A patchwork of public land on both sides of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Timucuan Preserve protects sites of historic, cultural, and ecological interest.
Its full name is Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve, and its units are scattered from Mayport north to Amelia Island.
Most sites are directly tied to the indigenous people of this region, the Timucua, and their interactions with the Europeans who attempted to settle here.
This is a well-interpreted National Park, with signage filling in the mysteries that surround this region’s long and storied history.
Visitor Center: 30.385751, -81.497519
Address: 12713 Fort Caroline Rd, Jacksonville
Restroom: At some units
Land manager: National Park Service
Based at Fort Caroline, the Visitor Center is open 9 AM to 5PM Wed-Sun. Other hours vary by unit. Some close on Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Accessible facilities are available at Fort Caroline, Kingsley Plantation, Ribault Column, and Spanish Pond.
Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed.
About the Park
Timucuan Preserve protects many items of antiquity where Europeans first set foot in what is now Florida.
Perhaps the most ancient is a massive midden along the shores of the St. Johns River, reached by hiking the trails of the Theodore Roosevelt Area.
Adjoining this rugged, forested waterfront and not far by foot is Spanish Pond, site of an encampment of Spaniards from St. Augustine.
Led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, their mission was to slaughter the French who established a colony along the river at Fort Caroline.
On a bluff above both of these sites is the Ribault Column, a marker denoting where the French disembarked their ships to claim Florida for France in 1562.
Florida’s last remaining public car ferry, the Mayport Ferry, is a piece of history itself.
It serves as an official route across the St. Johns River connecting Timucuan Preserve via the East Coast Greenway.
The ride between Mayport and Northshore is a short trip and lets you avoid taking Interstate 295 to cross the river on the high Dames Point Bridge.
North of the river, the National Park encompasses a massive sweep of estuary surrounding public lands managed by the state and county.
Peninsulas jut into the marshes in many directions, including Cedar Point, another far-flung piece of Timucuan Preserve.
Amid the salt marshes are a smattering of islands among the tidal rivers and creeks that feed the mighty St. Johns basin.
A large part of Fort George Island is a state park. Drive its scenic loop to reach another part of Timucuan Preserve on the northern tip of the island.
Interpretive tours and signage guide you through the the well-preserved remains of Kingsley Plantation, a cotton and sugar cane plantation from 1799.
Barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast edge the National Park’s marshlands on their west side, with beaches and camping at state parks.
At the mouth of the St. Johns River across from Mayport, Little Talbot Island State Park was a segregated beach for Blacks in the 1950s and 60s.
Home to high bluffs defining its oceanfront, Big Talbot Island is more wild, its beach in a constant state of erosion.
The East Coast Greenway runs the length of the island as the Timucuan Trail, a paved bike path.
On Amelia Island, Timucuan Preserve interprets the story of American Beach, a safe haven for Blacks from 1935 through the end of segregation in Florida.
Established by A. L. Lewis, president of the Afro American Insurance Company in Jacksonville, it was an early oceanfront vacation community.
American Beach is also home to the tallest dune on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
Explore Timucuan Preserve
Units of Timucuan Preserve in Duval and Nassau Counties
Public lands within Timucuan Preserve
See our photos from Timucuan Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.