Mayport is located at the mouth of the St. Johns River about 25 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida. It is a small working fishing village in the shadow of Naval Station Mayport, one of the largest naval ports on the Atlantic coast.
The easiest way to get to Mayport is to take State Road A1A north from Atlantic Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach until it dead ends at the river. You will be in Mayport, and can take the car ferry across the St Johns River to a continuation of A1A that will take you up to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. The historic lighthouse in Mayport was built in 1858, and there are several other historic buildings remaining in town.
Nobody knows for sure when Mayport was first settled. Guesses range from 1562 when the French first settled in the area to 1828 when the area started to grow. The original settlers were fishermen.
Mayport developed a tourist industry in the late 1800s and sported several hotels and taverns. The railroads used to go through Mayport, but they were abandoned in 1919. There wasn't much going on in Mayport until World War Two.
The sleepy village of Mayport was awakened in 1942 when the government dredged a harbor, built a runway and created Naval Station Mayport. When I was in the Navy years ago, I was stationed at Naval Station Mayport aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Myles C. Fox (DDR-829).
Many other ships were in the harbor at the same time including the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt. Main road traffic to and from the village of Mayport does not go through the Naval base; base traffic largely heads south to the Jacksonville Beach area on a separate road.
The view above is of Naval Station Mayport looking west up the St Johns River. You can see the village of Mayport along the river on the right hand side of the photo. The village is clustered along the single airstrip that serves the base.
Singleton's Seafood Shack
4728 Ocean St
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Seafood restaurants have been part of the Mayport tradition since the very early days. You can be assured that the seafood you are being served is fresh, right from the boat. Singleton's Seafood Shack continues the tradition and has been doing so since 1969. This is Old Florida dining, not fancy, lots of fried stuff, and styrofoam serving plates and bowls and plastic knives and forks and spoons. All of this in a rundown looking building on the bank of the St Johns River. It is called a shack for a reason, so don't be turned down by the ramshackle appearance. The restaurant was featured not long ago on the Food Network's Guy Fieri show - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Singleton's is a mish-mash of unpainted lumber and plywood that defines its shacky appearance. It has a big dining room, outside dining deck and a museum annex that features more than 100 ship models made by the original owner. The waitresses have been around for awhile and all know my name: hon, sweetheart, darlin....how did they know? Their greetings underscore the southern nature of the food and service. All meals are served with great hushpuppies, and the vegetable of the day is quite often collard greens. Clams and clam chowder are always on the menu, and one of their specialties is Minorcan Clam Chowder. Minorcans were among the earliest settlers of St. Augustine and Mayport.
When you visit, don't forget to try their blackened gator tail appetizer. It's definitely the best way to prepare and cook this reptile. Other fresh offerings include shrimp, crawfish, crablegs, scallops, oysters, crab legs and clam strips.
You get to see all of the fresh fish in a display counter, and you know that most of them came in from the fishing boats tied off behind the restaurant. You can watch the cooks prepare your food right behind the fresh fish counter.
The restaurant has a full bar, so you can enjoy your favorite adult beverage while you gorge on fresh seafood.