Take soft steps within this forest as you walk paths that echo the past. This peninsula was the site of an ancient village and a thriving community before the Spanish came to Florida’s shores.
Archaeological finds are of great significance here, enough so that the roads in the park remain unpaved.
A lengthy sand road has turnoffs along it to reach services scattered throughout the hammocks.
It leads to the end of a windswept peninsula where the Tomoka River pours into the Tomoka Basin estuary.
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Location: Ormond Beach
Address: 2099 North Beach St, Ormond Beach
Fees: $5 per vehicle
Restroom: at picnic area and concession area
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Trails are multi-use. Expect to encounter cyclists along the trails.
From Interstate 95 at SR 40 in Ormond Beach, follow SR 40 east into the old downtown, crossing US 1, and make a left at the light onto N. Beach Street just before the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. Follow this canopied road through the residential area along the waterway. When you reach the woods, you’re in the park. The park entrance is on the right just before a left curve. Watch for walkers and cyclists crossing from the Woodham Woods Trail at the crosswalk.
About the Park
Those long-vanished Timucua are commemorated with an huge installation from 1957 by Fredrick Dana Marsh.
Called “Legend of Tomokie,” it features Chief Tomokie at the top of a wall of warriors.
Walking around the peninsula where the rivers meet, you discover a number of historic markers and monuments.
A 1605 map by a Spanish soldier marked the location of the villages in this area.
During the British rule of Florida, Richard Oswald, a wealthy slave trader and merchant, was given a 20,000 acre grant in 1764 that included the peninsula.
His plantation, Mount Oswald, was focused on rice and indigo, sugar cane, timber, and oranges. Of course, as a supplier to the British Navy, he was making molasses, and rum.
Twenty years later, he abandoned the operation as the Spanish regained rule of Florida.
Hints to his impact on this land are the wild indigo growing in the woods and a ditch built along the fields.
Oswald was later one of the British signers of the peace treaty between the American patriots and the British to end the American Revolution.
By 1816, John Addison obtained a Spanish land grant for 1,414 acres between the rivers.Using enslaved workers, he established a cotton plantation named Carrickfergus for his Irish birthplace.
The plantation, run by the MacRae family after Addison’s death, lasted until it was destroyed like nearby Bulowville during the Second Seminole War.
Managed as a separate state park that you can only see by water, Addison Blockhouse Historic State Park is up the Tomoka River from Tomoka State Park on the western shore.
It is an active archaeological research site that is not open to the public.
Hiking and Biking
While there are many miles of roads you can bike throughout the park, some of which lead to particularly beautiful views, there are only two signposted trails.
The most obvious one is the Woodham Woods Trail, which parallels Beach Street through the hammock.
It is a mile-long concrete walkway also used by cyclists, although its many curves and tight turns make for a slow ride.
It starts at a kiosk off Beach Street with a pulloff where a couple of cars will fit, and it ends with a crosswalk over to the park’s main entrance.
The other trail is simply been referred to as the Tomoka Nature Trail. It’s a half mile interpretive trail, or a mile round-trip.
One end is at the Tomoka Recreational Hall and the other at the parking area by the Chief Tomokie installation.
Along this path, look for markers for plants like coontie, which the Timucua used to make a type of flour.
The first time we came to this park we walked past the Chief Tomokie statue and down to the tip of the peninsula and said, “how on earth can you paddle that?”
You don’t. We were looking in the wrong direction. Open water and strong tides happen where the Tomoka and Halfax Rivers meet at Tomoka Point.
That’s why the park concession, where you can rent canoes and kayaks, pick up camping supplies and grab a bite to eat, is farther up the peninsula, closer to the campground.
There is a protected basin here away from the open water. Paddlers need to head upriver along the Tomoka River to find the beauty spots.
The river is tidal, and surrounded by estuary. But two creeks that feed it, Strickland Creek and Thompson Creek, offer protected paddling surrounded by palm and oak hammocks.
The three-loop campground is on the Halifax River side of the peninsula, with a turnoff into the complex just after a road goes off to the left to the group camp.
This is one of the more popular campgrounds in the state park system thanks to its very natural setting, with the oak and palm canopy shading sites.
Each site has a picnic table and grill and is surrounded by the dense hammock understory.
This is a large campground, with 100 spaces. Most are back-in for trailers. They can handle RVs up to 34 feet long. Pets are welcome but must be leashed.
See our photos of Tomoka State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Walk among the ancients in Bulow Hammock, starting with the imposing Fairchild Oak, one of Florida’s largest live oak trees
Neatly accessed via “The Loop,” a scenic drive that extends north from Ormond Beach, North Peninsula State Park has two tantalizing miles of oceanfront along a palm-rimmed line of dunes.
Formerly Flagler Beach State Park, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area stretches from the orange sand beaches of the Atlantic Ocean to the windswept oak hammocks along the Intracoastal Waterway.