The Jacksonville Port, known as JAXPORT, is not a major cruise hub, especially relative to other Florida port cities (like Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral). Indeed, only a single cruise ship, the Carnival Fascination, operates out of the port, and this vessel essentially only travels to the Bahamas. However, the Carnival Fascination operates throughout the entire year, and by extension the Jacksonville Port manages cruises all year long, so tens of thousands of cruise vacationers pass through Jacksonville every year. If you happen to be one of these vacationers, here are some things to see and do before your cruise from Jacksonville departs.
Although Jacksonville is essentially a coastal city, JAXPORT is not directly by the seafront. Rather, it is situated several miles up St. Johns River, on the northern rim of the city. This means that one of the most obvious activities to do in any Florida port city – hang out on the beach – requires a little time and effort. The closest shoreline from JAXPORT is probably the one found in Little Talbot Island State Park, which has over five miles of white, sandy beaches. It’s a nice (and rare) piece of undeveloped land in Northeast Florida, and it is worth checking out if you the time and means to get to the park. There are also a number of beaches that line the eastern edge of the city, and these are good places to visit if you want to see the city of Jacksonville en route to the beach (because you have to drive through the city to get to the beaches if you are starting from JAXPORT, which may or may not be the case).
There are of course a number of other things to do in Jacksonville, a city of nearly a million people, besides visit the beach. One of the most famous and loved attractions in Jacksonville is the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, which houses a number of endangered big cats, like tigers, lions, cougars, and leopards. The sanctuary is situated just north of the city, so cruisers departing from JAXPORT are well positioned to visit it. However, it is still about seven miles (11 kilometers) from the port, so you’d need at least a few hours and a means of transportation to visit the sanctuary.
In truth, though, this is essentially the case with every attraction in Jacksonville. Not much is directly by the port, at least not in terms of notable sights to see, necessitating at least a small journey and block of free time to see anything. If you have the time and inclination to do something before (or after) your cruise, and you don’t feel like visiting a beach or the sanctuary, probably your best course of action is to travel into the heart of the city, which is more or less directly south of the port, where there is concentration of sights to see. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, perhaps Jacksonville’s most popular cultural attraction, is right in this area and is worth visiting, or if you head into town in the evening, you could check out the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, which is very well-regarded despite its relatively modest size.
So, there are several things to see and do in Jacksonville before leaving on your cruise. However, almost nothing notable (at least in terms of sights) is in the immediate vicinity of the port. Thus, if you want to do something, make sure to plan some extra time in Jacksonville and investigate the various ways to get around the city. There are definitely things worth seeing, but you’ll have to put a little effort into it.