Jacksonville, Florida

We stopped on the way to Jacksonville for a couple of nights on the Suwannee River, made famous by the Stephen Foster song, and more famously sung by Al Johnson, Swannee (various sp…) how I love ya, how I love ya, my dear old Swannee…  Or the saying, Up the Swannee…When we arrived at the campground, I asked the owner if there was anything here we should know about, ie alligators, he said no, but don’t swim in the river (which was only a few metres away).  I asked, can we walk along the riverbank?   Oh yes, as long as there are no alligator’s there!  Anything else, I asked.  No, nothing else.  I told him, I’ve heard there are bears around here, is that true?  No, no bears, at least not here, just in the back of the campground!

It’s quite at odds with the environment that there should be black bears here in Florida, they don’t hibernate, how could they?  There is also a Panther in these parts, but I didn’t bother asking about that!  It was a great stay at this campsite, cool under the shade of the live oaks, and a salt water pool to cool down in also.  We saw no dodgy wildlife.

We had a good drive over to the Hanna State Park in Jacksonville.  The state park is right on the coast, and the approach from Jacksonville to the coast is over causeways, bridges etc.  The salty marshes encroach in land by quite a distance.  Arriving at the park it seemed obvious it was going to be unlike any other RV park we have stayed in.

The place that most resembles the jungle like nature of this park is deepest and most remote Great Barrier Island, NZ.  The bush here is dense, full of climbers and creepers, palmetto make up the undergrowth and various tall palms push their heads above the huge live oak canopy.  Everything is covered in Spanish moss, it really is a primordial environment.  The twisting narrow roads that run through this park are only just wide enough for the coach, the coach doesn’t look like it belongs in here at all.

The first night in the state park had us listening to animal, insect and bird noises we couldn’t identify, but otherwise it was a quiet night.

The next day we went into Jacksonville by car for an explore.  We headed to a downtown area by the river.

 

The river, Saint Johns is very wide and fast flowing and is the colour of hot chocolate, as is most of the water in these parts.

The river is fed by Lake George which sits on the edge of Ocala National Forest.  The lakes in these southern parts are typically tannin brown, and the water only gets murkier as it flows to the sea.  Some pleasure boats were out on the river, as it was the weekend but for us, boating would hold no pleasure in such waters.

The river walk was very nice, and we enjoyed wandering around an arts market, a coolish breeze was blowing off the river which was most welcome-the days on this east coast are rarely under 90degf.

We explored more of the city by car and it seems like a very pleasant place.

It is however very sprawling with no heart, much like Auckland, so it’s hard to tell if you’ve seen the best of it.  In the end the heat and humidity of the day forced us home.