When thinking of Florida beaches, one usually pictures sandy, flat shores. If you find yourself at Washington Oaks Gardens, prepare for a surprise. The park contains a beach unlike any I have ever seen in Florida and includes one of the largest outcroppings of natural coquina on the Atlantic Ocean! Washington Oaks Gardens is a state park located just north of the tiny town of Palm Coast. On a trip to St. Augustine, my boyfriend and I decided to go off the direct route dictated by GPS and stop at this amazing park. We were both so happy that we did!
An easy 30 min drive south from St. Augustine and about an hour north east of Orlando, this park is off the beaten path and is not generally well know. My boyfriend has lived about an hour from the park his whole life and had never even heard of it. The park spans either side of the A1A from the Mantanzas River to the Atlantic Ocean, with a historical garden on the river side and the coquina beach on the ocean side. I think part of the reason may be the name of the park doesn’t refer to the amazing beach side and what you will find there. I’ll start with the beach because it was so spectacular!
If you’ve never visited a Florida spring before, Wekiwa Springs is a great starter spring. The park in which it is situated has lots of amenities, the swimming area is easy to navigate, and, settled just off of I-4 between Orlando and the east coast, it is a short drive from numerous Florida cities. This was the first spring I visited as a Floridian. Any hesitations I had about swimming in an inland body of water (gators! snakes!) were swept aside when I saw the crystal clear blue water of the Wekiwa Spring swimming area. To get to the spring area, you must pay $6 to enter Wekiwa Springs State Park, follow the road in about 100ft and then veer to the right to find the parking area for the spring head.
Looking back towards the hill from the end of the swimming area.
Looking to explore a Florida river by kayak or canoe? Wekiwa Springs State Park is a hassle free starting place to launch a rented boat and explore the Wekiva River. This was my first river kayaking experience in Florida and I was not looking to do a long or strenuous trip. Being familiar with the Wekiwa Springs State Park and the surrounding area, the launch at the state park was the easiest choice for a quick out and back kayaking trip that filled up a Friday morning. It is $6 to enter the state park, and canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards can be rented from the concession stand located near the spring head for reasonable prices. While swimming in the spring is the main draw of the park (I wrote about swimming here), today I want to focus on what you can expect when kayaking the river!