Both Hugh Taylor Birch’s estate and his original homestead from 1895, on the south side of Sunrise Blvd, provide a sea of green space on this otherwise intensely developed barrier island.
Birch, an attorney for Standard Oil, came across this island well before anyone else lived on it. Sailing down the coast in 1893, he had to take cover and found a small camp in this area.
When he bought three miles of the island in 1903, locals thought he was crazy. They knew what hurricanes and tides did to barrier islands.
He first built a grand home and gardens for his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, completed in 1920.
It is preserved today as the Bonnet House and Gardens, an adjoining cultural attraction on a similarly canopied property.
In 1940, Birch then spent $15,000 building Terramar, a five bedroom, five bath, two story home, for his retirement.
Selling off the surrounding land, he essentially founded Fort Lauderdale Beach and contributed greatly to its early growth.
In 1941, he donated the last 180 acres he owned to the state of Florida to become this park.
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Location: Fort Lauderdale
Address: 3109 East Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
Fees: $6 per vehicle
Restroom: at the visitor center and picnic areas
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed pets permitted but not on beach.
From Interstate 95 Sunrise Blvd exit north of downtown Fort Lauderdale, drive east on Sunrise over the Intracoastal Waterway. Turn left into the park entrance, 1 mile after you cross US 1.
About the Park
Stretching from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean, the park provides an outstanding number of different activities for visitors to enjoy.
Birch’s home, Terramar, incorporates both Mediterranean and Art Deco architecture. It serves as the visitor center and museum.
Birch enjoyed gardens, so the center of the park has tropical gardens gone wild from the Terramar days, with nearly 200 species on display.
The lofty fig dominating the main picnic area is a forest onto itself, with a crown spread of 173 feet.
A loop road circles the park, providing access to its various activities.
Beachgoers can turn off at the first right along the loop to follow the road around to the parking area adjoining the beach access tunnel, within sight of the visitor center.
The portion of Fort Lauderdale Beach that is part of the park is a wonderfully natural strand.
Two nature trails start near the beginning of the counterclockwise loop.
In the southernmost corner, the Coastal Hammock Trail is a quarter mile interpretive trail in a native tropical hammock.
Starting at the first picnic area on the left, the Exotic Trail, an Eagle Scout project, leads you through the gardens. It is now marked on the park map as the Mid Trail.
Walk past such botanical oddities as arjan from India, natal plum, and the Tarzan-evoking zulu fig.
You can walk up to two miles via the half mile linear Exotic Trail by connecting it with other trails that cyclists follow.
In the southern corner of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, the Coastal Hammock Trail traverses a maritime hammock dense with sea grapes, myrsine, gumbo limbo, and stopper
In addition, you can essentially loop most of the park on a 2-mile trail that parallels the park road.
Starting from the end of the Exotic Trail, it meets up with the park road, swings through the riverfront area, and heads back into the woods by the marsh.
A side trail leads to the group camp at Magic Mountain before the trail moves into the park interior and reconnects with the beginning of the Mid Trail near the picnic area.
Cyclists can ride the 1.9 mile loop road as well as the pathway that extends past the Exotic Trail through the park. Riding these narrow bumpy trails requires off-road tires.
The Rail Trail parallels the loop road for a stretch, enabling a 2-mile loop on the park’s east side. Or follow the path described above that loops the loop road.
Canoe rentals are available to paddle along the interior waterway that stretches north from Terramar.
Don’t be as startled by the splashes in the water as we were. Iguanas are far more common here than alligators, and they’ll dive off the banks into the water.
A lodge, cabins, and a separate primitive group camp tenting area are available to non-profit youth groups like church groups and Scouts. Call the park directly to make reservations.
Built as the Elks Youth Camp in 1950, the lodge and cabins are located along the side road that leads to the beach access underpass, making for a nice place for a retreat.
In addition to the picnic area and playground where the Exotic Trail starts, there is another set of picnic pavilions by the riverfront. Fishing is possible along the seawall.
See our photos of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
With its shores dwarfed at times by the giant cruise ships steaming in and out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is well-known as a great nearshore dive spot
Explore both the wild and mild sides of an urban mangrove jungle at West Lake Park by hiking, biking, or paddling this outstanding Florida Water
A designated urban wilderness area just north of Fort Lauderdale, Easterlin Park immerses you in a dense tropical forest on its 0.9-mile loop trail