I know you might think this an odd place to see me visit for one of my four-day flips but as you read on you’ll understand why.

My feet were beginning to itch and I was definitely looking for a weekend away just for a change of scenery.  As you know I’ve often travelled to Europe as well as to many parts of North America for my prior four day extravaganza’s but this time around I chose somewhere quite unexpected!

So where is this exotic locale that you speak so excitedly about???

Jacksonville, Florida.  I can hear you saying…really…Jacksonville? (Yep, that’s your outside voice by the way). 🙂

Most people wouldn’t consider Jacksonville as a travel destination, in fact many would rather bypass it altogether especially when you have the likes of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Orlando, Tampa, Naples on offer.  In fact, I don’t remember a soul saying to me “you’ve just GOT to visit Jacksonville”.  Then again, there’s the beauty of my choice!

So here’s my rationale…  From Toronto to Jacksonville is an easy 2 hour flight, flying twice daily with Air Canada this route gives you access to some of Florida’s most beautiful and less crowded beaches as well as a host of other places within easy driving distance.

I chose the Courtyard Marriott Jacksonville Beach Oceanfront (1617 N. First Street, Jacksonville Beach) as my home base which is about a 30 min drive from the airport on the east side of the city.

What struck me upon arrival was the broad, quiet and beautiful beach view from my balcony…miles and miles of golden beaches for as far as I could see and hardly a soul to be seen.  My first thought was “why aren’t there people on the beach?”.  I realize that summertime in Florida is not the optimal time to be here, but the water temperature was perfect and with the endless beaches stretching before me was a great place to make my home base for the weekend.

Lots of blue sky, cool ocean breezes and low humid made for a perfect temperature!

Given that my balcony overlooked the beach a great way to start each day was to get up early (6:00 am) and sit outside on the balcony to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean…reflecting on my life and the sheer beauty that lay before me.  Yep, it was an awesome way to start the day!

Prior to sunset I’d set out walking along the beach, with the surf lapping at my feet and give thanks to the incredible life I’ve created for myself.  Yes, one lucky guy!

Meals are an important part of any vacation and I discovered a few little gems close to my hotel.  The first was an incredible breakfast place called Bacon in the Sun Cafe (798 3rd St S, Jacksonville Beach), this local surf side joint was full of locals enjoying their eclectic brekkie choices.  I had the “Beach Mess” (Three eggs scrambled with bacon, sausage, ham and tomatoes, on a bed of hash browns topped with shredded cheese served with a biscuit all for under $10).  Big and tasty portions!

Another great place I tried for dinner was Gilbert’s Southern Kitchen + Bar.  They have a delectable menu, all locally inspired but with a unique twist.  My favourite was the Blue Crab Perlot which is a little like risotto but with an unusually crafted and flavorful taste – just delish!

One of the best parts about using Jacksonville as your home base are the number of destinations close by.  Its only 2.5 hours to Savannah, Georgia, about the same to Tallahassee (state Capitol) and only 4 hours to Charleston, South Carolina as well as an easy 40 min drive south along the coast to St Augustine…

After getting up early on Saturday morning I decided to head up to Savannah for the day with my camera, yes its one of my favourite places to explore and an easy drive up I-95 North.  As you can imagine Savannah is a magnet for tourists so getting off the beaten path in the old town is always a great idea.  Don’t worry there are lots of neighborhoods and all relatively close to downtown that aren’t swamped.  🙂

The founding father, James Oglethorpe arrived in 1733 and settled in the area now known as Savannah and claimed the surrounding area as “Georgia” after King George of England, thus laying claim to the 13th colony.

From its humble beginnings, Savannah is now regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the USA, and certainly the best planned.  You’ll see why when you visit.

One of the most striking things about this fair city are the twenty-four parks that were designed and built into the grid that is home to the old city of Savannah, each with monuments and old growth Oak trees, many hundreds of years old all resplendent with the Spanish Moss which is so prevalent in the south…yes, it still reminds me of “Gone with the Wind”.  🙂

Savannah is also home to a vibrant arts culture including the Savannah College of Art and Design, hence the city is chock full of small galleries, with many local artists work on display.

There are a myriad of things to see and do in Savannah beyond the arts scene, but wandering the parks and neighborhoods while admiring the old world architecture and charm of this city, is for me a day spent in heaven.

I had a light lunch at the “Six Pence” (245 Bull St, Savannah) which was a lovely little English pub, before setting off for the Bonaventure Cemetery late in the afternoon.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “In the Garden of Good and Evil” you know that this is also a great place to explore from a historical perspective.

Some 600 photos later and I was back on the road to Jacksonville ready to catch the fading light of the day…

Have I told you how much I love exploring with my camera?  Although I’m sure you’ve guessed by now its one of my favourite past times and certainly helps satiate my creative leanings.  Stay tuned next week as I share a few more great things to do in Northern Florida, until then…