- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003

Just because you have been to Miami, the Keys or the theme parks of Orlando doesn’t mean you have seen all that Florida has to offer. Take the off-ramp just south of the Georgia state line and explore Jacksonville and the rest of Florida’s northeastern corner.

See what there is to do in Jacksonville at the Visitors section of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau — www.jaxcvb.com — including golf, tennis, beaches, nature excursions, river cruises, deep-sea fishing and — if you have any time left — just plain relaxing. Check Things to Do for suggested day trips, recreation and attractions. Before you start picking a place to stay, take a look at Special Offers for package deals.

If your children need a break from the beach, take them to the Jacksonville Zoo — www.jaxzoo.org — to see the animals. Sorry, the big butterfly exhibit closes at the end of this month.

A short drive outside Jacksonville, Amelia Island — www.ameliaisland.org/index-enter.php — escaped some of the development that marks the rest of Florida’s coast because it was bypassed by Henry Flagler’s railroad. It still has Victorian-style homes, along with nature trails, 13 miles of beach and more. To find Amelia Island’s detailed information, including a directory of handsome bed-and-breakfast inns, you need to slide your mouse pointer over the topic headings at the top of the page or open the “Tell me more about” menu. “Click here” is where the latest package deals from local hotels are listed.

You also can browse through the Amelia Island Living electronic magazine — www.ameliaislandliving.com — to learn about historic downtown Fernandina Beach and antique shops, scan a photo gallery and read articles on local life.

Another short drive takes you to historic St. Augustine — www.staugustinechamber.com — founded in 1565 by the Spanish. However, its Attractions section has Web links only for businesses, not the old Spanish fort in Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The National Park Service — www.nps.gov/casa — is the source of information for the stone fort, which the Spanish built in the 1600s.

Pick up more info on St. Augustine from Old City — www.oldcity.com — and be sure to click on Virtual Exhibit.

For more day trips, consider heading west out of Jacksonville on Interstate 10 to go way down upon the Suwannee River at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center — www.floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster/default.asp — where the annual Suwannee River Quilt Show and Sale is set for Oct. 17 through 19, followed a week later by Suwannee Banjo Camp. If that doesn’t excite you, you can paddle a canoe on the river. While you’re on that Web page, look in the upper right corner and click on the pale green section of the little Florida map to see all the other state parks in northeastern Florida.

Just east of Stephen Foster, explore the outdoor recreation possibilities in the Osceola National Forest, including camping, fishing and swimming. North of the national forest, in Georgia, is the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge — okefenokee.fws.gov — which even has a guide to plants flowering at various times of the year.

For more places to explore, visit the Destinations section of the state’s official Flausa visitors’ Web site — www.flausa.com/destinations/index.php — and click on the Jacksonville area of the state map and the adjacent Live Oak, Gainesville and St. Augustine areas.


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