While no family will ever complain about a beach vacation, there is a richer, rarer treasure chest of landmarks that make a family trip to Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches much more valuable than a standard getaway. Flagler is bustling with history—including fairy-tale beginnings of real-life royalty. Yes, princesses have lived here; landmarks connect to the father of our country, and legends like Charles Lindberg have for years flown in to experience all there is to offer. Connecting this history and memories waiting to be created are our hidden gems: a grand set of parks with their own storybooks to share.
Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches is home to numerous parks and preserves, including three that are part of the Florida state park system. It is here where families will enjoy scenic hikes and biking trails while exploring sites filled with educational and enjoyable enrichment activities for the little ones.
Ready to explore historical sites—including an archaeological site, no less—and enjoy a totally unexpected experience that will make all your friends watching on Instagram jealous? Read on for why you should shift into park here for your next family adventure, exploring these must-be-seen-to-be-believed locales.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
It’s not a coincidence that this landmark destination is named after George Washington. Its roots trace back to a distant relative of the first president. The gardens were established by Louise and Owen Young, who purchased the land in 1936 and built a winter retirement home. They named it Washington Oaks and, in 1965, donated most of the property to the state.
The gardens make remarkable use of native and exotic species, from azaleas and camellias to the exquisite bird of paradise, sheltered within a picturesque oak hammock. Visitors can picnic and fish from either the beach or the sea wall along the Matanzas River.
Make sure to charge your phone for there will be plenty of prime spots for family photos.
Although the formal gardens are the centerpiece of this park, Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach. This ancient rock formation creates the perfect spot for beachcombing, tidal pool exploring, and photography. Plan to take some easy hikes before settling down for a beachside picnic. All the stress of the past year will wash away with the waves.
Princess Place Preserve
The crown jewel of the region’s majestic network of preserves is the aptly named Princess Place Preserve. This scenic 1,500-acre oasis in Palm Coast is located at the confluence of Pellicer Creek, Moody Creek, and the Matanzas River. As the name suggests, this preserve is steeped in history.
It was purchased by Henry Cutting in 1886 and passed on to his widow, Angela Mills Cutting Worden, who eventually married Boris Scherbatoff, an exiled Russian prince. Angela assumed the title of princess, leading to a name change: Cherokee Grove came to be known as Princess Place. The original lodge built by Cutting still stands as Flagler County’s oldest intact structure.
Florida’s first in-ground pool resides here, adding to the preserve’s historic nature.
Equestrians, hikers, and campers equally enjoy the grounds today.
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park
While walking through the ruins—relics from the Second Seminole War in 1836—of what were once rooms in this enormous operation, one can almost smell the smoke from the kettles processing raw cane juice into sugar and molasses. Canoeing, fishing, hiking, and birding are among the most popular activities in this park where you and your family can get away from it all.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the state park has picnic facilities and an interpretive center where you and your family can learn more about the grounds where you are enjoying yourselves.
The ruins are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan ahead before hitting this sweet spot.
Memorial State Recreational Area
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreational Area is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and by the Intracoastal Waterway on the west. Named after Florida folk singer and storyteller Gamble Rogers, the 145-acre park is a perfect place for your family to write new stories into your history. Water lovers will take to this part of your itinerary immediately, as there is great surfing and swimming on the beach, which is also perfect for castle building. Get out the fishing gear and angle for some drum, whiting, flounder, and trout. No matter what you choose, this is a great bet for a fun vacation day.
Isn’t it great to be able to enjoy the outdoors as it used to be? The culture and deep history of Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches adds richness to the experiences awaiting you at the state parks and reserves. Find your adventure when you park it here.