Hanna Park: Public Gem

January 25, 2012 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a recreational gold mine and communal landmark in Jacksonville, functioning as one of the city's most recognized and visited public parks. Metro Jacksonville explores the park with its more than 447 acres of open use.

History of Hanna Park

Entryway to the park off Mayport Road, established in 1947.

Part of what is now Hanna Park was formerly Manhattan Beach, Florida's first beach community for African-Americans during the period of segregation. Manhattan Beach was established around 1900 by blacks working on the Florida East Coast Railway. At its height the beach included amenities such as picnic pavilions, cottages, and an amusement park. It flourished until around 1940, when it was superseded as a day-trip destination by the larger American Beach in nearby Amelia Island. In the 1940s, 5 acres land for the park was donated by Winthrop Bancroft, who required that the land be named for Kathryn Abbey Hanna (November 8, 1895–1967, a Chicago, Illinois-born educator and author who had settled in Florida and served on the board of Parks and Historical Places.)

The remaining property that eventually became the expanded Hanna Park was purchased after consolidation and during the administration of Mayor Hans Tanzler in the mid-1970s. The first general purpose trail was constructed by Michael Long in 1987 as his Eagle Scout service project. Most of the land has been left in its natural, wooded state. Boardwalks were constructed over the dunes to protect vegetation.

About Hanna Park

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) public beachfront and city park in Atlantic Beach, Florida. It is located at Mayport in the Jacksonville Beaches area. It consists of 447 acres (1.81 km2) of mature coastal hammock, which is increasingly rare to find along Florida's heavily developed Atlantic coast.

Experience Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park with its sandy beach, freshwater lake, wooded camping sites, natural dunes and naturescapes that defy the imagination.

Visitors may enjoy the park's:

1.5 miles of pristine sandy beach
60-acre freshwater lake ideal for fishing, nature observation, kayaks, pedal boats and canoes
kids splash park open Memorial Day through Labor Day for children under 54 inches tall
camping facilities that include RV and tent camping, and rustic cabin rentals
scenic trails designed for both biking and hiking
picnic areas
facilities for cookouts, reunions, retreats or other group
activities (reservations required)

The park is also home to one of Northeast Florida's premiere surfing spots known locally as 'the poles.'

Park Hours:
8 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily, April - Oct.
8 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily, Nov. - March

Last entry allowed 30 minutes prior to park closing time.

Early bird passes and annual passes accepted from 7 to 8 a.m.
$1 per person 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., then $3 per car (up to six people) 10 a.m. to close.

Finegan Elementary is located adjacent to the park's entrance.

Features In-Depth

In addition to the white sand beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, the park offers:


The park has nearly 15 miles (24 km) of off-road cycling trails that range from easy to difficult. For experienced riders, trails named Grunt, Misery, and Tornado Alley offer a challenging workout. This trail wins the award for "Most Difficult Close to the Sea" and was rated four out of five stars on the Trails website.


Almost 300 campsites are nestled in the woods along winding, paved roads for tent camping or RV use, plus there are six small log "cozy cabins".

Dolphin Plaza

The park has a beachfront facility that can be rented by groups, with a view of sand dunes and surf.

Freshwater lake

View from a paddleboat

And again.

And again.

A former borrow pit for road construction in the park turned into a 40-acre (160,000 m2) freshwater lake which opened in 1978. Activities available include fishing, kayaking, paddle boating, and canoeing; lakeside picnic tables and grills are available and scenic trails surround the lake. A water playground is provided for small children.


The Poles

North Florida's premiere surfing haven, known locally as "the poles" for its nearby and literal landscape features, is a drive to the edge of the park at the Atlantic Ocean where Naval Station Mayport draws the territorial line with the rest of the beaches.

Visiting The Park

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is located near the Mayport naval base on 500 Wonderwood Dr., off Mayport Rd. The main entry road stretches throughout the park, with dirt roads and trails branching off, making for distinct areas of the "superpark". It attracts almost half a million visitors a year.

Article and photos by Sarah Gojekian.