“This paved trail that offers fun for the entire family!
— Felicia Boyd
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Castaway Island Preserve is truly a neighborhood “pocket park” that’s chock full of easy access trails, scenic overlooks, and a beautiful butterfly garden. With 235 acres of preserved natural beauty, this site was purchased with the help of a Florida Communities Trust (FCT) grant. It’s a wonderful mix of upland scrub, which is important habitat for many birds and other wildlife, with breathtaking views of the marsh and Intracoastal Waterway. It boasts 10 overlooks throughout the park providing incredible views. Recently, the butterfly garden at the entrance of the park was rehabilitated by the students at DePaul School of NE Florida, with the help of the Timucuan Parks Foundation, Florida Master Gardeners, and City of Jacksonville. It’s a hidden gem that is the perfect “getaway” from the rat race!
Need to Know
Sunscreen, bug spray, and a hat is recommended. Remember binoculars for wildlife viewing and a camera to capture those memorable moments. If you plan to paddle, check the tides to make sure you'll have enough water to launch and to return. Numerous eateries and groceries are within 1 mile of the park, so pick up supplies for a picnic or enjoy a meal before or after you explore the preserve. To learn more about Castaway Island Preserve and other Timucuan Preserve parks in Jacksonville, visit timucuanparks.org
Asphalt, cement, and wooden boardwalk comprise the trails here. This is a short, easy run that starts at the education center and heads out to the ends of the wooden walkways and back.
Castaway Island Preserve is located along the Intracoastal Waterway and is adjacent to an intricate salt marsh ecosystem that is ideal for spotting marshland wildlife. The preserve and its trails offer a quick tour of what northeast Florida has to offer. There is ample parking, a restroom, picnic tables with grills at the nature center, trail kiosks, and a floating dock for kayaks/canoes. Pets are allowed on a 6’ leash. Wheelchairs have accessibility throughout the park.
Castaway is a relatively small park that is a wonderful getaway for families with small children, those who are infirm or wheelchair bound, or visitors who are limited in time.
Park in the circle at the end of the drive into the park. Run out onto the covered observation platform overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. Then run approximately 50 yards back from the parking area to the Island Trail
, a combination paved cement path and wooden walkway. After going over a small bridge, the path becomes a kid-friendly interpretive nature trail where there are painted animal tracks and interpretative signs about the animals that would have made the tracks. After about 0.22 miles, the path makes a loop to return on the same path for a total trip of 0.45 miles. For a longer stroll, take the wooden boardwalk side trail that leads to two scenic marsh overlooks before you reach the loop. This will add approximately 0.4-miles to your run for a total of 0.8 miles. The Island Trail
ranges from partly shaded to full sun.
While at the park, be sure to stop by the butterfly garden. Park at the education center. Cross the drive to a paved, shady path. Approximately 250 yards to the west of the education center parking area is a small butterfly garden. A mosaic bench offers a place to sit quietly and enjoy the native plants and butterfly visitors. Kiosks along the path tell the history of the Preserve, the Preservation Project and the Intracoastal Waterway.
History & Background
Just 15 years ago, the uplands area of what is now the Castaway Island Preserve was an abandoned trailer park—junk piled throughout the area surrounded by overgrown weeds and bushes. Developers eyed the area due to the uplands’ connection to the Intracoastal Waterway. The City of Jacksonville, through Mayor Delaney’s Preservation Project, bought three separate adjoining parcels and assembled them into this fabulous preserve, saving this “special place” for all to enjoy.