Getting to know the First Coast
The Bolles Upper School San Jose and Lower School campuses are located on the banks of the St. Johns River in a residential area south of downtown Jacksonville known as San Jose. The architectural style of the area is a mixed landscape of Mediterranean Revival and 1940s-era homes, as well as upscale modern designs – the most significant of which sit on riverfront sites north and south of Bolles. One of the area’s first riverfront mansions was Epping Forest, the winter home of the DuPont Family. It still stands on a site less than a mile from The Bolles School and has been transformed in recent years into the popular neighborhood and club, Epping Forest Yacht Club.
The area is also closely linked to the commercial corridors, retail shopping areas and neighborhoods of nearby communities like Mandarin and Baymeadows to the south, and Lakewood, San Marco and the Jacksonville Southbank to the north. All of these areas intersect San Jose Boulevard, the state road that is Bolles’ primary address. Heading north, San Jose Boulevard eventually feeds into Hendricks Avenue – a road providing access to the San Marco Square retail area and ending at the Southbank Riverwalk.
The Southbank area, located about seven miles north of the Bolles Upper School San Jose and Lower School Whitehurst campuses, is home to many hotels convenient to the school. For a listing of area hotels, click here. The Southbank area also includes many commercial buildings and fine dining restaurants, as well as Baptist Medical Center Downtown and Wolfson Children’s Clinic.
San Marco Square is one of the most popular local destinations for shopping, dining and entertainment. Developed in the late-1920s, the square includes several fine dining establishments, family-friendly restaurants, locally owned clothing and gift stores, a movie theater and a venue for stage performances. The Lakewood retail centers at the corners of San Jose and University boulevards also provide options for dining and entertainment. Winn-Dixie is located in this area, and Publix is a few blocks east of San Jose on University Boulevard. Several drug stores also are in this commercial strip. For larger-scale, bigger-box shopping experiences and a long list of restaurant selections, the St. Johns Town Center is a 15-minute drive down Interstate 95 just off of J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
Outdoor activities are plenteous in the areas around Bolles’ San Jose and Whitehurst campuses. Nathan Krestul Park features a butterfly garden and many native plants, while the more southerly Granada and Landon parks include playground equipment. Southside Park also features a nice playground in addition to its public tennis facilities and proximity to the San Marco Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library. Runners and cyclists enjoy the challenge of downtown Jacksonville’s many bridges. Boating enthusiasts can access the St. Johns River from a public boat ramp just south of the San Jose Boulevard/Baymeadows Road intersection. It is also easy to launch a kayak into the St. Johns River from this site and any other public zero-entry points along the riverbanks. If indoor activities are on the agenda, check out the Museum of Science and History (MOSH), the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville or the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. All of these destinations are less than 10 miles from Bolles’ San Jose campuses.
The Bolles Bartram Middle School Campus also is convenient to these destinations. It sits on a waterfront site almost due east of the San Jose campuses. A Publix supermarket is located near the entrance of the middle school campus and a slew of restaurants, stores and businesses can be found along University Boulevard heading west toward the intersection of University and San Jose Boulevard.
The Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus is a 25-minute drive from Jacksonville. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean beaches and myriad golf courses, the Ponte Vedra Beach area has a much more coastal flavor than Jacksonville. The Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus is located in the heart of Ponte Vedra Beach – south on state Road A1A and within walking distance of world class golf facilities.
The area south of the campus features several restaurants, shops and businesses. But the real highlights south on A1A are all primarily natural. Mickler’s Landing provides nice public beach access and the Guana Tolomato Mataznas National Estuarine Research Reserve to the west of A1A is a fabulous destination for hiking, kayaking, exploring and additional beach time. A 20-minute drive from the Ponte Vedra Campus south on A1A takes visitors to Vilano Beach and eventually to St. Augustine. In addition to a fabulous display of history, St. Augustine also features many restaurants, stores and tourist attractions. Several outlet malls also are located just outside St. Augustine.
Most of the Ponte Vedra Beach action, however, is located north of the Ponte Vedra Beach campus on A1A. Golfers will find an array of greens from which to choose, including the courses at The Plantation at Ponte Vedra, Sawgrass Country Club, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club at Sawgrass, Marsh Landing Country Club, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Pablo Creek Club and many others. Tennis also is a well-loved sport in this area, and many of the golf clubs also offer excellent tennis facilities.
Restaurants, shopping and entertainment districts are mainly located north of the Ponte Vedra Campus along A1A. Several grocery and drug stores are within a short drive from the campus. While there is some beachfront dining at the private Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and the Sawgrass Marriott, most of the more casual beachfront restaurants are located in Jacksonville and Atlantic beaches north of J. Turner Butler Boulevard. The Intracoastal Waterway, however, provides an exceptionally beautiful dining experience and a handful of restaurants in the area take advantage of that.
Baptist Beaches Medical Center is located north of the campus near 13th Avenue and Third Street (A1A) in Jacksonville Beach. The Mayo Clinic campus is a short drive across the ICW Bridge on J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
Overall, Northeast Florida, also called the First Coast, includes five counties offering the best the state of Florida has to offer. Shopping, golf, beaches, boating, top-rated hospitals, major sporting events, and more make the First Coast both a great place to live and visit. From the rich history of St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach to the excitement of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise and annual Florida-Georgia football game in Downtown Jacksonville to the numerous music and arts festivals throughout the beaches, the Northeast Florida area offers fun in the sun and a beautiful environment for residents year-round.
Ponte Vedra Beach is also host to golf’s “fifth” major, The Players, held at the famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. The event includes the top players in golf, draws over 150,000 spectators, and attracts a worldwide television audience placing the First Coast in a global spotlight. With top-notch venues including Everbank Field, Jacksonville Veterans’ Memorial Arena, and the Baseball Grounds at Jacksonville, the Jacksonville area has hosted several high-profile events in recent years including Super Bowl XXXIX, a 2013 Davis Cup match, international soccer competitions, collegiate conference tournaments, and professional sports exhibitions. Jacksonville also hosts a wide variety of amateur sports tournaments and competitions.
All four campuses of The Bolles School are within close driving or walking distance from some of the area’s most desirable destinations for food, shopping, entertainment, sports, homes and businesses. Please let us know how we can make your visit to Bolles a little easier to navigate. We’re glad you’re here and hope you have fun exploring Northeast Florida’s many venues.