Florida has miles and miles of beaches, but nothing quite like the beach at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, 12 miles north of Flagler Beach.
Washington Oaks is full of swirling, sculptured coquina rocks piled along the beach, some sporting circular holes, others forming bowls that create tide pools for snails and anemones.
You might recognize coquina rock as the large picturesque stones often used in landscaping. Or you may associate it with St. Augustine’s Spanish fort, the Castillo San Marco, which is made of coquina.
Coquina is a soft rock made of ancient marine reefs and limestone and it is found in only few places – a few sites on the southern coast of the United State and in New Zealand. And Washington Oaks beach has the largest of the Atlantic Ocean outcroppings.
The state park is located between the ocean and the Matanzas River midway between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine. As its name suggests, it features historic formal gardens. (Here’s more on the garden side of the park. )
Perhaps because the park has “gardens” it its name, visitors to the area sometimes overlook the spectacular beach. It’s easy to do! There is barely a sign; the road to the beach references only the “Florida scrub” habitat adjoining the beach.
When you walk down to the beach at Washington Oaks, you’ll first see some low outcroppings of coquina. Head north along the shore, and the rocks get larger and more fantastic. The beach extends .75 miles. The rocks extend some distance north beyond the park’s borders and also crop up in the water. At high tide, the water crashing in the coquina rocks is a spectacular sight. At low tide, the coquina shapes create tide pools, and that’s the best time to appreciate the rocks.
The sand along this coast here is an unusual orange cinnamon color –the color of eroded coquina.
Because of the rocks, this beach is better for exploring and wading than swimming.
Video of waves crashing on coquina rocks at high tide:
Planning your visit to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park:
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
6400 N. Oceanshore Blvd.
Palm Coast, Florida 32137
Best asset: The coquina rocks are fantastic, and this is the largest outcropping of coquina on the Atlantic Ocean.
Parking: There’s a beach parking lot with about 30 spaces.
Fees: $5 per vehicle. Bring correct change for honor box.
Location and directions: To find the beach, take the park road marked “Florida scrub habitat,” which is directly off of scenic A1A heading east. It leads to the beach parking lot.
- Washington Oaks Gardens State Park official site
- Flagler Beach: Escape to real Florida beach town
- Princess Place: A magical place to explore for camping, hiking, history
- Ormond Beach Scenic Loop and Trail: Nearby scenic drive through woods and along beach
- Fort Matanzas, is a smaller Spanish fort built 50 years after St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos. It’s a great stop because you take a small boat to the fort past spectacular scenery. And it’s free.
- Castillo de San Marcos, the fort in St. Augustine, is a must-visit in the area.