On Friday morning we checked out of the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek hotel and made our way to Jacksonville via Interstate 4. Along the way, we stopped off at Saint Augustine which is the oldest European settlement in America.
I had heard about the beauty of Saint Augustine in the past and always wanted to visit. The quant town did not disappoint and reached all of my expectations. We walked along the harbour, stopping off to check out the art galleries and boutique stores.
Feeling a nip of hunger, we popped into the A1A Bar & Grill and settled at our table on the terrace which gave us the perfect view of the harbour. I had the grilled cheese with bacon and avocado mayonnaise served with french fries which really hit the spot and fuelled me up for the afternoon. On the way back to the car, walking by the iconic town hall, monuments and museums, I felt like I had stepped back in time. Saint Augustine is populated by tourists, professional artists and students attending Flagler College.
A few hours later, we arrived to Jacksonville which is approximately 40 miles north of Saint Augustine. I spotted some clothing and footwear stores in the distance, close by the hotel and my eyes lit up immediately. A quick walk across the road and I found myself standing in the middle of a huge parking lot, working up a sweat, not knowing which store to go to first but eventually working out my plan of action. Almost in a daze, I shopped for a few hours and returned to the hotel with an empty wallet and a mountain of bags which I’ll no doubt be squeezing into my luggage as if it wasn’t full enough on my outward journey!
Early the next morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way to Downtown Jacksonville which I hadn’t heard much about but I had the day to myself to explore while my dad attended the golf tournament at Sawgrass Ponde Vedra.
I started out on Main Street, walking aimlessly around the town. It’s Sunday here and nothing appears to be open so I stop off at Hemming Park in front of Jacksonville’s City Hall to figure out my next move and while doing so I spot a quirky little building in the distance that appears to be open. I look closer and discover that it’s Sweet Pete’s which I had read about online before coming here.
Sweet Pete’s is like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory but on a smaller scale. The uniquely designed store and restaurant was founded in 2010 by Peter Behringer. They specialise in providing a variety of premium candies and chocolates - all of which are made in house at the cute little factory upstairs. As soon as I walk into the store the scent of chocolate fills my nostrils and I stop to pinch myself as if I’m dreaming!
I walk around the building, taking the a self-guided tour and stopping off at various stations to make a few purchases. Upon recommendation from the cheery sales lady at The Dessert Bar, I buy 3 oz of the famous Raspberry Cheesecake Fudge and next door in the candy lab I stop off for a carton of sour gummies!
Heading back downstairs to the ground floor, I pop into The Candy Apple restaurant for brunch. A quick glance at the menu and I’m excited to see that they have Eggs Benedict, my absolute favourite. I order a glass of house white wine too. The interior in The Candy Apple is simple, clean and cartoon like. Over to my left, there’s a popular reality show being filmed so I have plenty to keep me entertained. The restaurant is buzzing with families celebrating Mother’s Day but I imagine a place like this would be busy any day, it’s a gem in Downtown Jacksonville.
Tucking into my Eggs Benedict, I discover that the poached eggs are cooked to my liking, the cured ham is salted to perfection and the lemon dressed side salad is delicious. I pick up my wine glass and catch a glimpse of my watch, seeing that it’s only 10.30am. I love that it’s acceptable to have a drink at brunch - it’s 7pm somewhere!
After brunch, I take a walk down to The Landing, apparently one of Downtown Jacksonville’s most lively spots. I enjoy a coffee on the riverbank and catch up with some reading before heading to the Museum of Contemporary Art for a look at the current exhibitions. The staff at MOCA suggest I take a cab to the nearby Shops at Avondale which I had read about in the Discover Jacksonville magazine the night before.
I arrived to Avondale Village via Uber which is now operating in Jacksonville and came across Mojo Bar-B-Que, a cool hipster spot serving brunch & cocktails along the main strip at Avondale. Still full from my delicious food at Sweet Pete’s, I ordered a Goodbread Tea cocktail, sat back and relaxed at the bar taking full advantage of the wireless internet.
Later that afternoon, I wandered around Avondale and discovered Peterbrooke Chocolatier. I picked myself up one of their signature Sea Salted Caramel Truffles, it was so good I had to order another. It had been a long day but I definitely made the most of my time in Jacksonville. We’re off to Ormond & Daytona beach now then spending the next 3 nights in Miami at the Hyatt Regency hotel in the downtown district. I’ll update you from the crazy beautiful party capital that is Miami, can’t wait!