One Of Florida's Best-Kept Secret Spots Is A Beachfront State Park With Gorgeous Gardens

While everyone loves a day at the beach in Florida, it is rare for these places to have their own botanical gardens. However, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is a wonderful destination where you can enjoy beautiful plant life as well as explore the coast. Its formal gardens have species that include flowers from Florida as well as several other countries from around the world.

This park is located an hour's drive south of the city of Jacksonville, near the picturesque East Coast town of Palm Coast. It has .75 miles of beach with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the gardens behind. Washington Oaks was once owned by a relation of former President George Washington, so it also has an interesting history. However, the gardens themselves were created by a couple who built a retirement home here, before donating the land to the state of Florida. As if all of this wasn't enough, it's also a 20-minute drive from the hidden gem getaway of Flagler Beach.

Know before you go

The park is accessible every day of the year, opening its doors to visitors at 8 a.m. It costs $5 for a car with two to eight people, $4 for one person in a vehicle, and $2 for extra people or those entering by bike or on foot. There is also a rentable pavilion that costs $50 to rent for one day. Payment onsite is via a cash-only honor box, so make sure to bring the exact amount.

If you don't carry cash, you can pay online on the Florida State Parks website. The park has plenty of facilities available to visitors, including a visitor center, gift shop, restrooms, and a parking lot. On the second Saturday of the month, you can buy plants at their sale to put in your own garden. As it is such a unique location, weddings are often held in the rose gardens and on the beach, and photoshoots are often held amid the tropical foliage.

Things to do at Washington Oaks Gardens

There is much to do at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, as this small preserve is perfectly formed and offers access to a gorgeous coastline. It is a fabulous place to picnic under the old trees, plus the park provides bathrooms and a play area. The beach is also particularly great for kids. The undulating coquina rock formations create natural pools, where they can look for various creatures that have been washed into them. It is also a wonderful location for beachcombing to see what the Atlantic Ocean has brought in.

There are some short hikes where you can enjoy the coastal environment and pretty views. Also, bring your bird book. The park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and various feathered creatures pass through here. Depending on the season, you may see swallow-tailed kites, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, terns, and plovers. Fishing is permitted on the seawall of Matanzas River, and you can surf fish from the beach. While Washington Oaks may be a spot that is overlooked when planning a trip to Florida, it is well worth adding to your itinerary.