Castaway Island Preserve is truly a neighborhood “pocket park” that’s chock full of easy access trails, scenic overlooks and a beautiful butterfly garden. 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!
Features: Birding — River/Creek — Views — Wildlife
Family Friendly: The Castaway Island walking trail has opportunities for fresh air, exercise, picnics, wildlife viewing, and outdoors education.
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
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 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 wonderful getaway for families with small children, those who are infirm or wheelchair bound, or visitors who are limited in time. Several options for exploring this preserve include:
Park in the circle at the end of the drive into the park. Walk out onto the covered observation platform overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. Then walk approximately 50 yards back from the parking area to the "Island Trail", a combination paved cement path and wooden walkway. After going 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 mile, the path makes a loop and with a return on the same path for a total trip of 0.45 mile. For a longer stroll, before you reach the loop, take the wooden boardwalk side trail that leads to two scenic marsh overlooks. This will add approximately 0.4-mile to your walk for a total of 0.8 mile. The Island Trail
ranges from partly shaded to full sun.
Total 0.25 mile
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.
For a short 1.5 mile hike/run, park at the education center, head west on the cement path past the butterfly garden to the front gate of the park, retrace your steps, pass the education center and head east to the Intracoastal Waterway to the observation platform, retrace your path and turn off onto the Island Trail
as described above, then return to your vehicle at the center.
Park in the circle at the end of the drive into the park. Use the floating dock to launch your kayak and paddle around the circular marsh waterways which are protected paddle areas right next to the Intracoastal. The area is tidally influenced, so check the tide to make sure you'll have plenty of water for going out and coming in.
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.