Neptune Beach is a picturesque beachfront city that exudes charm and a relaxed coastal vibe. Located to the east of Jacksonville in Duval County, Neptune Beach has its own unique history and character that sets it apart from its neighboring communities. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this delightful beachside enclave, from its intriguing history to the best attractions and dining spots.
History of Neptune Beach
Initially, the area north of 20th Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach was sparsely populated. A brick road, known as First Street, connected this less populated region with Atlantic Beach. It was in 1922 when a resident named Dan G. Wheeler, who had to commute a considerable distance from work in Jacksonville, decided to build his own train station near his home. This station was named Neptune, and it marked the origin of Neptune Beach.
In 1931, Neptune Beach officially seceded from Jacksonville Beach, becoming an independent municipality. This decision followed a tax revolt, as Neptune Beach residents were paying taxes but not receiving crucial city services like police, fire, and garbage collection. O.O. McCollum became the first mayor, and the town conducted its government affairs in Wheeler’s old train station until a new town hall was constructed in 1935.
Geography and Location
Neptune Beach is situated at approximately 30°19’00” N latitude and 81°24’11” W longitude. It is one of several towns on San Pablo Island, spanning Duval and St. Johns Counties. Stretching from Naval Station Mayport in the north to Vilano Beach in the south, across from St. Augustine, the island offers distinct landscapes, including marshlands and tidal streams. Neptune Beach itself covers an area of 6.8 square miles, with a significant portion being water.
Population & Demographics
Neptune Beach is home to approximately 7,500 residents, according to the official government website. The population here is quite diverse, with a majority being White, but there are also African American, Native American, Asian, and other ethnicities. Households in Neptune Beach vary, with 24.2% having children under 18. The median age was 39, with a fairly even gender distribution. Income-wise, the median household income was $53,576, and the per capita income was $30,525.
Neptune Beach operates under a Council-Manager form of government. The City Council, comprised of a Mayor and four City Councilors, is responsible for enacting ordinances and resolutions that govern the city. The Mayor presides over council meetings.
The City Manager serves as the chief administrative officer, responsible for enforcing city ordinances and resolutions. The City Clerk is responsible for legislative operations and maintains the City Seal.
Best Things to Do in Neptune Beach
Neptune Beach offers a range of attractions and activities for residents and visitors alike. Here are some of the best things to do:
• Jarboe Park: Located a few blocks from the coast, this neighborhood park is perfect for picnics, leisurely strolls, and outdoor activities. It features spacious green lawns, walking trails, a picturesque lake, tennis courts, and a playground.
• Beaches Town Center: If you feel like shopping, head north to Atlantic Beach’s Beaches Town Center. It’s a lively downtown district where you can access big-city amenities, from casual pub grub to upscale seafood restaurants. Don’t miss Hawkers Asian Street Food for some delectable Asian dishes and a nice, cozy ambiance.
• Brewhound Dog Park & Bar: Combine relaxation and fun at this unique dog park and bar. Sip on a refreshing beverage while your furry companion enjoys playful moments in the well-maintained dog-run areas.
• Castaway Island Preserve: Covering 300 acres of diverse marshlands and tidal streams along the Intracoastal Waterway, Castaway Island Preserve provides a feeling of serenity and calm just moments from the busy town. Start with a visit to the education center’s theater, then traverse the park on a raised and accessible boardwalk. And if you want a splendid view, head to the observation platform. The preserve also offers kayak launches for exploring the marshlands.
• Jax Surf & Paddle: At Jax Surf & Paddle you can find surfboards, paddleboards, and beach apparel. Not only do they offer gear, but they also specialize in SUP and surf lessons, as well as fitness classes. Beginners can quickly get up to speed with their assistance, making them ready for waves or exploring the preserve on a paddleboard. The store also offers eco-tours and surf camps.
• Island Girl Cigar & Wine Bar: Cap off your Neptune Beach day at Island Girl Cigar & Wine Bar, located just steps from the ocean on First Street. Choose from over 500 cigar brands in their large walk-in humidor or savor the lively atmosphere with fellow guests enjoying nightly drink specials. With 50 wines and ports and 28 beers on tap, the bar ensures you have plenty of beverage options. Plus, they frequently host live music events to elevate your evening.
Where to Eat & Drink
Neptune Beach boasts a diverse culinary scene that caters to various tastes. Some noteworthy dining and drinking spots include:
• North Beach Fish Camp: Located just steps from the shore, North Beach Fish Camp is a modern eatery offering inventive seafood dishes in a beautiful dining setting, accompanied by a full-service bar.
• Mezza Luna Ristorante: This chic Italian seafood restaurant boasts a romantic ambiance, complete with a fireplace and an outdoor patio. Indulge in an exquisite seafood menu while gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean.
• Lemon Bar: Enjoy stunning oceanfront views at Lemon Bar, which boasts one of Neptune Beach’s prime beachfront patios. Here, you can savor classic American pub fare in a laid-back setting, perfectly complemented by the sea breeze.
• Pete’s Bar: Located on First Street, Pete’s Bar is a cherished hangout that has been serving up beers for over 85 years. It’s a laid-back spot perfect for unwinding after a day of beach activities.
• Monkey’s Uncle Tavern: Offering a wide selection of beers paired with hearty pub grub and live music, Monkey’s Uncle Tavern is another fantastic option to enjoy Neptune Beach’s nightlife.
• Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar: If you’re in the mood for a casual beachside meal, Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar is a popular choice. While it’s ideal for a midday bite, its vibrant atmosphere and captivating neon lights make it a fantastic spot for post-sunset gatherings. Relish their Latin fusion cuisine, pair it with an extensive selection of tequilas, and groove to live music events held weekly.
Places to Stay
Neptune Beach offers a range of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets:
• Seahorse Oceanfront Inn: Experience stunning ocean views and easy beach access at this cozy inn, starting from $149/night.
• One Ocean Resort & Spa: One Ocean Resort & Spa is a luxurious resort with convenient access to local amenities. Prices start from $169/night.
• Hotel Palms: Hotel Palms offers spacious rooms and a range of essential amenities to make sure you have a comfortable stay at their hotel, all for just $125 per night.
Q : What’s the best time to visit Neptune Beach for outdoor activities?
A : The best time for outdoor fun is during the sunny days of spring and early fall when the weather is pleasantly warm.
Q : What’s the population of Neptune Beach?
A : Around 7,500 residents.
Q : Where can I enjoy live music in Neptune Beach?
A : Check out Island Girl Cigar & Wine Bar for regular live music events.