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Accessibility
Florida State Parks are in various stages of accessibility, and are working to improve access to services and facilities. Should you need assistance to enable your full participation, please contact the individual park office as soon as possible. Sometimes as many as ten days may be needed to schedule a particular accommodation.


Management & Protection
Florida State Parks are managed as natural systems. All plant and animal life is protected in state parks. Hunting, livestock grazing and timber removal are not permitted. Do not remove, deface, mutilate or molest any natural resources. For your safety, do not feed any animals. Intoxicants and firearms are prohibited.




Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.




Pets
Pets are not allowed in camping areas, on bathing beaches, in concession areas and may be restricted in other designated areas of the park. Where pets are allowed, they must be kept on a six-foot, hand-held leash and well-behaved at all times. Service dogs are welcome in all areas of the parks.




State Park Guide To discover and experience all of the Real Florida at Florida's 145 state parks, ask a Park Ranger where you can pick up a copy of the Florida State Park Guide, or call 850/488-9872.




special events


There are many events and performances held year-round at Washington Oaks.

Spring at Washington Oaks State Gardens begins with the blooming of azaleas and the celebration of Earthday. The park invites visitors to stroll down the pathways and experience a step back in time discovering Florida's interesting past. This event features a variety of reenactors interpreting the early pioneer days, a Timucuan Indian Village, a Spanish Explorer's camp, a Seminole Indian camp and Civil War soldiers. Environmental clubs will be available answering questions and distributing literature on protecting and preserving our Mother Earth. This two day event, held each year in April, offers a chance for artists to display their handmade arts and crafts. Live entertainment will perform throughout each day.

Event hours are 9:00 am until 5:00 pm on each day with the park observing regular park entrance fees of $3.25 per vehicle (up to 8 people) For events dates, contact Washington Oaks at 446-6780.







Accessibility
Florida State Parks are in various stages of accessibility, and are working to improve access to services and facilities. Should you need assistance to enable your full participation, please contact the individual park office as soon as possible. Sometimes as many as ten days may be needed to schedule a particular accommodation.


Management & Protection
Florida State Parks are managed as natural systems. All plant and animal life is protected in state parks. Hunting, livestock grazing and timber removal are not permitted. Do not remove, deface, mutilate or molest any natural resources. For your safety, do not feed any animals. Intoxicants and firearms are prohibited.




Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.


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Reservations for
Florida State
Parks are now
made through
Reserve America,

toll free, at
1-800-326-3521
 

WASHINGTON OAKS STATE GARDENS

The Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River provide the natural boundaries for the 389 acres of coastal scenery that comprise Washington Oaks State Gardens. Ocean waves have washed away the sand, exposing coquina rock and creating a picturesque boulder-strewn beach. At low tide, many shore birds feed and rest around the peaceful tidal pools. Visitors can enjoy picnicking, fishing and walking through the ornamental gardens and along the river.

Along the beach can be found a most unique rock outcrop. These rocks are believed to be formed from either a submerged offshore bar or from a beach ridge similar to the present barrier beach at Washington Oaks.

It is believed that the offshore bar was formed approximately 100,000 years ago during the last interglacial period of the Ice Age. At that time, sea level was about 25 to 30 feet higher than at present. When the sea level dropped during the following glacial period, the bar was exposed to air and weather. Rain water percolating down through the layer of sediment, dissolved calcium carbonate from the shell material, forming a matrix or cement, binding the loose sediment into coquina rock.

Once raised from the ocean, the bar stood above sea level for many thousands of years. It was not until about 5,000 years ago that the rising sea would have started wearing away the rock to produce the beautiful formation we see today.



HISTORY
Long before Europeans reached Florida, Native Americans came here to hunt, fish and gather shellfish. The hill at the top of the rose garden is formed by a midden -- the mound of oyster shells and other discards left by generations of Indians. Archaeological studies are currently underway to learn more about the Indian lifeways here.

During the 1500's and 1600's several French, Spanish, and English groups passed through the area. The first documented settlement by Europeans came in 1770 when the British government granted the land to John Moultrie, Lieutenant Governor of East Florida. Moultrie mined the heaps of oyster shells to produce lime in his lime kiln and established an orange grove.

In 1793 a fire, probably natural, swept over the tract. Shortly after, it was acquired by a Portuguese born merchant who may have constructed some buildings and planted crops. Common crops on nearby farms were rice and corn.

In 1818, Jose Mariano Hernandez, a St. Augustine native of Minorcan descent, bought the land. He named it "Bella Vista."

Hernandez' career as a planter was typical for many in northeast Florida. He was a citizen of a Spanish colony, owning lands granted by Spain. In 1821, Florida became a U.S. territory. Hernandez swore allegiance to the new country and changed his name to Joseph Marion Hernandez. His service to the government included representing St. Augustine in the Territorial legislature in Tallahassee and serving as the first Representative from the Territory of Florida to the U.S. Congress. He became known as General Hernandez because, as Brigadier General, he organized and commanded militia before and during the Second Seminole War (1835-42).

On his several land holdings, Hernandez raised cotton, sugar, and crops to feed the family, workers, and slaves. Bella Vista adjoined his cotton plantation to the south, but was apparently never developed as a separate farm itself. In 1836, Indians burned plantations along the Matanzas River, that were occupied by U.S. troops, including Hernandez lands. Since Bella Vista was not garrisoned, it was not destroyed. But the plantation economy in this part of the state never fully recovered.

In 1845, Hernandez' daughter Luisa married a lawyer from North Carolina named George Lawrence Washington. (He shared a common ancestor with President George Washington.) While George Lawrence and Luisa Washington lived in the St. Augustine area until 1856, it does not appear that they built a home or resided at Bella Vista.

Washington apparently remembered this land fondly long after Luisa died. In 1878, he began seasonal visits to St. Augustine. At Bella Vista, now owned by another daughter of General Hernandez, he built a small beach house, which he and his sons used for hunting and fishing and raising citrus. In 1888, he bought the entire property from her and people began calling it "The Washington Place."

After Washington's death in 1894, the property went to his heirs. One of them, a son from a later marriage in New Jersey, sold the land to unrelated developers in 1923. Only the collapse of the 1920's Florida land boom kept the tract from sprouting a new crop of homes in a subdivision to be called "Hernandez Estates."

In 1936 the land was bought by Louise Powis Clark, a designer from New York. It was to become a winter retirement home for herself and her third husband, Owen D. Young. Young, an attorney and industrialist who had been chairman of the board of General Electric Corporation and RCA, advised the Government on international monetary issues.

The Youngs were responsible for the name "Washington Oaks," as well as the design of the gardens and the house. They combined native and exotic plantings, even adding touches from the Orient, where both had spent time. They gradually acquired the beach front property from neighbors. Throughout the 1940's and 50's, children and grandchildren of previous marriages enjoyed extended vacations here.

In 1962, Mr. Young died. Shortly before her death in 1965, Mrs. Young gave most of Washington Oaks to the State of Florida. She specified that the gardens be "maintained in their present form" and expanded as funds become available.



GARDENS
Washington Oaks State Gardens is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas River, also known as the Intracoastal Waterway. Within this coastal hammock you will find magnificent live oak trees. These trees offer shade as you walk through this tranquil and peaceful gardens. The gardens will take you on a journey down footpaths that lead you to enjoy the many varieties of plant life. Each season yields a new experience with the flowering of annuals, perennials, combined with exotics and native vegetation complimenting a beautiful natural setting. The gardens are well known for azaleas, camellias and roses. The rose garden features many different types including Don Juan, Tropicana, Kentucky Derby, Sweet Surrender, Sun Flare, Double Delight , Madellion and the wild Cherokee Rose. Upon stepping out of the rose garden many couples unite at the octagon, located next to one of the many reflection ponds, to recite their wedding nuptials. While strolling along the pathways, bordered with carpets of mondo grass, labels identify the wide variety of ornamental and exotic plants throughout the gardens. One of the highlights at the park are the many citrus trees along the outer perimeter of the garden.

A walk in the formal gardens will provide an atmosphere of tranquillity. Many visitors spend several hours wondering and relaxing in the formal gardens located within the park. The garden makes remarkable use of exotic and native species all nestled within a picturesque oak hammock. Within the gardens you will find everything from azaleas and camellias to the more exotic bird of paradise.



WILDLIFE
Although the park is most known for the formal garden, the majority of the parks nearly 400 acres exists in natural condition. The beach dune areas of the park provide nesting places for endangered sea turtles. The loggerhead sea turtle is a frequent visitor to the beaches of the park.

The coastal scrub is home to several endangered and threatened species. Due to aggressive resource management practices, the endangered scrub jay is starting to once again be seen at the park. The Gopher Tortoise also makes his home in the scrub.

The endangered Florida Manatee is frequently seen along the western boundaries of the park in the Matanzas River. This gentle giant can be seen frequently swimming and feeding in the shallows along the parks seawall.

There are excellent bird watching opportunities at Washington Oaks State Gardens. Well over one hundred (100) species of birds have been observed in the park and surrounding waters. The hammock forest is active during the spring (April-May) and fall (Sept.-Oct.) migration when many species of songbirds, including the colorful wood warblers, move along the Atlantic Flyway. The bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and northern harrier are seasonal inhabitants of the Matanzas river basin (fall and winter months are best for birds-of-prey) and a variety of wading birds, including egrets, herons, wood stork and white ibis, feed in tidal creeks and marshes.



FISHING

Fishing from the seawall as well as surf fishing is allowed at Washington Oaks.
Washington Oaks State Gardens is a popular place for recreational fishing. Fishing can be enjoyed from the parks seawall in the Matanzas River and from the beach, if surf fishing is your pleasure. A number of different species are routinely caught including whiting and blue fish in the surf and redfish, drum and flounder and several species of trout along the seawall.

Non residents are required to posses a Florida Saltwater fishing license. Florida residents are not required to posses a license when fishing from shore.



ACTIVITIES
PICNICKING
Washington Oaks State Gardens provides a beautiful picnic facility beneath large majestic oaks. There is a covered pavilion with other tables and grills located throughout the picnic area . The picnic areas close proximity to the parks hiking trail and the Matanzas river, makes it a popular meeting place for an after lunch hike.

The pavilion is available for reservation by calling the park office at 904-446-6780.

Restroom facilities and a ’schildren play area is also available in the picnic area.

HIKING

Hiking and biking trails provide and exploration of the elegant coastal hammock.
Washington Oaks State Gardens provides trails for both hiking and biking. The Bella Vista trails, include the Timucuan hiking trail, Jungle Road hike and bike trail and the Old A-1-A hike and bike trail. This 1.7 mile trail system explores a mature coastal maritime hammock and ventures into the edge of a dense canopied coastal scrub.

The Mala Compra hiking loop is a one half (1/2 mile) loop that explores the ecotone between the coastal maritime hammock and the estuarine tidal marsh along the Matanzas River.

The hiking trails at Washington Oaks State Gardens were developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the Florida Trail Association.




The park is open every day from 8:00 am until sundown and the admission fee is $3.25 per car or $1.00 per person if you are on foot or bicycle.


Washington Oaks State Park is located two miles south of Marineland, off A1A.

For more information on Washington Oaks State Gardens contact the park at:

Washington Oaks State Gardens
6400 North Oceanshore Blvd.
Palm Coast, Florida 32173
(904) 446-6780


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