JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When you think of a day at the beach, you're probably thinking of a sun-drenched, sandy shore with the sun glistening off the ocean.
But you might not know there's a “hidden gem” of a beach in our own backyard that has a very different look.
It's littered with skeletons -- but not the kind you're imagining.
“Boneyard Beach” on Big Talbot Island is covered in the bleached skeletons of oak and cedar trees.
“(The trees fall and get stuck on the beach) as the bluff erodes from the shoreline -- which actually happens pretty quickly,” park specialist Allison Conboy said. “Barrier island shorelines change really fast, and this one has probably lost about 40 feet in the past six to eight years.”
Boneyard Beach is the latest stop featured in our weeklong series called “The Places You Gotta Go That You Don't Know.” The series includes ideas from “The Morning Show” crew for fun, inexpensive places to take your family after school ends this month.
To get to Boneyard Beach, which is part of Big Talbot Island State Park, south of Amelia Island, you hike an unspoiled trail thick with underbrush and enveloped in a beautiful canopy of trees. That short hike opens up to a panoramic view.
A favorite pastime for tourists is to climb the skeletal arms of the trees, and Fodor’s Florida travel guide calls the beach a photographer’s paradise. The wind and waves move the trees around as the ocean comes in, meaning pictures can change with every tide.
The silvered trees that tumbled onto the shore from years of erosion actually serve a really important purpose, acting as a buffer and breaking up the power of the ocean so that the shoreline doesn’t recede as fast as it would if the trees weren't there.
The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. The fee is $3 per vehicle -- with a limit of eight people per vehicle -- to access the trailhead that takes you down to Boneyard Beach.
To get to Big Talbot Island State Park on A1A North, get off on Heckscher Drive heading east from I-295 and travel about 19 miles. It takes about 25 minutes to get to the park entrance. Or you can take the Mayport ferry across the St. Johns River and then go north on A1A to Big Talbot.
Wear some pretty good hiking shoes because the trail terrain can be rough. And bring the kids; they will love it!
For more on the amenities and experiences Big Talbot Island offers, including a fishing pier, boat ramp and picnic area, go to https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/big-talbot-island-state-park or call 904-251-2320.