Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Florida’s state parks are wonderful, well-maintained outdoor paradises to relax and revel in nature. Entrance fees are low, and many offer RV camping within the park or nearby. One of the most unique and enjoyable state parks is Washington Oaks Gardens State Park located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River. With an eastern boundary of the Atlantic shore’s largest coquina rock formations, the park consists of coastal shrub that transitions into a lavish hammock with large live oaks and magnolia trees. The Matanzas River’s scenic tidal marshes border the hammock.
Washington Oaks has a rich history that begins with Native Americans who used the land for hunting and fishing. Once the Europeans settled in Florida, several owners used the property for farming. One of the owners was a surveyor named George Washington, an actual relative of President George Washington. Industrialists Owen D. Young’s wife bought the property in 1936 for a winter retirement home and named it in honor of the Washington Oaks Gardens in honor of the two Washingtons. After her husband died in 1962, Mrs. Young donated the property to the state.
Things to do in the Park
The formal gardens are the heart of the park with stunning displays of both native and exotic plant species. Visitors can stroll the gardens, hike or bike on the nature trails, fish, and go birding all year long. Pick a scenic spot for a picnic under huge ancient oaks or with a view of the interesting coquina rock formations. The Young’s former retreat serves as a Visitor’s Center where you can learn about the park’s natural and cultural resources.
The park hosts several events throughout the year including First Friday garden and history walks, Second Saturday plant sales, Holiday in the Garden, and an Earth Day celebration. Admission fees are $5 for a carload of eight people, $4 for vehicles with one person, and $2 for pedestrians and cyclists. Located at State Road A1A at 6400 N. Oceanshore Blvd., the park is open all year from 8 a.m. until sundown.
Camping Near the Park
RV camping is a relaxing and inexpensive way to enjoy all of Florida’s state parks, and Washington Oaks Gardens is no exception. Flagler by the Sea Campgrounds is a 10-minute drive from the park. The oceanfront campgrounds, located along the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, are near Flager Beach, one of Florida’s best-loved hidden gems. They have beachfront RV sites just steps away from the beach. After a day in the park, you can lounge on the beach or enjoy watersports like paddle boarding or kayaking. Boatslips are available to rent from their dock on the Matanzas River, a part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Amenities at this family-owned and operated campground include full hook-ups, 30/50 amp service, a picnic area, fishing dock, Wi-Fi, cable, a bathhouse with showers, a laundry room, and an onsite bar. Leashed pets are welcome.
Exploring the Area
Known by the locals as “The Rocks”, you’ll want to explore this unique beach near the park after the weather and tides have been stormy and the mile of unusual geological rock formations are visible. The waves often carve out small tide pools in the weather-worn coquina rocks and fill up with starfish and other interesting sea life. This all depends on the recent weather, so be sure to take a camera and snap a photo of this rarity. It’s a no-swim beach, but a great place for peaceful reflection. Across the street, you can visit the Bella Vista Plantation, one of Florida’s first Spanish land grants.
The entire family will enjoy Marineland Dolphin Adventure, a place to connect with the bottlenose dolphins. They offer education and inspiration through a variety of programs. Located at 9600 N Ocean Shore Blvd in nearby Marineland, FL, the attraction also features hundreds of sea creatures from sea turtles to octopuses.
Other places for nature enthusiasts to explore in the area include the River to Sea Preserve and the Princess Place Preserve. The River to Sea preserve features 90 acres of walking trails and public access to Flagler Beach. Visit the beachside boardwalk for majestic Atlantic views and take advantage of the canoe and kayak launch for access to the Matanzas River and the Intracoastal Waterway. The Princess Place Preserve has 1500 acres of coastal Florida beauty. Enjoy hiking trails, salt marsh fishing, and horseback riding at an equestrian camp. Leave the RV camping behind for a night and experience primitive camping under the stars.