Over spring break, we camped again at Hanna Park, located in Jacksonville. As we were headed out one day, we saw a sign that said Fort Caroline and the Timucuan Preserve was to the right. I did a quick google search to see what it was all about, I was intrigued, and we decided that on one of our days that week we would go check it out. What a pleasant surprise that place was!
Fort Caroline is a replica fort from the days of the French. You can walk the grounds and check out the fort, and they also have a nice visitor center. You can stop in there to read about the area's history, see artifacts, etc. There are some great hiking trails here. You can either start at the Fort Caroline parking lot and hike over to the Theodore Roosevelt Area, or do as we did. We parked at the Theodore Roosevelt Area parking lot and did our hiking, then got in the car and drove over to the fort and visitor center (from the Roosevelt area, it's the third right to get to the visitor center and fort - the building right next to the Roosevelt area are administrative offices only).
We did a four mile hike in the Theodore Roosevelt Area, spending time on the various trails that ran through there. You can take a trail that leads back to an observation tower that overlooks a beautiful marsh. Once you are finished with that, you can take the Timucuan Trail, which was awesome! We loved the Timucuan Trail and feel it's one of the best we have hiked in Florida. It is a huge Native American shell mound with elevations that go up to 123 feet (what my GPS showed). You get elevated, challenged, and have some great views. The kids absolutely loved this trail! They were running up the elevations to challenge themselves and just had a great time with it. The Theodore Roosevelt Area covers 600 acres, it's beautiful, and is filled with history, covering thousands of years. You can even learn about Willie Browne, the great man who donated the land so it would forever be protected and enjoyed by people, rather than developed. Their cemetery is there to see, as are remnants of the home he once lived in.
The shell midden here covers around 25 acres and is 25 feet deep with oyster shells, which date back to 600 to 2,500 years, according to the Saint John River Historical Society. It's a gorgeous hike to take and one the kids will love. While a sturdy stroller would be able to handle the Willie Browne Trail, it wouldn't be able to do the Timucuan Trail.
Fort Caroline and the Theodore Roosevelt Area are hidden gems in Jacksonville, and well worth planning a trip to. The area is filled with history, beauty, and some wonderful hiking trails! Plan your trip here and here with these guides. Fort Caroline is located at 12713 Ft Caroline Road, Jacksonville, with the Theodore Roosevelt Area just minutes down the road (or you can start your hike from the visitor center and hike over to the area and back).