Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Just minutes from the Northwest Florida beaches is a quiet place of timeless beauty. Eden State Park, nestled among moss draped live oaks and
overlooking a dreamy bayou, features an unusual historic house, lush gardens, a nature trail and a picnic area overlooking Tucker Bayou on the Choctawhatchee Bay.
If you're looking for a change from the sun and sand of the beaches you'll find it here. Located between Destin and Panama City Beach, Eden State Park, once the home of a local timber baron, today houses a surprising collection of antiques, art and history.
Although Eden State Park is small by other Florida state park standards (it's only 161 acres), the grounds are well kept, accessible, and enjoyable year round. Camellias, magnolias, azaleas, and ancient moss-covered live oaks, are some of the plants found here. There is also a heritage rose garden, a butterfly garden, and a reflecting pond filled with Koi and lilies. A three quarter mile nature trail meanders through the woods, and a wide concrete path leads to the house.
An expansive lawn running down to peaceful Tucker Bayou is a great place to turn the kids loose to run off some energy. In fact, a celebration of children and youth can be found in a number of sculptures scattered around the grounds that depict children at play. Just north of the reflecting pond is the so called Wedding Tree, a 600 year old oak that is a popular spot for bridal vows.
The original house was built in 1897 by William Henry Wesley and his wife Katie. Wesley was a timber baron who owned three sawmills and the house was built of the native yellow heart pine that was sawn at his sawmills. It had eight bedrooms to house the couple’s nine children and Wesley added a cupola so he could keep an eye on his thriving lumber business.
Nothing belonging to the Wesley family remains today, but the house is filled with a vast collection of antique furniture that was donated to the Florida park system by the second owner, Lois Maxon. When Ms. Maxon purchased the house and ten acres for $12,000 in 1963, it had been abandoned for ten years after Katie Wesley’s death. Ms. Maxon redesigned portions of the house and filled it with antiques from all over the world.
Lois Maxon only lived at Eden for five years. In 1968, in poor health, she donated the land, the house and all of its contents to the Florida park system. Today, this historic house represents not only the history of the area, it houses the second largest collection in the country of Louis XVI antique furniture.
Eden Gardens State Park is located at 181 Eden Gardens Road, Santa Rosa beach, Florida, in South Walton County, or SoWal, about 15 miles west of Panama City Beach. Local beaches include the new urbanism of Seaside and Rosemary Beach as well as historic beaches like Grayton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach.
The Eden Gardens State Park grounds, gardens and picnic area are open daily from 8 a.m. until sundown. park entrance fee is $4 per car.
The house is open Thursday through Monday for hourly guided tours from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. House tours are $4 for adults and $2 for children. For more information about tours or scheduling a wedding, call 850-267-8320 or click here to visit the Eden Gardens State Park website.
These Northwest Florida State Parks are not far from Eden Gardens.