Jacksonville at a Glance
With the roaring Atlantic at its front door and an alluring labyrinth of estuaries, salt marshes and rivers at its back, Jacksonville is a cosmopolitan oasis surrounded by natural wonder.
Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the continental U.S., and its sprawling, sandy footprint encompasses more than 747 square miles in the much-loved corner of northeast Florida. The meandering St. John’s River is a fixture in the city from Mayport Beach to Mandarin, and Jacksonville makes the most of this natural resource for commerce and recreation. Naval and air bases are positioned along the St. John’s. Downtown JAX makes a hub of one of its bends with its Southbank Riverwalk. And a shrimp shack and oyster bar has set up shop along the banks of the St. John’s River, serving up the freshest local catch in neighborhoods along this aquatic corridor.
Though the city itself may be large, the diverse population is still just under a million, so it’s hard to get lost in the shuffle. There are only 1,271 people per square mile in Jacksonville, compared to Miami’s 12,286. Still, you’ll find a lot of big-city amenities in Jacksonville — a newly enhanced stadium for the Jacksonville Jaguars, enchanting botanical gardens, cool art museums and galleries and numerous historic sites. And we haven’t even mentioned the beaches!
With four distinct seasons and mostly mild weather — it can get hot and humid here! — you’ll have 12 months to enjoy the outdoors in Jacksonville.
If you’re looking for a southern city with an ocean view and lots of cultural appeal, Jacksonville may be the city for you. Learn more about this river city below. And check out other cities and attractions in the Sunshine State in our Guide to Moving to Florida.
Climate and Weather
Jacksonville’s lucky residents are treated to abundant sunshine and mild temperatures throughout the year except for, perhaps, July and August, when it can be oppressively sticky and hot. But even then, cooling ocean breezes make the city an appealing place to be.
Winters can be quite chilly in Jacksonville. You’ll invariably have a few days of freakishly-cold-for-Florida weather, when curiously individualized frozen particles may occasionally fall from the sky — prompting a wintry mix of confusion and wonder from residents — but don’t expect enough to snow accumulate to form a ball, much less a man. Temperatures usually hover between 40°F and 60°F from December through February. You’ll need a winter coat and scarf in Jacksonville — something the snowbirds farther south will not.
Springtime warms up quickly in Jacksonville, and the azaleas, agapanthus and magnolias make for a beautiful season. Storms are frequent during the warmer months — increasingly so as summer approaches. Once June has arrived, you can expect frequent but short-lived late afternoon showers, and the start of the dreaded hurricane season.
Historically, Jacksonville has been spared the worst of the storms that other Florida cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa have face head-on, but climate change has battered the city with torrential rains, extreme winds and flooding from its riverways, including the St. John’s River, which flows directly through town. Summertime highs are usually in the 90s, and lows drop only into the mid-70s.
Employment and Education
Thanks to its strong military presence and its diverse industry base, from finance to healthcare to tourism, Jacksonville enjoys a relatively stable job market. The unemployment rate did rise to 3.2% in summer 2023 — it hadn’t broken the 2% mark since fall of 2022 — but that’s still more than a half-percent lower than the U.S. unemployment rate, which sat at 3.8% in September 2023.
Jacksonville has a number of strong colleges and universities in the region, which help contribute to its workforce. Locally, there’s the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University. Flagler College in St. Augustine — named the #3 best regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report — is just down the coast. The University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville is only an hour-and-a-half away, and Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee is less than three hours away. Another educational benefit? In-state tuition for public universities in Florida averages just $6,113 a year.
Although leisure and hospitality is a prominent industry sector in this coastal city — one that saw 6.2% growth over the past year — trade, transportation and utilities is the largest single sector, employing 171,900 individuals and helping the city earn its moniker as America’s Logistics Center. Professional and business services (131,000 employees) is the next-largest industry in the city, which saw a 4.2% year-over-year increase in employment. With 125,800 workers, education and health services is a close third, and it saw growth of 5.4% since August of 2022. Major hospitals and research centers like the Mayo Clinic help to make this health and life science industry a powerful anchor in a port city.
The other prime industry in the region is military and defense. Several major military stations are in Jacksonville, including the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, located inland on the St. John’s River, and the Naval Station Mayport — the third-largest facility of its kind in the continental U.S. — positioned on the Atlantic in the northeast corner of the city. More than 80,000 Jacksonville residents are veterans, and the military supplies more than 95,000 jobs in the area, accounting for 17% of the Gross Domestic Product of Duval County.
Jacksonville has a strong corporate side as well. The city has four Fortune 500 companies. CSX Corp., a powerful freight transportation provider, led the pack, followed by FIS (Fidelity National Information Services), Fidelity National Financial and Landstar System, another transportation giant. Jacksonville-based Dream Finders Homes made the 2023 Fortune 1000 list. 20 major banks also have bases in JAX, making for a powerful financial sector in the city.
Cost of Living in Jacksonville
Jacksonville residents enjoy a far lower cost of living than their coastal counterparts in Florida. Real estate prices are lower in JAX than in Miami, Tampa, and landlocked Orlando, and they’re even lower than the state and national averages. The median home value in Jacksonville is only $203,400, and the median gross rent is $1,146 per month. The median household income in Jacksonville — which averaged $58,263 from 2017-2021 — is comparable to Orlando, Tampa and the Florida state average, but it’s roughly $10,000 above Miami’s and $10,000 below the U.S. median. More people own their own homes in Jacksonville than in other large Florida cities, too. Roughly 57% of Jacksonville homes are owner-occupied, compared to 50% in Tampa, 38% in Orlando and 30% in Miami.
Want to see how your current cost of living compares to JAX? Use the city’s handy COL calculator.
Jacksonville residents never have to worry about paying individual state income taxes because Florida does not impose them. There is a 5.5% corporate income tax, though. The average sales tax in Florida is just over 7%, and that varies by municipality. The Tax Foundation ranks Florida 8th in the nation for its individual income tax burden, 23rd for its sales taxes, 26th for its property taxes, and 4th in the nation for its corporate tax burden.
Please note: we are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
Explore Neighborhoods in Jacksonville
Jacksonville has a bigger footprint than any other city in the continental U.S., so where do you even begin your search for the perfect neighborhood?
Are you looking for a bustling, oceanside spot like Neptune Beach with lots of fun bars and shops? Or are you searching for a quieter retreat, where you can smell the ocean air but not see so many tourists? Housing is expensive along the waterfront, but if you can live without an ocean view, smaller bungalows set back a few blocks from the water can be within reach of mere mortals. (You might also find that your neighbor’s mega-mansion makes for an awfully convenient sea wall when hurricane season arrives.) Whatever your dream home in Jacksonville looks like, you’ll have access to great museums, historic sites and natural wonders, and you’ll find a wide range of neighborhoods to suit your needs.
Downtown Jacksonville has culture, commerce and considerable architectural charm. Without a work commute, you can spend those hours you would have wasted stuck in traffic on I-95 on a stroll down the Riverwalk or a trip to the Museum of Science & History, locally known as Mosh. (Don’t worry, it bears no resemblance to 90s Grunge pits.) After work, you’ll have your pick of bars, restaurants and live music joints to wind down at. Housing in downtown JAX includes riverside condominiums, loft-style apartments and high-rise condos with soaring views of the city.
In nearby San Marco, located just across the St. John’s River from downtown, you’ll find single-family houses on and off the waterfront, from charming clapboard bungalows to modern condominiums to palatial residences on multi-acre lots. The neighborhood’s historic brick architecture and palm tree-lined streets make the area’s boutique shopping and dining scene even more appealing. If you’re looking for in-town life with a relaxed side, San Marco may be for you.
South of the city, Mandarin is an aptly named neighborhood that was once filled with orange groves. Upscale houses on spacious lots dominate this popular residential district ensconced by the waters of the St. John’s River and Old Bull Bay. San Jose Blvd. — a commercial thoroughfare on Mandarin’s eastern edge — has conveniences like hardware stores, supermarkets and doctor’s offices, along with dozens of restaurants, including Julington Creek Fish Camp, a popular local seafood spot near the Marina and Mandarin Park.
An artsy, riverfront enclave, Jacksonville’s Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods give residents the best of city living and tight-knit community life. The Saturday art market, the Cummer Museum and Gardens and Memorial Park are just some of the favorite spots in this walkable area. You’ll find coffee shops and bars — even a booze-free spot for kava — tucked into residential streets. I-95, I-10 and Highway 17 intersect in this area, so you’ll have easy access in and out of the neighborhood. Housing in this desirable region can be expensive, but homes here are stylish and well-kept, from cozy two-bedroom cottages to six-bedroom mansions.
Note: If you’re planning to move to Jacksonville, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Lifestyle and Recreation
With its pleasant weather and its wealth of cultural and natural resources, Jacksonville has a well-rounded portfolio of fun. Hit the links for an oceanside round of golf, backpack your way through the sandy trails of Fort Clinch, or finally take the plunge and try scuba diving or parasailing! But…avoid actual plunging during parasailing.
There’s no better place to get acquainted with Jacksonville than on its beaches. The white sand shores of this city extend for more than 20 miles, from the edge of Amelia Island south to Neptune Beach and Ponte Vedra, and no one has ever tired of the dazzling view of the Atlantic beyond the dunes. There’s even a Beaches Museum, for those who truly cannot get enough of the ocean.
Downtown Jacksonville is quite away away from the Atlantic — even its namesake Jacksonville Beach is nearly 20 miles from the city center — and the whole other side of the city awaits you at the shore. Those looking for a day of fun in the sun will find their bliss here, whether you’re wanting to rent a cabana and get lost in a juicy page-turner or let your kids burn off some steam on the rides at Adventure Landing.
It may not be California, but unlike the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic Ocean has some fearsome surf, and its rough waters are great for boogie-boarding and even surfing. Serious athletes will want to head to Hannah Park at the north end of Atlantic Beach, where they’ll find some of the boldest waves in the state in an area known as The Poles.
Fishing is another popular activity in the area, and you’ll find residents reeling in flounder and whiting (and throwing back the occasional shark) from the Jacksonville Pier to the Crady Bridge off Amelia Island. You can charter a boat for a deep-sea adventure or try your luck on the shoreline in the early morning hours.
Golfing is another popular draw to the region, and there are dozens of private and public golf courses on which to test your swing against a backdrop of beachy views, like Windy Harbor, a public course in Mayport, the Atlantic Beach Country Club or Amelia Island’s Long Point.
Jacksonville may be far away from the state’s national parks like Everglades and Dry Tortugas, but there are two spots within an hour or so of the city that are nature must-sees. Cumberland Island National Seashore lies just off the southern tip of Georgia, and a pleasant ferryboat ride can take you to this historic land of wild horses, manatees and alligators. Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve is just a short drive south of the city’s popular beaches. You can hike the jagged coastline of this gorgeous wetland that graces the waters of the Atlantic, the Nassau Sound and dozens of creeks and waterways through the soothing marshes. But kayaking is one of the most relaxing ways to see wildlife like roseate spoonbills, bald eagles, wood storks and egrets.
In the late fall and winter, right whales migrate through the waters off the coast to bear their young, and the annual migration of this critically endangered species will be celebrated in nearby Fernandina at the Right Whale Festival.
When you want to see non-native wildlife, the alligator snapping turtles, blue-eyed lemurs and laughing kookaburras will be waiting for you at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The zoo offers several fun, behind-the-scenes experiences, where you can mingle with flamingos, give a warty pig a good backscratching and meet up with manatees who are recuperating here before being returned to the wild.
If your family is into biking, this is a fabulous place to explore on two wheels, thanks to the East Coast Greenway. This trail system extends from Miami through Maine, so if you’re feeling ambitious, you can head all the way to New Brunswick, Canada, or you can plan a shorter excursion from say, Atlantic Beach to Fort Clinch. Some of the trail will be wooded, some will be on roadways, and depending on where you embark, there might even be a fun boat ride in it for you. You should periodically stop at shrimp shacks to refuel, and then reward yourself with a box of Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge — still the best we’ve ever tasted.
Jacksonville’s beaches aren’t just for lounging — they’re for serious entertainment, too. The Seawalk Pavilion hosts live music and festivals throughout the year, like Springing the Blues — a free, three-day event that’s been going strong since 1990. Downtown JAX also plays the consummate music host, putting on the 2023 Jacksonville Jazz Festival that began more than 40 years ago in Mayport and was headlined by the one and only Dizzy Gillespie.
But music isn’t the only thing to fest about in JAX. Aspiring action figures can test their skills and stamina at the annual Spartan Races, which combine sprinting with absurdly challenging obstacles to create a highly entertaining performance spectacle at the WW Ranch Motocross Park. Those looking for lower-voltage entertainment can meet their anime heroes at the annual CollectiveCon or travel the globe at the World of Nations Celebration.
Continuing a more than 100-year-old contest between UF and UGA, the annual Florida-Georgia Game each fall attempts to settle the primordial rivalry between Dawgs and Gators. For your own self-preservation, we urge you not to wear red in the UF section…gators have been known to bite, you know.
Jacksonville is also a place to experience art. At Jacoby Hall, you can hear performances by the fabulous Jacksonville Symphony. The Cummer Museum & Gardens has a collection of over 5,000 objects from ancient times to today, and their gardens are one of the finest in the region. MOCA Jacksonville showcases outstanding work by contemporary artists, and you’ll see local talent alongside artists of national and international renown.
History enthusiasts will never run out of sites to explore in this complex landscape, which was first inhabited by the Timucuan Indians, and later colonized by the Spanish, French and British.
Kingsley Plantation — a part of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve — is a time capsule of 18th– and 19th-century America. Tabby cabins and archaeological relics of the former cotton and indigo plantation bring the history of enslavement in the nation to light.
Downtown Jacksonville is filled with architectural treasures, some of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, like the swanky Florida Theatre, a grand movie palace where you can now see concerts and performances by the Florida Ballet, or the Ritz Theatre, now the home to Jacksonville’s African American Heritage Museum.
Jax’s Eats and Drinks
With the riches of the ocean just outside your door, you’ll want good seafood in Jacksonville. There is no finer shrimp in the country than what’s pulled from the nets in Mayport. Casual dockside spots like Safe Harbor will treat you to fried shrimp baskets with crispy hush puppies and creamy slaw, while fine dining establishments like Orsay put a French spin on a local catch.
In the extra-artsy Five Points neighborhood, quirk is queen and happiness is always on tap. You’ll find creative taco joints, like Taqueria Cinco, great gyros and falafel at Hovan Gourmet Mediterranean and an exciting array of sushi and sashimi at Kaika Teppanyaki.
When it’s time for dessert (and, when is it not?), head to Sweet Theory bakery in Riverside and treat yourself to a slice of the decadent Stretch Pants Cake, which embellishes a rich chocolate layer cake with caramel and chocolate chip cookies. Or, get dozen a dirty chai doughnuts for the office on a WFH day and be the boss you always wish you had.
Relocating to Jacksonville? Let Mayflower Get You There
Are you ready to relocate to Jacksonville? If so, this is a great time to find a professional moving company to help you. Mayflower will be here for you Every Step of the Way® for your long-distance move to Jacksonville. The Mayflower Move Portal will keep the details of your move organized and at the ready.
If you are moving cross-country to Jacksonville, Mayflower’s long-distance movers can help you relocate from anywhere in the country. We can provide full-service moving resources and custom moving packages, including storage, car shipping, debris removal, packing and unpacking services and more.
If you are making a local move to Jacksonville, our Jacksonville movers and Florida movers perform local moves in the Sunshine State independently under their own brands and business names.
If you are making a DIY move to Jacksonville, Mayflower can still help you. Our helpful moving checklists and packing tips are designed for anyone hoping to streamline their move.
Still considering a move to other cities in Florida? Check out Mayflower’s Moving Guide to Florida to get a taste of the most popular cities and attractions in the Sunshine State, along with local tips about living in Florida.