The weather was nice last Sunday, so we decided to go to Palm Coast which is on the Atlantic side of Florida, to visit the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. It took us a good two hours of steady driving to reach the place. We wanted to see the formal gardens, the centerpiece of this park, as well as the shoreline of coquina rock formations at the beach which is part of the park. However, we mistakenly stopped at another beach before the State Park. No problem though, we took the time spent there to have our packed lunch on the sands while watching the ocean. There were also some rocks at this beach, but not the ones we wanted to see.

After our outdoor lunch we drove a short distance to the State Park. Admission was $5.00, but much to our surprise, nobody was on duty at the entrance, so we just put our admission fee inside an envelope provided at the gate. Although it was the Memorial Day long weekend, the car park was only half full. As usual, we went to the Visitors Center first to pick up some brochures and maps. Here again, there were only visitors at the Visitors Center, no staff. Perhaps because it was a holiday. Anyway, we walked over to the Matanzas River where we found picnic tables and even a barbecue pit. A few people were fishing from the seawall along the river. We saw a lot of pleasure boats going back and forth on the water, some at full speed.

Next, we walked over to the gardens which is full of huge oak trees (some over 200 years old). These big trees offer welcome shade as you stroll through the tranquil and serene surrroundings. There are several reflecting ponds in the park, and also many varieties of plant life. As we ambled along the pathways lined with carpets of mondo grass, I couldn't help but feel at peace with myself.

There is a small Rose Garden, but I was a little disappointed as there weren't that many roses blooming there. Maybe it wasn't the season for them to be in full blossom. The park also has several nature trails for both hiking and biking. Along the outer perimeter of the gardens you can also see a lot of citrus trees. I believe many couples have their weddings in these gardens, which I suppose must be the highlight of their special day, to exchange their nuptial vows in a beautiful setting.

Although this place is not so well known to outsiders (people from other US states/countries), I found it to be a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and would certainly recommend it to nature lovers.

Just across the road from the park on A1A highway, is the beach side which is also an extension of the Washington Oaks Gardens. The flora and fauna on this side of the road is quite different than that of the Gardens, and there we finally found the coquina rocks we were looking for. Coquina rocks come in many shapes and sizes. They are formed when corals and seashells are consolidated into a rock after years and years of seawater wave exposure.

It was fun navigating on these rocks that lay in great quantities along the beach. There were a lot of swimmers in the water, but as I didn't bring my swimming trunks I couldn't take a dip in the ocean. I was told that the water in the Atlantic is not as warm as in the Gulf side on the eastern coast of Florida. So it was just as well I didn't go in as I don't like to swim in cold waters. I remember the beaches in France where the sand was blazing hot in summer, but the water was still freezing cold!

On the way back home we stopped briefly at Flagler Beach, a quaint old fashioned seaside community. Our last stop was at Ormond Beach which has a long stretch of sandy shoreline, and a popular place for retired senior citizens. Florida has about 1260 miles (over 2000 kilometers) of coastline, and is home to hundreds of people friendly beaches, so it is practically impossible to go see all of them. In the year and half I have lived here in Florida I have been to less than a dozen beaches. But as some people would say, "After you've been to a couple of beaches, they all start to look the same!"