Jacksonville Beaches

Jacksonville, Florida

East of downtown Jacksonville proper, a string of dives and taco shacks provides just the right kind of beach drinking refuge.
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
Jacksonville proper sits along St. Johns River, giving it the water so closely associated with the city but separating the heart of the city from the Atlantic Ocean and its string of closely bundled beaches. A 20-minute drive due east opens up an array of options, stretching from an area perceptively named The Beaches just south of Atlantic Beach down to Jacksonville Beach a bit further down the coast. Though these beach towns don’t rival nearby Daytona in name recognition, flying just a little further under the radar is welcome as it comes with reduced crowds populated more frequently by locals.

Of course, no string of beaches is safe from tourist traps and overpriced steakhouses that live on Midwesterners fleeing freezing temperatures, but living outside of the limelight stolen by Dayton, Destin, Miami and any number of other destinations deeper into Florida does have its perks. Along this well-connected stretch, diners, brunch spots, breweries and dive bars have mixed well with the surf shops and trendy seafood joints that are to be expected in an area like this.

And if all of that doesn’t sell this itinerary well enough, just know that it features a dive bar haunted by the mermaid show burlesque dancer that used to own the joint. Eyes on a swivel.

The Stops

1. Engine 15 Brewing

1500 Beach Blvd #217, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Google Map
(904) 249-2337
Web Site Link

There are some benefits to keeping it classy to start an afternoon of drinking and Engine 15’s sparkling interior ranks as one of those perks. 50 tap lines flow through Engine 15 feature a mix of core & rotating beers from the namesake brewery as well as a selection of other local options. Now the name may play a role, but the brewery’s Nut Sack Double Brown Ale ranks as one of its most popular offerings. What better way to start a crawl than with a frosty cold Nut Sack, I wonder.

2. Angie's Grom

204 3rd Ave S, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Google Map
(904) 241-3663

The Grom carries with it the quintessential feel of a beach-adjacent diner, down to the early closing hours and all-day Sunday brunch. Prolific taxidermy lines the walls, along with enough surf boards to be clear about your immediate surroundings. Sandwiches, sliders, burritos, even non-judgmental chicken tender baskets for adults can be found here, though any time biscuits & gravy can be had, its hard to pass up the opportunity to lay that kind of substantial foundation for a day of drinking.

3. Ginger's Place

304 3rd St S, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Google Map
(904) 249-8711
Web Site Link

Welcome to the ghost tour portion of our tour, where the aforementioned ex-mermaid burlesque dancer and bar namesake, Ginger, haunts this particular Jacksonville dive bar. After a classy brewery tasting room and a down-to-earth diner, drinking in a single room dive bar with one tiny window feels like the perfect subsequent activity. Though the dive bar has seen renovation over the years, framed photos of Ginger can still be found inside, including a prominent glamour shot just behind the bar.

4. Jalapeno Express

1415 3rd St N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Google Map
(904) 575-6029
Web Site Link

The stretch between Jacksonville Beach and our destinations within Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach can feel sparse, but if you’ve worked up a hunger already, Mexican food truck Jalapeno Express is the perfect halfway stop for a quick taco. Burritos, tacos, huraches and tortas can all be had, but don’t sleep on the esquite & elote street corn offerings on the side. Though you may be tempted to go mayo free on an early afternoon cup of esquite, please remember you only live once and the combination of mayo, molten butter and grilled corn is hard to beat. Water breaks aside, a nice non-alcoholic break from the day’s proceedings can also be found here in the form of a delicious horchata.

5. Pete's Bar

117 First St, Neptune Beach, FL 32266
Google Map
(904) 249-9158

Opened on the heels of Prohibition’s repeal, Pete’s Bar was the first bar in the county to get back to business in 1933. The white exterior and simple neon sign serve as the only indicators of the cavernous three-room dive bar expanse inside. Faded but intact murals above the bar and along the ceiling speak to the dive bar’s decades of longevity, as does the set of locals and regulars assembled each day along the bar. The tourists and families do wander in, of course, but for a beach town in Florida, Pete’s Bar is about as pure as you’re going to find this close to the beach.

6. Fly's Tie Irish Pub

177 Sailfish Dr E, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Google Map
(904) 246-4293

Nothing says Florida like an Irish pub, right? As the tour turns westward toward Jacksonville, Fly’s Tie combines the Irish pub feel with the dark windowless coziness that the Florida sun and the day’s waning hours demand. The pitched roof and vertical wood paneling serves to really stoke the appetite for a freshly poured Guineess along the weathered and classic wooden bar. The bar’s interior is almost surpassed by its extensive porch lined with artwork amid fencing tall enough and dense enough to completely block out all suggestion of the property’s surrounding area.

7. Harbor Tavern

160 Mayport Rd, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Google Map
(904) 246-2555

And finally, if you’ve made it this far, why not stop at a neighborhood dive bar under a Florida overpass, because that’s exactly the way to end a day of drinking like this one. Before heading back into Jacksonville proper, Harbor Tavern’s brick house and low, sloping roof beckon like the third piggie’s shack that finally thwarts the wolf. Inside, the layout is of a dive bar vintage variety, long bar in front, pool room in back, stools throughout. This is the spot to spend your remaining hours of sobriety in peace and solitude before trudging back to society.