Written By: Elizabeth Strube
Jacksonville is an excellent spot to enjoy nature’s bliss. With Fernandina, Amelia Island, and St. Augustine as our neighboring towns, there is plenty to do when it comes to spending time in the lovely outdoors. The University of North Florida Eco Center provides everything students need, from stand-up paddle boards to tents and sleeping bags. It’s completely free as long as the gear is returned on time and in good condition.
During my first semester of college, my friends and I found out about the Eco Center and what it provides. We decided to rent a few tents, sleeping bags, and a grill in hopes of having an unforgettable weekend. We headed up to the unique Jekyll Island. There, we found a camping ground with massive oak trees and a view of the river. After observing the perfect place to pitch our tents, we fired up the grill and spent the weekend enjoying the warm summer weather, thanks to UNF of course.
There is much more to Jacksonville than the Town Center, downtown, the beach, and the Jags. There is an entire world of adventures to partake in and wildlife to see. Feeling a beach day? Not the typical ‘beach day’ of grabbing an Angies sub and heading to the pier. Head to the eco center and rent a stand-up paddle board, and afterwards drive about 40 minutes to Huguenot Beach. The scenery there is spectacular with white sand dunes and rolling waves breaking against the many sand bars. The beach is normally un-crowded and you can drive your car along the shoreline.
If you are more interested exploring the St. Johns River, rent a kayak or a canoe. Drive up to Amelia Island and experience the natural habitats North Florida has to offer. Maybe you will even see an Osprey!
St. Augustine is known for the historic downtown area, yet there is much more to the city of ghosts and pirates. Drive a bit south down the A1A and one of Florida’s most beautiful drives will take away any adversities you have. The road to St. Augustine is scenic as well. Guana Park is another gorgeous place. There are many trails to discover. Rent a backpack, cooler and stove from the Eco Center and have a picnic amongst Florida’s nature.
As a college student, sometimes venturing out can be pricey for a drive. That is why you should definitely explore the UNF nature trails. I have seen deer, armadillos, bald eagles, raccoons, and many different species of birds when wandering the trails. If you have break in between classes, check them out.
UNF is eccentric in the matter that any student has the opportunity to rent gear free, including a GPS if you’re not the best with directions. Take advantage of what UNF has to offer, and more importantly the beautiful place in which we live.
At the Free Gear Checkout, the following gear is available:
- Life Jackets
- Sleeping Bags
- Sleeping Pads
- Lawn Chairs