach; if that kind of atmosphere is important to you, you definitely need to start reading Folio Weekly (Jacksonville's version of the Village Voice), and should maybe even consider looking for housing in San Marco as well as the Beaches.

As zpousman mentioned, the surfing in Jax Beach is consistently pleasant but mediocre, with bouts of occasional awesomeness during hurricane season. The beaches themselves are typically pretty nice. One of the nicest parts of living in Jax Beach is its proximity to Guana River State Park, which is about 10 miles south of town on A1A. The park has some amazing, desolate beaches, as well as miles and miles of trails through dense, scrubby barrier-island forest.

Overall, Jacksonville Beach is a pleasant little town with not much going on. Moving there from a big city is going to require a huge adjustment, as I'm sure you realize. I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have about the area; my email address is in my profile.
posted by saladin at 7:23 AM on December 11, 2008

Seconding Folio, and yet again plugging the Chamblin Book Mine, which I consider to be the one oasis in that city. Hope you enjoy the place better than I did!
posted by kimota at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2008

I have to agree with saladin, for the most part.

Jax Beach is definitely going to require time for adjustment considering where you call home. The beach offers a slow-paced atmosphere but I'm not sure you want it that slow. Especially if you're looking to avoid gated communities and the whole brand x Florida lifestyle--and it's worse the farther south you go, as you've encountered. I, too, say look at Jacksonville. The commute to/from the beach--if that's where your job will be--would be annoying, no doubt. But not unbearable. And you will likely find the city to have a much greater appeal than the beach--culturally, socially and aesthetically.

Not sure if you were planning to rent or own but I'm assuming rent based on the gated communities reference. I rented a newly rennovated (as in they installed the new stuff you'd want to not be 80 years old but kept the old stuff that's charming) 2-story quadraplex built pre-1950, for less than $400/month in Five Points. Of course, that was in 2001, but a friend there still finds serious bargains. Five Points is at one end of Riverside, which is generally a bit more expensive...but deals are still possible...even in Avondale.

San Marco/Five points area is misleading, saladin. San Marco is across the river, is much more expensive, and really isn't bohemian at all--Five Points is for sure. Still, San Marco has its charm, no question.

The one drawback is that you have to scour those neighborhoods sign-spotting to find the best deals. Fortunately, I was able to do this before I moved and I'm convinced it made all the difference in my experience, albeit only a year. So if you're able to spend a few days looking for housing, or have a contact who could do it for you, I'd say you owe it to yourself to at least check out those neighborhoods mentioned. Believe me, saladin was spot on to call Jax Beach a cultural wasteland. A New Yorker in Jax Beach has to be tantamount to exile. Best wishes on your move!
posted by originalboo at 7:53 PM on December 11, 2008

San Marco is across the river, is much more expensive, and really isn't bohemian at all--Five Points is for sure.

Agreed, but aren't all the cool kids moving to Springfield these days?

And of all the beaches (Jax, Atlantic, Neptune, PVB), Jax Beach is probably the blandest.
posted by oaf at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2008

Agreed, but aren't all the cool kids moving to Springfield these days?

Springfield is close to getting too hip for them, I've ehard they've been eyeing the Brooklyn neighborhood.
posted by nulledge at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2008

Wow, thanks for all your tips guys! I hadn't even considered looking in Jacksonville (the city itself). Five Points and Springfield sound interesting. I'm going to look into it further, although I'd have to get a car and drive to get to work, I assume.

I have a dog as I mentioned and would prefer to be closer to home to take him out as much as possible, unless of course I can bring him to work - we'll see about that point.

"the Brooklyn neighborhood" - seriously? I'll be quite amused if I end up moving from one Brooklyn to another...
posted by jacquilinala at 7:03 PM on December 15, 2008

I thought I'd post an update here in case any other New Yorkers stumble on this Q&A considering to do the same move:

I'm moving back to NYC. I hated it down in Jax - the cultural difference was way too much for me. I needed a car to go anywhere, I didn't feel safe riding my bike to work (and I rode from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back daily), everything was rather far and thus took long to get to, the beaches scene just wasn't for me, and I ended up not being very keen on the job. I could go on, but basically, I'm a city person who prefers walking, biking - self-propelled - or public transportation, and I value convenience.

Thanks to everyone who answered for the advice. originalboo and saladin - you were right!
posted by jacquilinala at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2009

I'm sorry it didn't work out, but I guess it would be a bit of a culture shock to move from New York. You have legitimate complaints.

You really do need a car to get anywhere—it's true—because the public transportation there is largely useless. Living at the beach, if you wanted to live without a car, you'd have to restrict your day-to-day activities to Wonderwood (or Atlantic) on the north, the Atlantic on the east, 210 on the south, and the Intracoastal on the west; this means most of your travel will be up and down A1A. Granted, there's enough to do there, but I can definitely see it becoming a bit limiting, especially if you're used to the constant sensory overload that is New York.
posted by oaf at 4:02 PM on June 16, 2009

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