Florida beaches have, with few exceptions, left me disappointed and nostalgically yearning for the majestic shores of my youth in a far off land. When I moved to Florida in 1996 after a five year stint in waterless Colorado I was beyond thrilled at the prospect of once again indulging in the pleasures of the oceanside but the brown waters, dirty looking sand, and tiny waves quickly drowned my enthusiasm. That said, being by the ocean is better than being landlocked and there is a definite atmosphere permeating the shoreside communities that can't be found elsewhere.
On the morning Saturday, April 19 we took a trip out To Jax Beach for a mini-expedition as neither of us have ever really explored the area much. Being relatively early in the day, the streets weren't too crowded but there were still plenty of patrons engaging in all manner of sun, sand, and surf related activities down by the pier. Preferring more solitary environs (and because our flesh tones range from ivory to egg shell), we didn't spend much time weaving through the sun bathers and rugby players and instead chose to wander the lonely alleys among the closed bars and shops, marveling at the little plants growing out of the cracks in the concrete. However, if you're single, confident, and on the prowl then the beach front is the perfect place to parade your goods and cast your net. Perhaps we'll make it a point to visit the area again in the evening/nighttime to experience and assess the infamous nightlife that attracts people from all over the North East Florida region.
With growing hunger we headed back to the car and drove a few miles north to the Atlantic Beach area for lunch. One of our favorite restaurants in the Southside area is Seven Bridges and Atlantic Beach is the home to one of its two sisters, The Ragtime Tavern. The menu at The Ragtime Tavern is basically the same as Seven Bridges but with more seafood dishes and fewer chicken or beef alternatives. Being a sharing couple, we split the Sesame Tuna (I got the tuna, Kateri the sides and a salad) which was utterly fantastic by my standards. We don't drink often but enjoy a good beer or wine on occasion, particularly from microbreweries like The Ragtime Tavern and Seven Bridges, so we shared a glass of the Westbury Wheat. We're both rather fond of wheat beers and, while not the best wheat beer I've had, the Westbury Wheat had a good flavor. Weighing in around 3-4% alcohol, it's definitely not a brew you'd settle on if you're looking to get drunk but a good choice for those who really do drink for the taste (really!).
Wanting to experience more of the area, we wandered around the shops a bit and grabbed a cup of iced coffee from Shelby's Coffee Shoppe. There's a cute outside area where you can sit and sip your coffee whilst watching the sparrows engage in their mating and scavenging activities, all quite pleasant but slightly cheapened by the plastic container our coffee came in (it's an anti-disposable goods sentiment, not purely snobbery). The coffee itself wasn't very good either. It didn't taste bad but, then again, it also didn't taste like coffee. But here I must admit that I am a coffee snob yet typically forgiving.
All in all, it was an interesting few hours of wandering around the Jacksonville Beaches but I still find them to be rather overrated. Maybe a few more visits will change my mind and I'm open to any suggestions that will help brighten my opinion.
The Ragtime Tavern
207 Atlantic Blvd.,
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Shelby's Coffee Shoppe
200 First Street,
Neptune Beach, FL 32266