Blackrock Beach and Boneyard Beach Travel Guide

I’m not a big beach person but I recently saw this cool video and knew I needed to do a photo shoot at Big Talbot Island State Park.  Some of the resulting images are shown below.  The rest can be seen in this article where I took one of my favorite pictures of all time.  I’ve been to Little Talbot Island for various events (it’s probably the nicest beach in the Jacksonville area) but never made the extremely short drive north to see Big Talbot Island.

I recommend going early to get the beautiful sunrise light and to ensure that you find a parking place.  Early in the morning over Labor Day weekend we saw only four other people, giving us the illusion of peaceful solitude on our own private island.  If you are looking for something different from the typical Florida beach experience, this is the place to come.  The sand dunes are continually eroded by the tide into a sheer cliff.  Perched at the edge, saw palmetto and wind-blown oak trees clutch at the slipping sand awaiting their turn to tumble and become sun bleached skeletons in the jumble below.  On the beach you can pick your way through the boneyard observing the intricate fingerprint patterns in the driftwood and the crazy shadows cast on the silky soft sand as waves brake and swirl around the horizontal trees.  At Blackrock Beach and certain parts of Boneyard Beach, you’ll find sand and decaying vegetation that, with compression and time, have formed a very unusual dark rock-like substance.  This bizarre visual feast is well worth your time, even if you can only stay while the tide is out.  And besides if you are beachy person, after your stroll at these two locations, just head south on A1A for about 3 miles and hang out at Little Talbot Island where the sand is soft, the beaches are wide, and the facilities are well-maintained.

Location:  Big Talbot island is only 30 minutes northeast of downtown Jacksonville.  From downtown, head north to Heckscher Dr.  Go east toward the zoo and continue on Heckscher Dr./A1A until you enter the state park.  Specific parking instructions are listed below.  It is not hard to find and shows up correctly if you type the name into Google Maps.  There are two main ways to access the beach and you want to try them both.

jpatz_20160905_20160905_073625_web
The two areas circled in red are where we’ll visit.  Note:  North is to the left. 😛

Blackrock Beach

Access Point #1 – Blackrock Beach:  If you are coming from Jacksonville, your first stop on Big Talbot Island will be the small paved parking lot for Blackrock Beach (30.49161,-81.44217).  After you pass the zoo and continue on Heckscher Dr., you will eventually see a large sign on your right at the entrance to Little Talbot Island State Park.  Continue 3.1 miles past this sign and the parking lot will be on your right.  Slow down as you approach the parking lot because it is easy to miss, not well labeled from the road, and there is a not a quick way to turn around if you pass it.

jpatz_20160905_20160905_073458_web
Parking lot at trailhead

Entrance:  Payment and access is based on the honor system.  Place your payment ($3/day at the time of this article – check current prices here) in the metal box at south end of parking lot.

Trailhead:  The trailhead can be seen from the south end of the parking lot.  Simply cross the paved bike path to the well maintained sandy path through the forest.

blackrocktrail

Length:  1/2 mile (1 mile round trip)

Time:  20 minutes round trip

Rating:  Hands-in-pockets easy.  Flat and shaded.  NOTE:  Depending on erosion, the last few feet of the trail may be quite difficult requiring climbing a nearly vertical five to six foot cliff.  When we visited, able-bodied adults could manage and I think most children could with the assistance of an adult.  A stroller or wheelchair is not advised.

Toilets:  None

Notes:  Checking the tides before you visit is a must!  Because this beach abuts cliffs that are not easy or possible to climb in places and the beach can completely disappear at high tide, it is important to visit when the tide is going out or at low tide.  You don’t want to get trapped on the beach with the tide coming in.  I am a mosquito magnet and managed to get a few bites on the trail despite the nearly constant breeze (no problems on the beach).  It wasn’t terrible, but I recommend wearing repellent.  The dry blackrock is easy to walk on but, once it gets wet, it is very slippery.  This is something to keep in mind if you visit with children.  The driftwood cannot be taken.  It must be left on the beach.

Boneyard Beach

Access Point #2 – Bluffs Access:  From the Blackrock Beach parking lot head north on Heckscher Dr./A1A for almost exactly 1 mile.  There will be an unmarked turnoff to your right that goes from paved to gravel very quickly.  Directly ahead you should see a wooden gate  and a small sign for The Bluffs Scenic Shoreline Picnic Area (30.502639, -81.450039).  There is parking interspersed among the trees.

Entrance:  Wooden gate open from 8am to sunset at the time of this writing (check current hours and cost here). Cost is $3/day (but you already paid at Blackrock if you are following this guide).

Trailhead:  In the picnic area you will see a short boardwalk to an observation platform.  To the right of it is a short steep climb down to the beach.  I’m not sure if this is an official trail so we didn’t use it on our visit.  To the left of the platform there are two trails.  The one closest to the shore is another unofficial trail I believe.  It will take you to the shoreline after a short hike but it hugs the edge of the cliffs.  I imagine at some point this trail will collapse as the cliff is eroded.  That leaves us with the other trailhead to the left of the observation platform that is farther away from the shore.  This is the trail I recommend that you use to get to Boneyard Beach.

boneyardbeach

Length:   1/3 mile (2/3 mile round trip)

Time:  15 minutes round trip

Rating:  Hands-in-pockets easy.  Flat and shaded.  NOTE:  Depending on erosion, the last few feet of the trail may be quite difficult requiring climbing a nearly vertical five to six foot cliff.  When we visited, able-bodied adults could manage and I think most children could with the assistance of an adult.  A stroller or wheelchair is not advised.  This access point was easier than the Blackrock Beach access point.

Toilets:  Porta Potty at picnic area

Notes:  Checking the tides before you visit is a must!  Because this beach abuts cliffs that are not easy or possible to climb in places and the beach can completely disappear at high tide, it is important to visit when the tide is going out or at low tide.  You don’t want to get trapped on the beach with the tide coming in.  I am a mosquito magnet and managed to get a few bites on the trail despite the nearly constant breeze (no problems on the beach).  It wasn’t terrible, but I recommend wearing repellent.  The dry blackrock is easy to walk on but, once it gets wet, it is very slippery.  This is something to keep in mind if you visit with children.  The driftwood cannot be taken.  It must be left on the beach.

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