Palm Coast & Flagler Beach - Must See Nature

WASHINGTON OAKS GARDENS STATE PARK

  • Beautiful beach and formal gardens
  • Bird, plant and wildlife viewing
  • Ocean and river access with picnic and fishing spots
  • Plant sale on the second Saturday of every month


Parents share a guilty secret: once Disney's done and Marco Polo's found, they get to choose a destination. For many, this pristine corner of Florida is the perfect antidote to busy days and big crowds. With both beach and garden environments (sitting east and west, respectively, of the A1A), you'll find relaxation in spades - and plenty of hidden educational opportunities too.

  • The beach: A retreating tide reveals busy tide pools, packed with anemones, that are always fascinating to explore. If you've already visited the Castillo de San Marcos (page 22), you'll be a ready expert on the beach's coquina sand. It's pink (!) and is great for a soul-restoring walk or a determined shell-search. Picnic spots will suggest themselves and, while you eat, watch for local marine-life including right whales, dolphins, hermit crabs and more.
  • The gardens: A 20-acre formal garden boasts a rose garden, an orchard, plus ancient oaks amongst azaleas, camellias and exotic flower species. It's home to a great variety of bird-life, including breeding owls and osprey, as well as butterflies.
  • Trails: Striking a balance between 'accessible' and 'natural', trails criss-cross the vast oak hammock and front the Intracoastal. Maybe you'll see a manatee?
  • Events: Plant sales are ongoing, as well as an annual Citrus Festival (February) and Earth Day celebrations (April).


Details

  • Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks
  • Address: 6400 N Oceanshore Boulevard, Palm Coast, FL 32137
  • Pets: Well-behaved, leashed pets always welcome
  • Keep in mind: You might appreciate a dose of bug spray if visiting in the late afternoon or evening. Don't forget your camera, it's particularly pretty!


MALACOMPRA ROAD BEACHFRONT PARK

Five thousand years of Florida history are on display here, across expanses of coquina rock. These other-worldly formations make great photos, whether in some nature shots or as a background for family pictures. Spread out across this 36-acre park and choose where suits you best - whether you'd rather walk the hammock trails, sunbathe on the quiet beach or picnic (and BBQ) before some late-afternoon volleyball.

  • Address: 115 Malacompra Road, Palm Coast, FL 32137
  • Children: Playground on site
  • Pets: Leashed pets welcome
  • Keep in mind: Swimming isn't recommend due to rocks


RIVER TO SEA PRESERVE

Spanning from the beach on the Atlantic side to the Intracoastal waters, find 90 acres of nature to enjoy in dozens of ways. A low-key attraction, nature is its main asset and the trails are very much off the tourist map. Public beach access offers a nice change of scenery, not to mention nature trails and a canoe/kayak launch.

  • Website: River to Sea Preserve online
  • Address: 9805 N. Oceanshore Blvd., Marineland, FL
  • Pets: Pets welcome on a leash
  • Keep in mind: Open dawn 'til dusk


ST. JOE WALKWAY AND PALM COAST LINEAR PARK TRAIL

Two outdoor options that total 10 miles of trails, whether taken in the morning with your dog or as a nice after-dinner stroll. Alternatively, use either path as a jogging or cycling route and keep your eyes open for our vivid (and varied) Florida bird- life.

  • Website: Trail maps online
  • Address: 305 Palm Coast Pkwy, Palm Coast
  • Map: St. Joe Walkway (PDF)
  • Map: Linear Park Trail (PDF)
  • Pets: Yes! Pet-friendly (on-leash)
  • Keep in mind: Wheelchair accessible