Jacksonville. A city rich in history and character as it is in aquatic life, tourists, those visiting friends and family, and locals alike will not have to look far if searching for a diversity of aquatic species. In both the institutions and in the local lives of the people of Jacksonville, a deep appreciation of nature is apparent. Read on for some of our favorite aquarium and aquatic life experiences around J-Ville.
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens has served Duval County and Northern Florida for over a century, inspiring and educating generations with a unique beauty and scope of operations including over 2,000 animals, 1,000 plant species, and myriad local and global conservation and education missions. This premier attraction for aquatic life and the values of wildlife is our first stop on our list and is unrivaled as an institution for the work it does. Some of the iconic aquatic species that reside here at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens include the alligator snapping turtle, American alligator, Atlantic guitarfish, Asian small-clawed otter, Atlantic stingray, Caiman lizard, Caribbean flamingo, cownose stingray, Florida manatee, giant otter, and the Magellanic penguins. These and more live in a variety of immersive exhibits taking visitors near and far, through the Island of Komodo, Patagonia, the edge of the Amazon, and the local waters of Wild Florida.
A number of experiences for groups of varying sizes, ages, and interests are also offered, such as touring the Zoo overnight, guided tours for groups of over 10 people, scout experiences, and a number of treks and animal Q&A sessions for families of all ages. There are also a number of dining and shopping options and famously curated gardens and footpaths for visitors who need to take a step aside for a moment.
Jacksonville Wildlife Sightseeing Opportunities
Another benefit to Jacksonville’s strategic location on the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean is that you do not need to travel far to find an opportunity to witness Florida’s incredible wildlife. Aside from the cheeky intrusions into urban areas from sandhill cranes and the occasional menacing alligator, a number of tours for canoes, boats, and airboats are operated year-round in the Jacksonville area. We recommend the rare ride on a sun-drenched airboat through the green waters around Jacksonville to spy on alligators, manatees, and turtles for a true Florida experience.
Agencies such as Dolphin & Gator Tours and a number of airboat agencies are operated by locals who truly know and cherish their surroundings, and are a great addition to any excursion on the way out of Jacksonville, whether to the beach, to St. Augustine, down to South Florida or on the way north to Georgia and South Carolina. Be sure to pick up local gear such as sun hats, beach towels, UV-proof clothing, sunblock, and plenty of water. The sun can be just as dangerous as what lurks in the river!
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