A barrier island on the Atlantic Coast between Amelia Island and Little Talbot Island, Big Talbot Island is best known for its unusual rocky shoreline called Blackrock Beach.
One step on this beach, overlooking a sweep of dark rocks, saw palmetto on the bluffs, and the bleached bones of live oaks turned to giant driftwood along the shore, and you’d think you’re in Hawaii.
Just offshore, tiny islands with bright white sand beckon. Because Blackrock Beach has free access off A1A, it’s one of the most popular spots at Big Talbot Island State Park.
It provides a more remote look at the unusual erosion along the shoreline.
Location: Big Talbot Island
Length: 1 mile
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low
Parking is limited and tends to be overcrowded on weekends at the pulloff, which is 1 mile south of the main entrance, on the left. It also serves as a trailhead for the paved Timucuan Trail, part of the East Coast Greenway.
To get to Big Talbot Island State Park from Jacksonville, follow A1A north past the Mayport Ferry and out to Little Talbot Island. Pass the Little Talbot Island State Park entrance and continue north 3.2 miles to a small paved parking area, which adjoins the bike path.
Follow the bike path south briefly to find the entrance to the Black Rock Trail. Start your way up the wide trail, where sand live oaks provide plenty of shade and dense saw palmetto defines the corridor. If you see a flash of bright color in the trees, stop and look more closely, as this is a favorite habitat of the very colorful painted bunting.
At the fork in the trail, keep right. At the half-mile mark, you emerge above the unexpected shoreline, the “rock” carved into potholes and bluffs and even tidal pools with stringers of seaweed. Ospreys wheel above; they raise their young in the taller trees.
Here’s the trick, however. The shoreline has eroded so greatly that there is no easy way to get down to it from here. People do, of course, by using tree roots, but there isn’t a staircase or rope or any other structure to help you get down to the beach – and more importantly, back up to the bluff. If you go back to the fork and take the other trail, it leads to another overlook over the beach, and we saw people making their way up and down the bluff here.
If you dare to scramble down, explore this unusual coastline by taking a wander to the left, heading north. Fallen, sun-bleached trees are everywhere. Carefully make your way over the uneven surface, which will change every time you visit. At low tide, you can walk up at least a half-mile in either direction, to the north up to the promontory visited from the main parking lot, to the south to bluffs falling into the sea.
Return on the Black Rock Trail to your car.