5 Best Photo Opportunities in Jacksonville

Photo Opportunities Jacksonville

Lee Van Grack

Jacksonville, Fla., ranking number one in land area in the contiguous United States, is a wonderful place to be – especially if you're a photographer. With over 20 miles of coastline, acres of preserved marsh and the magnificent St. Johns River that runs through the heart of it all, the photo opportunities in Jacksonville are plenty. It's easy to see why so many shutterbugs end up taking roots here.

There is so much to see within Jacksonville's Duval County limits that it helps to have a guide to a few of the best locations for taking pictures that really capture what it means to visit the "City of Seven Bridges."

1. The Romantic Photo: The Cummer Museum

What little girl did not dream of running through ivy topiaries, past moss-covered statues and towering stone fountains, just like in the classic novel 'The Secret Garden'? Fulfill those romantic fantasies at the American Association of Museums' accredited Cummer Museum, which is home to a real-life secret garden.

With both English and Italian landscaping to experience, you will fall in love all over again surrounded by the lush greenery and fragrant flowers, while cool breezes blow in from the vast St. Johns River that the museum overlooks. A 200-year-old Spanish oak drapes its branches through the garden to add a canopy of mystery. Iron doorways, a long reflecting pool of water and embracing cherubim promise that your camera will not stop once you step into this magical oasis.

A particularly special time to visit is during the museum's annual garden festival, when the biggest and brightest flowers are in full bloom. "Garden Week is a wonderful time of the year. We always have photographers out to capture everything in bloom," explains Amy Chamberlin, the Cummer's Associate Director of Marketing. The breathtaking Garden Week happens every March.

Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for students and seniors, and free for children 5 and under.

Cummer Museum and Gardens, 829 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, FL, 32204.

2. The Quirky Photo: Rex the Dinosaur

Every family needs a photo taken with a large, silly fiberglass structure, right? When threat of demolishment came for Rex the Dinosaur, Jacksonville residents protested and rallied together to save the only remaining piece of the Goony Golf Park, circa 1960, once located on Jacksonville's Southside. The builder put together a team of students from University of North Florida, who restored the beloved dino and kept him in his original spot, greeting drivers along Beach Blvd.

The large orange beast is both a historical landmark of what once was, and the perfect spot for visitors and residents to grab their cameras and bare all teeth for the most ferocious group snarl possible.

Rex the Dinosaur, 10150 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL, 32246.

3. The Family Fun Photo: Jacksonville Zoo

Another photo opportunity in Jacksonville is the Jacksonville Zoo. Being one of the largest zoos in the U.S., the Jacksonville Zoo has received numerous awards and accolades, including being ranked as one of the top 15 zoos in the nation by Parents Magazine.

With over 100 acres of exhibits, the places to take fun family shots are endless. Start at the replications of African thatched houses and the 1,400-foot boardwalk that transports you to the Plains of East Africa, with all its furry and feathered inhabitants roaming free. Or take some shots of the kids in the 4,000 square-foot splash ground, or as they find their way through mazes or maybe reenacting some monkey moves in the tree house.

The botanical gardens and penguin exhibits are not to be missed. After all, who doesn't enjoy a Dick Van Dyke, 'Mary Poppins'- inspired penguin dance?

The zoo is open all year round and with admission set at a mere $13 for adults and $8 for kids, this is one trip you can't pass up.

Jacksonville Zoo, 370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, FL, 32218.

4. The Scenic Photo: Big Talbot Island

Big Talbot Island, located 20 miles east of downtown Jacksonville off A1A north is easy to miss if you're not looking for it. There is no big gate, no huge signs, just a small marker on the right coming from the city.

Directly after the large entrance to Little Talbot Island, Big Talbot is often overlooked, and is referred to by local photographers as one of Jacksonville's "hidden jewels."

The drive, down a string of islands along the coast, will cause you to pull over every hundred yards to snap a bobbing shrimp boat, or an old Florida roadside peanut stand. Marsh and coastline create a symphony of landscape, all the way to Fernandina Beach, a historic shrimping town.

On Big Talbot, the photo opportunities are endless, with the truck-sized chunks of drift wood and sand-scoured uprooted trees, all washed white from years of endless waves. The miles of white sand and sunsets will make you feel like you are on your own private tropical island.

Big Talbot Island, State Road A1A North, Jacksonville, FL, 32226.

5. The Classic Photo: Acosta Bridge

For the classic Jacksonville photo opportunity, park your car at Friendship Fountain, created in 1963. That in itself is a beautiful landmark. Boasting 252 multi-colored lights shining up through 63 spouts that blast dancing water 120 feet into the air, it is a sight to behold. If you time it right, you will snag unbelievable photos of the fountain while it is performing, before you take a little hike up to the Acosta Bridge. The current schedule for the fountain is Monday through Friday from 11:30AM to 1:30PM ET and from 7:30PM to 9:30PM ET; Saturday from 2PM to 4PM ET and Sundays from 1PM to 9:30PM ET.

After you spend some time snapping shots at river level, the bridge entrance is just a short walk away. This classic viewpoint of the city is one of the best, where you can capture not only Friendship Fountain, but the docked sailboats, the bright blue Main Street Bridge, a handful of skyscrapers and all the activity of the beautiful St. Johns River.

Day or night, Jacksonville offers some incredible photo opportunities, and the wide walkway across the bridge means that getting the whole group in front of the Jacksonville skyline is easily done.

Acosta Bridge/Friendship Fountain, 835 Museum Circle Drive, Jacksonville, FL, 32207.

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