Looking for the Best Things to do in North Florida?
When you think of Florida, most people think of beaches and Disney. But there is so much more to the sunshine state! Shopping, dining, beaches, and hiking- the list could go on with all that there is to do in North Florida. If you’re just starting to make your vacation itinerary, it might feel a little overwhelming. So if you need some help, here’s a list of the 19 best things to do in North Florida.
They’re split up into categories to help make your vacation planning that much simpler. Don’t get too focused on that itinerary, though. Some of the best memories are made spontaneously!
19 Best Things to do in North Florida
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Since St. Augustine is one of the oldest towns in the nation, it’s no surprise they have an abundance of museums. The Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is a fun and educational activity for the whole family to enjoy. There is so much to explore as they have archeology displays, hand-on exhibits, summer camps, different daily activities, and nature trails to hike.
The kids will have a blast climbing through the shipyard play area, looking through the viewfinders, and going on a scavenger hunt. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse, but be warned- it’s an intimidating 165 feet tall with 219 steps! But if you’re up for the challenge, the view is worth all that exercise.
All of this is included in the affordable admission fee of $15 per adult and $13 for children 12 and under. They also offer three different guided lighthouse tours for an additional fee.
100 Red Cox Rd., St. Augustine FL, 32080
North Florida Kiteboarding
Bored of sitting on the beach, baking in that hot Florida sun? Tired of standing in the ocean with nothing to do? Then call North Florida Kiteboarding and learn how to surf or kiteboard! Kiteboarding is an exciting activity that combines paragliding and windsurfing.
But if that seems too extreme for you, they also have normal surfing lessons. They offer both private and group lessons with knowledgeable instructors to not only show you how to surf, but also how to stay safe. All ages and all experience levels are welcome and gear is provided.
If you have a party of three or more, they are willing to travel to your location. If not, you will have to travel to them in Huguenot Memorial park. If you’re already a pro, they sell surfboards, landboards, kiteboards, paddle boards, and apparel. They also offer kite repairs for any accidents that might happen.
10980 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226
If you don’t have kids and are looking for a romantic date, St. Augustine has a museum that has the perfect atmosphere for that. The Lightner Museum has many antiques and art pieces, most of which come from the American Gilded Age.
If you’re interested in architecture, the building has some history with a Spanish Renaissance style building that housed a hotel in the late 1800s. One of the more interesting things to do there is to have lunch in what used to be a large indoor pool.
There are multiple floors full of paintings, statues, antique furniture, and glass art. If you’ve already looked through their multiple exhibits, they offer different events like yoga in the garden, painting workshops, and markets. It’s an affordable way to keep yourself busy, with general admission tickets only costing $17 for adults and $10 for kids 12-17 years. Children under 11 get to enjoy the art and history for free.
75 King St, St. Augustine, FL 32084
Is your family full of creative minds? Then be sure to take them to the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention located in Gainesville Florida. They have plenty of hands-on activities for kids and teens, but adults can also have fun discovering their creative side! Everyone is welcomed here, no matter how talented or inventive you may be.
The building is very eye-catching with its modern design. They have different weekly activities like junior inventor nights and a robotics class. They also have multiple camps where kids can learn about the human body, DNA, the environment, comics, and aviation.
No matter what their interests are, there’s a camp for them. The camps are a little on the pricey side, being either $179 for half days or $349 for full days. The admission into the museum is more affordable with a $15 ticket for adults or $10 ticket for kids aged 5-17 years. Kids under 4 years are able to create for free!
811 S Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601
Florida Museum of Natural History
If you’re on a tight budget, North Florida offers plenty of things to do that don’t cost much. Their Natural History Museum, located at the University of Florida in Gainesville, has free admission for any age.
They do have special exhibits and a butterfly garden that costs extra, but remains under $20. They also offer different events and kids camps throughout the year. You can spend hours here as your family walks through displays of fossils, views wildlife and plants native to Florida, and inspects a mammoth skeleton! If you have a Little Einstein, they will love the Discovery Zone, where they can have a hands-on learning experience.
The Butterfly Rainforest is a must and one of the most popular attractions. You get to walk among some of the most beautiful creatures on earth and watch them interact with their environment. When you’re done, you can visit the Indoor Butterfly Exhibit that gives you the chance to look at specimens up close. They have 100,000 collection drawers full of butterflies. You will have a full day of exploration and learning at the Natural History Museum.
3215 Hull Rd., Gainesville, FL 32611
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Looking to have a zoo visit while you’re in Florida? Then Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens needs to be on your list. They are a part of the American Association for Zoo Keepers and have a focus on conservation, so you can be assured that you’re supporting an ethical zoo.
They have over 2,000 animals to learn about and watch. But, they offer so many things to do besides that! One of their newer features is the Nature Agents activity where kids can have an interactive scavenger hunt through the zoo using a Smart Compass and a phone. While exploring, keep an eye out for the botanical gardens spread among the animal exhibits.
If you plan on staying in Florida for a while, teens can join the W.I.L.D. program and become ambassadors for the zoo. Anyone is welcome here, as they offer mobility and stroller rentals. General admission tickets will cost around $20 for kids and $25 for adults. They also have the “total experience” option for tickets, costing an extra $10.
370 Zoo Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32218
Tomoka State Park
If you’re interested in the outdoors, Tomoka Park is the perfect thing to add to your vacation bucket list. The whole family will find something to do here. Tomoka Park is only a 30 minute drive from Daytona, which is perfect if you’re looking for a day trip to enjoy some nature. They offer a campground, biking and hiking trails, fishing spots, bird watching, and kayak/canoe rentals.
You can even try to spot some of the endangered West Indian manatee that reside here. Located on the Tomoka River, you can boat, kayak, or fish. Just watch out for any alligators or bottlenose dolphins that might make an appearance!
One of their most memorable displays is that of Indian Chief Tomokie. Be sure to ask one of their knowledgeable park rangers all about his story. This park is top of the list for the best and most affordable things to do in North Florida, as the entry fee is only $5 per vehicle.
2099 N. Beach St., Ormond Beach FL, 32174
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Looking for a unique and memorable state park? Devil’s Millhopper Geological Park is waiting for you! Located in Gainesville Florida, this park provides a rainforest hiking experience like no other. They are home to a large sinkhole that you can safely view and learn about through their interpretive displays, or stop at the visitor center and check out their audiovisual program.
There is a lot to learn about this sinkhole, as the further you go into it, the older the rocks become. There is also a set of stairs you can climb to explore the sinkhole up close and listen to the waterfalls. The hiking trail is not too difficult, but make sure to wear appropriate shoes! Dogs are welcomed, too, just make sure they are on a leash and clean up after your pup.
Once you’re done exploring, there are multiple places you can enjoy a picnic with your family. This is one of the cheaper things to do in Florida, as the entrance fee is only $4! Not bad for an educational and beautiful experience!
4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653
Best Food in North Florida
Black Sheep Restaurant
If you’re looking for a modern, upscale restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or dinner then you have to add Black Sheep to your list. Located in the historic Five Points neighborhood of Jacksonville, this restaurant serves southern classics with a gourmet twist.
Try their Shrimp & Grits or their Chipotle Blueberry Ribs for dinner with a side of their Pimento Cheese Hush Puppies. If you have little ones to bring along, they offer a kids menu with all their classic favorites. If you’re looking for a relaxing vibe, you can enjoy a Pink Flamingo cocktail while you sit in the sun on their rooftop dining area.
Expect the best of the best service and high quality food, because that’s what Black Sheep prides themselves on. All products served are locally sourced from either Florida or Georgia, which means you’ll be getting the freshest meal possible. Black Sheep will surely make your vacation a delicious one.
1534 Oak Street, Jacksonville FL, 32204
If you’re in downtown Jacksonville and want a restaurant with a modest and trendy atmosphere, be sure to stop at Bellwether. Known for their farm-to-table idea, Bellwether is a casual restaurant that offers a variety of lunch or dinner dishes.
You will get a modern, fresh meal for a decent price. Their lunch menu consists of a variety of different salads, unique appetizers, and a long list of sandwiches, all under $20. Their dinner menu is a little more pricey, but it’s worth the extra cost. They also offer vegan and gluten free options on their menus.
If you have a sweet tooth, check out their dessert menu that offers unique treats like cheesecake rangoons and a key lime piesicle. Just be cautious as parking can be a struggle since they are located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. Bellwether is aware of this, though, and provides parking instructions on their website!
117 W. Forsyth St., Jacksonville, FL 32202
The North Beach Fish Camp
If you have a craving for seafood while relaxing on Neptune Beach, stop in at The North Beach Fish Camp. They provide a lively, beach atmosphere in a two story restaurant that overlooks the city of Neptune Beach. As soon as you walk in, you’ll be greeted by fresh caught fish on display before being seated.
They have an assortment of lunch and dinner seafood options, but if you’re looking for something less fishy they also have beef and chicken on the menu. For the adults, they have their own specialty drink menu with beach themed cocktails.
Check out their online website to see their full menu and explore their blog with different articles from how to improve your cooking skills to ways to refresh your leftovers!
100 First St., Neptune Beach FL, 32266
This restaurant fits in well in the St. Augustine Historic District. It may not be as old as the city, but it has a history of its own with multiple locations around Florida. Columbia Restaurant first appeared in 1905 and has been serving customers ever since. At the St. Augustine location, you will receive amazing service and a stunning atmosphere, plus they provide free parking. The interior is decorated with a Spanish flair and their menu consists of Spanish and Cuban meals. You will feel like you’re dining in a museum with all of the hand painted murals, exoctic plants, and mosaic tiled flooring. They proudly serve fresh caught fish from the Gulf of Mexico, but if seafood is not appealing, they also have many beef and chicken, vegan, or gluten free options. Between the decor and menu, you will not be disappointed at this time capsule of a restaurant!
98 St George St, St. Augustine, FL 32084
If you’re spending time in Daytona Beach, you have to check out the famous Ocean Deck bar and restaurant. They are one of the few restaurants located directly on the beach and welcome people no matter what they’re wearing. Their slogan “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” pretty much sums up their dress code. Ocean Deck has a unique history of originally being a hotdog stand back in the 1950’s, but upon new ownership they became the hotspot for tourists and locals.
They widened their menu, added a bar, and have live music and events throughout the year. You can eat some fresh caught Mahi Mahi or a lobster tail while you watch the volleyball tournaments.
Or maybe try their Island Dragon or Nectar of the Gods drink while you jam out to some live reggae music. Either way, you’ll be having the best vacation you’ve ever dreamed of having.
127 S. Ocean Ave., Daytona Beach FL, 32118
Dimitris Bar, Deck, and Grill
Ormond Beach is a gem of a beach town but is often overlooked due to Daytona Beach being right next door. Ormond Beach offers so many things to do along with some of the best dining experiences. Dimitris Bar is one of the more unique restaurants that will catch your eye as you cruise down Atlantic Ave.
They have a large upstairs deck where you can enjoy Greek or seafood dishes while looking at the ocean. They offer both lunch and dinner menus and usually have deals going for any alcoholic drinks. The staff is friendly and definitely adds to the “surfer” atmosphere Dimitris provides.
An only downfall is the large number of stairs you will have to climb in order to dine on the deck. They do offer indoor, main level seating, but it’s advised that you try to sit upstairs. The view and experience is worth the climb!
790 S. Atlantic Ave., Ormond Beach FL, 32176