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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Florida Road Trip: Washington Oaks State Gardens

    Washington Oaks State Gardens is a combination of Florida wild and orderly formal gardens.  The above view has been the scene for many spring and summer weddings and there are other equally good wedding spots.

The gardens are 35 miles south of St. Augustine or about 70 miles south of Jacksonville Beach on A1A.  On A1A drive through St. Augustine, over the Bridge of Lions, past the Alligator Farm, surf shops, motels and Marineland.  Two miles past Marineland, turn west into the sign-marked entrance.  You'll pay $5 for a vehicle with multiple visitors, $4 for a single visitor, and $2 if you're walking, biking or pedaling.

Once in the park, walk through the gardens, fish in the Intracoastal Waterway, enjoy a picnic, visit the Gift Shop or just relax in the shade on a bench.  You can go out the park entrance, cross A1A and to the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach has an unusual outcropping of coquina rocks that catch the water in interesting ways.  Swimming is not allowed in the vicinity of the rocks, but there is a lot of beach if you want to walk to a swimming area. The park is a great place to spend a morning, afternoon or a day enjoying nature.

The area has an interesting history.  It was once part of Bella Vista Plantation.  The land was donated to the State of Florida by Louise Young after her husband died.   It is on the National Register of Historic Places highlighting eight historic structures scattered through the park.  

                                      Path into the park and to the Intracoastal Waterway.

                            The Intracoastal Waterway, fishing and boating are allowed.

                                    The Gazebo

                            Koi, carp and other pond fish live in the garden waterways.

                            Staghorn fern hang from the numerous huge oak trees in one
                            part of the property.

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