WJCTNews.org's "Hidden Gems" is a new web-only series checking out some of the great places in Jacksonville you may not know exist.
Just a few miles north of better known beach locations is Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Slightly off the beaten path and worth the three dollars (cash only!) to get in, Hanna Park is more than just beach access.
Hanna Park gives locals prime mountain biking, surfing and fishing access in a secluded 450-acre swath of northeast Florida wilderness.
Off-road biking is big at Hanna Park with intermediate to very difficult trails to choose from of various lengths. There’s the very difficult, 0.2 mile “Lil Joe” to the intermediate, 4.5 mile South Loop. Near the trailheads to the two longest trails there’s even a spot to give your mountain bike a quick wash before loading.
The ocean isn’t the only body of water, Hanna park is home to a 60-acre freshwater lake. That’s where you can find Nautical Escapes, a family owned business, which rents kayaks, sailboats and pedal boats. There are guided adventures too, for those wanting to learn.
Chiara Hogan, the daugther of Nautical Escapes owners Patricia and Ed Hogan, recommends a guided tour if you want to see animals like the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, or going alone if you’d like to relax.
“I love being out in mother nature,” said Chiara.
Hanna Park has lots to do for families with small children, too. The Splash Park is gated with lifeguards on duty, with seats for parents both in and out of the splash zone. Nearby there are bathrooms and a shady spot to picnic and barbecue. And if getting wet isn’t your kid’s thing, there’s an adjacent, traditional playground too.
But the biggest attraction to the park is still the one and a half miles of beach.
With eleven lots, parking within steps of the sand is possible most days of the year. Three beach accesses have bathrooms and showers to wash off. Pelican and Dolphin plaza are the most popular spots, more secluded portions of the beach are found farther from the bathrooms.
The only exception is the most northern access lot, lot one. Without bathrooms, this lot usually packs the most cars in. Lot one is also home to the surfing spot known as the “Mayport Poles.” Popular during nor’easters, the poles boast some of the best waves in the area.
Whether you’re looking for a place to mountain bike, have family fun, or just a new beach spot- Hanna Park is a beachside hidden gem.