Washington Oaks Garden State Park Closing?

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is on the government's chopping block. Blessed with one of Florida's only rocky beaches, a natural maritime forest, as well as a lush historic garden that's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this park is much too valuable to close. The tourist dollars alone are reason enough to save it, but there are many more reasons.

Last weekend my fiance and I celebrated our sixth anniversary at the park, gladly donating five dollars each visit for the duration of our relationship, happy to contribute to preserving this national treasure.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a small group with binoculars at the boardwalk, who joyously pointed out the extremely rare and endangered Atlantic right whale not far out at sea. We had never seen a right whale in all of our beachcombing sessions and neither had these whale watchers, who drove far from home just to catch a glimpse. We watched the mother whale and its calf through lent binoculars, feeling a rush of blood and this thrill from what seemed like a miraculous event.

Another miracle was to come. While the fiance was still peering through binoculars, I ventured to the tidepools and discovered multitudes of red starfish clinging to the rocks in low tide. Here's the thing. We have NEVER seen this kind of starfish before, and here they were in droves. Everywhere we looked, there were more sea stars. There must have been hundreds in the small stretch of beach we explored, and many were overturned on the sand and de-legged by gulls.

 We saved as many as we could, and worried that the kids on the beach would take them home as souveniers. As it turns out, we were delighted to see that a little girl had also been saving them with her siblings. She could barely contain herself with excitement and showed us her little tidepool rescue operation. The future is in good hands.

Here are some more photos from our trip during the height of tourist season.

Washington Oaks is Northeast Florida's best kept secret, but its time we got the word out and please contact your legislator. I know I will.

What You Can Do
More posts about Washington Oaks
Article on Closures


  1. Anytime the State tries to close down a protected wilderness area it is just bad public policy. I heard one of the parks in the Keys is also being considered. The fight for mo money coming soon to all our detriment.

  2. Whales AND starfish! Very cool. I've only seen starfish on the Pacific coast. Maybe it's time for another visit to Washington Oaks.

  3. what a gorgeous place! those rock formations are amazing. Great photos - I love that one with the oranges at the top. I hope it can be saved!

  4. This is the first that we've heard of this. We are wedding photographers and have used the park many times for unique engagement shoot locations. We love Washington Oaks!


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