From my home base in Gainesville (Florida, USA), I lay claim to roam, explore & generally enjoy a variety of domains within my geographical territory (here’s a map of my Atlantic domain). I’m about an hour’s drive from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This post is about a trip to the Atlantic Ocean, specifically the beaches at Washington Oaks State Park & Fort Matanzas National Monument. I drove over on (August 26) the day after Hurricane Irene passed Florida on the Atlantic side. The waves are usually pretty high when a hurricane is in the area and I figured I might be able to get some impressive shots of waves crashing into the coquina rock formations at Washington Oaks. Since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by the beach at Fort Matanzas too. Maybe there would be time to hike down to Matanzas inlet.
The beaches in this part of the Atlantic coast are nice but featureless. For photography purposes I wanted something more dramatic. Coquina rock has some very interesting shapes. I felt giant waves crashing onto weird shaped rocks would be an interesting subject. I timed the trip to arrive an hour or two before high tide, so the water was high enough to hit the rocks. What I didn’t plan on was the wind: it was blowing from the west, directly opposite the wave direction. This diminished the power of the waves & created a very confused sea. It also kicked up a lot of dust from the land onto the beach, it looked almost like a desert sandstorm.
Washington Oaks State Park straddles Hwy A1A, with the Intracoastal Waterway, trails & formal gardens on the west side, and the Atlantic beach on the east side. On earlier trips I’ve seen the trails & gardens, they’re great, but this time I headed for the beach. It has large coquina rock formations & that’s what I wanted to shoot. The larger rock formations are north (left) of where the boardwalk leads to the beach. They are easy to see. It’s a short walk up the beach. As I said, it was nearly high tide, the waves were tearing away parts of the dunes. As I was returning to the car later I helplessly watched a turtle nest being destroyed by the waves. It was sad to watch the eggs rolling down the beach and disappearing into the surf.
I climbed around on the rocks for an hour or two, shooting through a couple of memory cards on the camera. I also brought my point & shoot camera, which has video capability and got a few video captures. An interesting thing about this rock is that the water has riddled it with holes, like swiss cheese. When a wave hits just right, water comes spewing out of the holes. I made a video of that. I also got a little wet, hope the camera doesn’t rust.
As I was leaving the beach, driving out of the park, there was a gopher tortoise crossing the road. I grabbed the camera & jumped out of the car. The seemingly grumpy tortoise was not impressed as it slowly escaped into the underbrush, but not before I got a couple of shots.
My next stop was the beach at Fort Matanzas, so I headed back north on A1A, past Marineland & over several bridges, including the one over the Matanzas Inlet. The parking lot was the first right turn after the Matanzas Inlet bridge. There were only a couple of other cars there, so I had a good choice of parking spots. The boardwalk starts at the north end of the parking lot. They don’t allow tramping around in the dunes, so the boardwalk is the only way to the beach. It’s a long boardwalk with some good views of the dunes, and the beach toward the end. As I approached the beach, the sand had started to drift over the boardwalk, over a foot deep in some places. The dunes move around with the wind & waves. The water was a few yards from the board walk. In fact the tide was so high you had to wade through the water to take a stroll down the beach. There are signs to keep people out of the dunes & the water was penetrating beyond that into the dunes. Next time I come here it will be at a lower tide. I kind of wanted to walk down the beach to the inlet, which isn’t too far south. It didn’t matter anyway, because I got hit by one of the last feeder bands from Irene. I made it back to the car just as the deluge began in earnest. I don’t really mind getting wet but my cameras & lenses do.
At this point I headed back to Gainesville. The rain ended after Crescent Beach, when I crossed the Intracoastal Waterway bridge on Hwy 206. Here are some photos of the trip.