You can get to a garden called Eden in just 30 minutes from our Panama City Beach hotel.
Located between Destin and Panama City Beach in Point Washington, just take County Road 395 north from Highway 98. Proceed one mile to the park entrance on your left. Eden Gardens State Park opens daily at 8 a.m. and closes at sunset.
Named one of America’s Best National Parks and the very first three-time Gold Medal Winner among them, Eden Gardens State Park comprises more than 160 acres of land originally owned by the Wesley homestead.
Built in 1897, the majestic two-story Wesley Mansion still stands on the grounds, today offering tours for a nominal fee, on the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday to Monday.
Wesley was a prominent lumberman, sending huge rafts of timbers down the river to his mills, where they were floated westward to Pensacola and beyond. The original house was Victorian in architecture, yet it was reimagined in the 1960s to reflect local lore citing a plantation home where young Wesley is said to have been sheltered as he made his way home from war.
The main attractions, of course, are the ornamental gardens on the mansion’s grounds. Camellias and azaleas bloom from October through March, with peak blooming in the spring. There is also a heritage rose garden and reflection pond filled with Koi and lilies.
Explore the Garden Trail (complimentary guides are available in the Fig Leaf Gift Shop) as it winds around the edge of the property, highlighting such areas as the rose garden, butterfly garden, camellia garden and Tucker Bayou.
Pick up a brochure provided by the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance which indicates with numbered markers through the grounds interesting flora and fauna such as a Ginkgo Tree, Japanese Plum Yew, Southern Red Cedar and more. They also provided signage stationed by the water to learn a little something about striped mullet, salt marshes, oyster reefs and the living shoreline.
Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch with views of the Choctawhatchee Bay. You can fish from the dock, hop on your paddleboard, take advantage of the canoe and kayak launch or simply relax in the shade.
Sitting under the large oak trees, you’ll be reminded of simpler days gone by. In the quiet, your senses become more alive as you hear the sound of the cicadas, listen to the water lap against the shore and feel the breeze gently sway the garden.
In between the bay and the house, there is a magnificent oak tree that has come to be known as The Wedding Tree, presiding over many nuptials and wishing newlyweds well as they begin their journey together.
The Friends of Eden is a citizens support organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and improvement of Eden State Gardens. The group has been known to host such events in support of the park as a movie night during the month of October, when vintage films are shown on the lawn at Eden. Everyone is invited to bring chairs, blankets, bug spray and coolers. Come early to get a spot on the green. Films are free with paid park admission.
(We saw the Creature from the Black Lagoon here, and it was a fantastic night under the stars, catching the sunset off the bay just before the opening credits!)