If soaking up nature on an unspoiled, Florida barrier island appeals to you, then you’ll love exploring Big Talbot Island State Park. Big Talbot Island is primarily a nature preserve but also an excellent destination for biking, fishing, hiking, paddling, and wildlife photography.
Northeast Florida’s unique Talbot Islands, located just north of Jacksonville, FL are part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Big Talbot is just one of the seven barrier islands that comprise the Talbot Islands State Park collection.
Others include Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve, Amelia Island, Fort George Island, and Little Talbot. All popular, protected state parks and wildlife preserves along the North Florida coast.
Exploring Big Talbot Island
Big Talbot Island is home to a variety of habitats that were once quite typical of most of Florida’s barrier islands. Maritime forest, coastal scrub, beach, estuary, tidal marshes, and more.
These habitats support a diverse array of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, fish, deer, and small mammals, like raccoon and bobcat. Birding is excellent on Big Talbot, with a wide variety of shore and marsh birds to see across the island. Piping plovers, terns, brown pelicans, egrets, herons, ibis, barred owls, painted buntings, doves, and woodpeckers. Keep that camera handy!
The park offers several nature trails for hiking, many of which lead to the island’s not-to-be-missed beaches.
The half-mile Blackrock Nature Trail leads to famous Boneyard Beach, so named because its sands are littered with the twisted, skeletal remains of salt bleached cedars and live oaks. The remnants of a forest of trees washed down to the beach by erosion. A stunning and eerie sight. Again, where’s that camera?
Blackrock Beach sits adjacent to Boneyard Beach. It’s name comes from the beautiful black rocks that make up the shoreline. No, that’s not an old lava flow but a compressed and calcified sediment of decayed leaves and sand.
The multi-use Timucuan Trail, winds through maritime forest and is part of a 18-mile trail leading from Kathryn Abbey Hannah Park in Jacksonville to Amelia Island State Park.
Other trails on Big Talbot include the Big Pine Trail, which leads to the island’s marsh. The Old Kings Highway and Jones Cut trails take you through maritime forest. Trail maps of Big Talbot Island are available at the ranger station.
Biking, Boating, and Fishing Big Talbot Island
Big Talbot Island is a cyclist’s paradise with miles of both paved and unpaved trails running throughout the park. The Timucuan Trail offers four miles of bike-ready, paved trail overlooking wetlands and winding through maritime forest.
The Kings Highway and Jones Cut trails offer excellent off-road biking opportunities through forests of live oak forests. Bicycles are available for rent from numerous nearby vendors.
Those wanting to get out on the water will find a variety of opportunities, with a deepwater boat ramp on the north end of the island for kayaks, canoes, and motor boats. Launch off of the Sawpit Creek dock ramp to access the Intracoastal Waterway, Nassau Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayak Amelia, located between Big and Little Talbot Island, offers kayak rentals and guided paddle tours.
Big Talbot Island is also a prime fishing area, with anglers hooking whiting, flounder, redfish, and speckled sea trout all year long. Fly fishing is very popular during the fall and spring flood tides.
Those who prefer pier fishing can use the south end of the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier, near the boat ramp parking lot. Make sure you’ve acquired the appropriate fishing license and are familiar with state fishing regulations.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Big Talbot Island is just under an hour’s drive from our Jacksonville-area hotel, The Club Continental.
With so much to see and do on the island, the temptation would be to plan a day-trip. Take along a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the island’s bluff pavilions overlooking the water. Do some hiking, rent a kayak, enjoy a day photographing wildlife – whatever tickles your fancy. Then head back to your own, private paradise at Club Continental along the Saint James River. Perfect!
Big Talbot Island State Park is open from 8am to sundown, 365 days a year. The boat ramp is open 24 hours a day. There is a small fee to enter. Visit www.floridastateparks.org to learn more.