A Scene From the Old South: Eden Gardens in Florida

Tucked away just north of Seaside on Hwy 395, Eden Garden State Park is located right off the busy U.S. 98 on Eden Gardens Road in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida right between Panama City and Destin. This beautiful site extends over 163 acres  and is most famous for the plantation like Wesley house, a two-story mansion virtually surrounded by white columns and verandas and the picturesque grounds surrounding it.

We drove on U.S. 95 from Destin and the park was on our left. After we crossed to the other side of the highway we followed Eden Road before reaching the entrance of the State Park. We were asked to pay $4 which allows you to tour the grounds and take some of the trails around it. After another short drive from the entrance we reached the shaded parking lot with plenty of spots open even on a busy day. We lucked out with the weather. It was unusually pleasant for a late summer day in Florida and visiting the park was a nice escape from the crowds on the beaches that were enjoying this same lovely weather, sunbathing by the water.

We knew from friends that have visited here before us that in order to tour the actual house you need to have cash in hands (another $4) since they do not accept credit cards and there is no ATM anywhere near the grounds of the park. So after we parked we made our way to the museum where we paid for the next available tour. The museum is located inside the house to the right coming from the parking lot. Guided tours of the Wesley House are offered on Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. hourly and the house is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The Wesley house sits among huge moss-draped live Oak trees and looks like an antebellum mansion embraced between them and is absolutely stunning. It has gone through some renovation but you would still be able to get close and see some of it original furnishings, especially examples of late 18th century French furniture, paintings and fabrics. The house also holds the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the USA. The tour is about 45 minutes and talks about all the stages that the mention had gone through through the years and the fascinating history that it holds.

We passed the time on the rocking chairs on the porch, waiting for our tour time to see the house while marveling at the absolutely breaking views of the garden. It was nice and quiet couple of minutes for just us with our thoughts. Over Christmas the park offers a candlelight tour where they have the Civil War re-enactors and the women dressed in their long dresses giving the tours. And recently they’ve added a yoga flow instruction in the land of Eden, where you can bask in the beauty of Eden Gardens State Park as you move through a gentle yoga flow.

After the lovely and quite fascinating tour of the Wesley House we went on exploring the rest of the grounds. What first caught our eyes was the reflecting pond sitting right in frond of the mansion. We sat by it and enjoyed looking at the water lilies and large koi, before heading on one of the many nearby paths through the ornamental gardens with heritage roses, camellias, azaleas and than made our way to the beautiful butterfly garden. The paths were covered with flower petals and the birds were singing. It was so peaceful and surreal we could’ve stayed there for hours sitting on one of the metal benches for a great delight to our senses.

We walked on few of the trails in the park which are perfect for exploring with little ones and than decided on a picnic by the bay/lake called Tucker Bayou where we got to watch people fishing and even saw jumping fish which was quite entertaining for our little one (despite the expression on his face). You can also bring a blanket and find a spot on the greens or in the shade of the oak trees surrounding the house.

Eden State Park offers a variety of events through the year all of which you can find here and is open 365 days from 8 a.m. until sunset. It is the perfect spot if you live in the area for family pictures or a wedding under the 600+ year old “Wedding Tree” with limbs that stretch more than 50 feet long. The Park is impeccably maintained and can be found here:

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