In the bustling city of Jacksonville, Florida, you might be forgiven for thinking that the twinkling wonders of the night sky are drowned out by the city lights, but prepare to be surprised.
Jacksonville, with its unique coastal location, offers pockets of darkness that serve as portals to the universe above. The area surrounding this vibrant city also houses a collection of stunning stargazing sites, perfect for an escape from the city lights.
Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or just enjoy lying back and spotting constellations, there are some great spots for stargazing in Jacksonville and surrounding Northeast Florida. Whatever brings you to this part of the Sunshine State, you’ll soon discover there’s lots to enjoy once the sun goes down, too.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Seminole, Timucua, and Miccosukee peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Spots for Stargazing in Jacksonville
Like all big cities, finding a god spot for stargazing in Jacksonville will pose some challenges. All those city lights don’t make it easy! Nonetheless, here’s a great spot to get a quick astronomy fix.
Despite its closeness to the city, Hanna Park is a great place to go stargazing. The park is nestled within Jacksonville’s coastal beauty, so all the celestial beauties have a chance to appear in the middle of the night.
There’s no shortage of daytime activities either. With its miles of sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush natural surroundings, the park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and a great choice for a beach day. It offers many other activities such as bike trails, playgrounds, and a splash pad.
Stargazing Spots within 1 Hour of Jacksonville
We stargazers know that if we get as little as an hour away form a city, it makes a tremendous difference in the sky’s quality. So there you go: these are great spots within an hour of Jacksonville whereyou can take in the night sky.
Atlantic Beach is a small area north of Jacksonville. The best place to see the tars are the miles of relaxing and beautiful beaches that run down to Jacksonville Beach.
But, Atlantic Beach also has many public parks where you can set up your telescope. It’s also a lovely place for those interested in astrophotography. You’ll get many shots of the story sky against the Atlantic Ocean.
Little Talbot Island State Park
A short drive north from Downtown Jacksonville, you’ll find Little Talbot Island, one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida.
The state park island is a premier location for birdwatching, but it also is a prime Jacksonville stargazing location. It has amazing dunes and vast beaches with scarcely another visitor in sight. Far from the city lights, the island has little light pollution and offers good views of the night sky.
Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park
Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park is between Ponte Vendra and Saint Augustine. It’s a perfect option for stargazing in Jacksonville if you’re not up for a long drive. It is far enough away that it’s not heavily influenced by the city lights and you still get a clear sky, but still close enough to everything.
Oh, and if you happen to be interested in finding shark teeth, sea shells, walks on the beach, or a place to relax Mickler’s Landing Beach is a great place. Bear in mind sometimes it’s crowded, so you have to be patient when it comes to parking.
Ralph Simmons State Forest
About 40 minutes from Jacksonville, Ralph Simmons State Forest is a great place for stargazers who want a more adventurous experience. You can journey into the heart of nature and camp in the primitive cabin.
The camping location here is on the banks of the St.Mary’s River – it’s perfect background for a stargazing night, and very quiet and beautiful. The area has gently slopping terrain with several micro-environments that make for an interesting albeit short hike. This would be a perfect spot for someones first backpacking camp out or someone not interested in a strenuous hike.
Stargazing Spots within 2 Hours of Jacksonville
If one hour makes a difference, imagine two! Below you’ll find thebest places to go stargazing near jacksonville – only two hours away or less!
Guana River Dam
The Guana River Dam is a popular place for locals who want to enjoy a day out in nature. And it happens to be a great place for discovering the wonders of the night sky. The dam has a beautiful trail to walk and.
There are also multiple beach pull offs along the way if you want to hit the beach before or after and the area is much less crowded than beaches in northern Jacksonville. If you want something different, the dam offers an amazing kayaking spot in the night.
Keystone Heights is a small town in Northeast Florida about 58 miles southwest of Jacksonville. The tows is famous for its tight-knit community and rural feels. Despite having some light pollution from Gainesville (45 minutes away) to the South, Keystone Heights is one of the few spots with dark sky in Florida.
There are numerous place to stargaze, but the best bets to set your telescope in are Goldhead Branch State Park or Lake Santa Fe.
Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest is a beautiful forest – you’d never expected to find such a forest with tall pines in Florida. There’s endless opportunities for stargazing near the campgrounds and lake. The weekends gets full, but the park is fairly empty during the weekdays for those who enjoy solitude.
Best of all, there are campgrounds to fit any camping style from pure dispersed amongst the trees to concrete pads with full hook ups and water access. Oh, and the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society hosts viewing night here!
Okefenokee Swamp is a swamp and wildlife refuge in southeastern Georgia and northern Florida. The untamed wilderness lies the Okefenokee Swamp will give your Jacksonville stargazing experience to the next level.
The swamps give the surroundings a mystical air. If you can spend the whole day, do it; there are boat tours of 45 minutes where you can see baby alligators, turtles, egrets, and lots of spiders… (Yikes!)
Last but not least, you can visit Sanderson, a small town just west of Jacksonville. This is one of the best spots for watching the stars. In fact, two local astronomy groups (NEFAS and Ancient City Astronomy Club) frequent Sanderson for its great viewing conditions and lack of pollution. There’s tons of places to see the stars, however the prime spot to go is the Sanderson Astronomy Lookout Point. Be sure to know the way as there’s no cellphone coverage there.
Have any questions about where to go stargazing in Jacksonville and surrounding Florida? Or do you know of other places to go that you want to share? Let me know in the comments!