Many of our Ocean Reef guests come to our gorgeous crystalline beaches to celebrate the union of two people in love and their lifelong commitment to one another through marriage. After all, a white wedding dress on a dazzling white beach is incredible. However, so is the beautiful backdrop of floral gardens and a columned, historic southern mansion. Here along The Emerald Coast in South Walton, you have the ability to do both with perhaps a ceremony at one and a reception at the other. One may reflect your family heritage and the other the pristine promise of tomorrow.
Eden Gardens is a historic Greek Revival-style mansion that is located on 161 acres of an old family estate in Point Washington near the Choctawhatchee Bay's southern shore. This was the site of the old Wesley timber plantation that was established in 1890. Fine yellow heart pine was harvested here for many years and then floated on barges to Pensacola for sale. In 1897, the thriving business allowed William Wesley to build a 5,600 square foot mansion as a "crown jewel" on the plantation to house his eventual nine children. The valuable yellow heart pine was used for the home's construction with door frame ornamentation completed in woods of Cypress and Juniper. Originally a tower on the roof allowed Wesley to observe the distant lumber mill and loading docks from the main house. Eden Gardens remained in the Wesley family until 1953. After the death of his beloved wife, William sold it to a developer, but sadly the once lively house became vacant. In 1963 Lois Maxon, a wealthy publishing heiress and writer, fell in love with it and purchased the estate for $12,500. She then proceeded to spend another million dollars on the property for major renovations to the house and the extensive gardens. The home was converted into an incredible showcase for her antiques and elaborate Louis XVI furnishings. Due to failing health Ms. Maxon donated her beloved Eden Gardens to the State of Florida on Christmas Eve, 1963, in memory of her parents. Today the mansion houses the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the nation and is a museum. The gracious gardens that surround the house are right out of a romantic storybook. Giant majestic moss-draped oak trees line the driveway and meander down towards the water's edge. Eden Gardens was well named since flowers bloom almost year-round. Winters are welcomed by the arrival of Camellias. An amazing assortment of multicolored azaleas heralds the sweet-scented spring. Magnolia blooms and gardenias signal the approach of summer. Heritage roses and hydrangeas bloom into the fall. Garden trails cover the entire property, which also has long green lawns leading down to a gazebo near Tucker Bayou. A large rectangular pool with ornamental Koi fish provides a mirrored reflection of the house itself.
Hundreds of wedding ceremonies and/or receptions have been held at Eden Gardens over the years since the grounds may be reserved for such events up to eleven months in advance. A large outdoor pavilion with both ceiling fans and heaters sits near the gazebo bandstand and can accommodate up to 200 guests. It has a prep kitchen area for setting up catered food that is brought in and also has restroom facilities. Nuptial ceremonies may be conducted at the Wedding Tree, Heritage Rose Garden, The Four Seasons Butterfly Gardens, or on the north side of the reflection pool. The grounds have also been rented out and are available for large family reunions, charity events, and company picnics. Eden Gardens also opens her doors for Easter Sunrise Services and magical candlelight Christmas tours. You may call 850-267-8320 for information Monday thru Thursdays from 9:30 until 1:30 or reach volunteers at friendsofedengardens.com at any time.
The Friends of Eden support this state park with tours of the house every hour on the hour from 10 am to 3 pm daily except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Fig Leaf Gift Shop is on-site, which raises money by selling floral birdhouses, various souvenir items, seeds, and even plantings. A handy garden trail booklet is available at their Welcome Center to help you explore the park. General admission to Eden Gardens State Park is $4 for adults and $2 for kids under the age of twelve. You may walk the grounds, picnic on one of the tables near water's edge, rest beneath the towering oaks or go fishing from the dock. Leashed pets are also allowed as long as you clean up after them. You can even arrive at Eden Gardens by boat as long as it has a shallow hull, however, there is no boat ramp for access.
One interesting trivia tidbit is that a one-star horror movie called The Frogs was filmed here on location back in 1972, starring Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, and Joan Van Ark. Milland's character is an arrogant, polluting patriarch of a wealthy southern family who decides to celebrate his July 4th birthday at his country estate. Eventually, almost every member of his family gets knocked off one by one as snakes, alligators, spiders, lizards, leeches, and yes...even frogs, seek their own ecological revenge. As bad as this movie is, it is great fun to watch since the plot is so preposterous. Don't worry, it was only a movie, and we're sure your own wedding videos will be far tamer on these gorgeous grounds!
Ocean Reef has many beautiful homes to choose from for your visiting wedding guests all along the Beaches of South Walton. Some are right on the beach, and others are nearby. The largest include the following: Morning Star in Santa Rosa Beach has six bedrooms and six baths with grand gulf views and a private pool; The Big Easy in Seacrest Beach is a four-story home with five bedrooms, four baths, an enormous living room, and pool; Group Therapy in Santa Rosa Beach is a newer three-story home with six bedrooms, five baths, a pool and is great for entertaining; Absolute Paradise, also in Santa Rosa Beach, has five bedrooms, five and one half baths, a 21 x 14 foot pool and is just ninety yards from the sugary white beach; Five Star is a five-story, four bedrooms, three and one half bath contemporary gulf front house near Rosemary Beach. All of these fine private residences can sleep up to eighteen guests.
In Santa Rosa Beach we have two beachfront wedding homes right next door to each other. Casablanca is an elegant 7,288 square foot mansion with six bedrooms and eight baths. It includes a carriage house with two bedrooms with private baths and its own kitchen. The two story open foyer in the main house has a gracefully curved staircase which is perfect for wedding photos. Architectural niches, arches, columns and plantation shutters abound. It also sleeps eighteen guests. Blessings on its adjacent side sleeps twenty with five bedrooms and four baths, cathedral ceilings and multiple decks that also overlooks the sparkling, emerald toned gulf.
Sand D Breeze in Dune Allen on Oyster Lake can sleep up to twenty-four since it encompasses two 2,600 square foot town homes with a total of eight bedrooms and a separate apartment suite that is only twenty-five yards from the lakeside community pool.
Our largest homes include Renaissance which is a three story home on the beach at Seacrest with nine bedrooms, five baths and incredible views of the gulf. It is located in an exclusively gated community with a large pool that sits between the main house and separate guest quarters near the beach. Two of the bedrooms and two and one half baths are in the guest house. This compound can sleep up to twenty-six guests.
Villa Rosa in Santa Rosa Beach tops the list as far as numbers of guests it can host, since it can sleep up to twenty-seven, and all in regular beds. The dining room can seat up to twenty-eight happy gourmands. This nine bedroom, nine bath estate encompasses 7,000 square feet with another 2,500 square feet of covered porches and balconies. The large, lushly landscaped private yard is a world unto itself with a huge saltwater swimming pool, a hot tub, an outdoor kitchen and a gazebo. Villa Rosa is also a popular choice to host the reception as well.
Whether you have your wedding ceremony and reception at Eden Gardens, on the beach or a mix of both, know that Ocean Reef Resorts has all the fine vacation rentals to suit your family needs. Our beautiful private residences will graciously host your family and guests comfortably as you weave together the loving memories that will launch your new life together. Enjoy the excitement of perusing your wonderful options on our website and may your future life be filled with blessings!