Kingsley Plantation#12 in Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
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Set in Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve – one of the last bits of unspoiled wetlands along the Atlantic Coast – Kingsley Plantation is the former home of Zephaniah Kingsley. Kingsley moved to Fort George Island in the early 1800s with his wife and three children. His wife, Anna, originally hailed from Senegal and was purchased by Kingsley as a slave. She was freed by her husband in 1811, upon which she acquired her own land on the St. Johns River and purchased slaves. When the family began occupying the Kingsley Plantation in 1814, Anna helped manage a workforce of roughly 60 enslaved people, who produced cotton, citrus fruit, sugarcane and corn on the plantation thereby supplying the Kingsley family's wealth. Because the free Black population in East Florida (a Spanish province) maintained certain rights and privileges at the time, owning land and enslaved people was a common occurrence for free people of African descent. This would all change when Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821 and racial discrimination began to shape legislative policies.
Over the course of his lifetime, Zephaniah managed to expand his plantation empire to include more than 32,000 acres (across four plantation complexes) and owned more than 200 enslaved people.
Today, you are invited to explore the plantation home, the slave quarters, the barn and the rest of the property to learn about its unique history. Past visitors recommended opting for the audio tour to make the most of your time here. Others were disappointed that the plantation house is not always open for touring and suggested checking the website ahead of your visit to see if it's available for visitors to peruse. Reviewers also mentioned that the road leading to Kingsley Plantation is "rough" and full of potholes.
You can visit Kingsley Plantation – located about 25 miles northeast of the city center – any day of the year (except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; however, you may only tour the house on weekends in November as it is mostly closed due to preservation concerns. Admission is free. The audio tour is available daily until 3:30 p.m. For more information, visit the National Park Services' Kingsley Plantation website.
More Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
#1 Amelia Island
About 30 miles northeast of downtown Jacksonville, the relaxed community of Amelia Island draws families in droves with its 13 miles of beaches, historic attractions and laid-back atmosphere. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Amelia Island also provided a safe vacation haven for Jacksonville's Black residents. Florida's first Black millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, purchased 200 acres of beachfront on Amelia Island and called it American Beach. Here, Black vacationers could enjoy the island without the threat of racial discrimination or violence. In 2002, the beach was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the beach's culture, stories and heritage, consider a visit to the American Beach Museum.
While on the island, you can also learn about pirate lore at the Amelia Island Museum of History, look for alligators and wild horses while on a waterway cruise, hike through Fort George Island Cultural State Park or simply lounge on the sand. Recent visitors particularly recommended laying your towel along the shores of Fernandina Beach, a small community that stretches along the northern part of the barrier island.
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