Women's History Road Trip
As students across the country celebrate spring break, many families will load up their cars and embark on one of America’s favorite vacations: a road trip.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve put together a few road trip itineraries with a nod to some of the many women who have helped define Florida’s history.
Next time you’re planning to hit the road, keep these parks and places in mind!
North and Central Florida
You’ll start your trip in the Panhandle, heading first to the beautiful Eden Gardens State Park. Known for its ornamental gardens, the blooming camellias and azaleas owe their place here to Lois Maxon. After purchasing the land in 1963, she set about installing the namesake gardens and renovating the property’s historic home, the Wesley House. Originally built in 1897 by the Wesley family, Maxon had the home renovated, and it now acts as a showcase for her family’s antiques and heirlooms.
About 15 minutes down the road from the gardens, you can swap your sneakers for swimsuits at Camp Helen State Park. Once you’ve had your fill of the world-class
beaches and tranquil trails, be sure to check out the Lodge and Rainbow Cottages, part of the park’s historic district. Developed in the 1930s by Margaret Hicks, who took over the project after her husband passed away, she and her daughter lived in the Lodge while renting out the Rainbow Cottages to supplement their income during the Great Depression. A testament to their entrepreneurial spirit, the Lodge and cottages still stand in the park today.
Wake up early and hit the road for the four-and-a-half-hour drive to your next stop: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Amid the fragrant orange groves that she tended to, learn about the life of one of Florida’s quintessential authors, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and tour the home that she lived in for over two decades. Maybe bring a copy of “The Yearling,” her most famous work, or take a stroll on one of the park’s short nature trails.
After your house tour is over, get back on the road to head to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Once designed to be a barge canal that would bisect Florida, the park is now a 110-mile scenic corridor, perfect for hiking, biking or skating. The greenway is named for Marjorie Harris Carr, who played an influential role in halting the canal’s path through Florida. Carr was also a prominent scientist at a time when many women were excluded from the field.
On the last day of your road trip, travel two hours to witness the blossoming wonders of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Known for its beautiful plant life and birds of paradise, the gardens were the brainchild of Louise Young, who used the estate as a winter home with her husband. In 1965, she donated the gardens to the state of Florida, with the condition that the grounds be maintained and expanded upon when possible. Because of Young's donation, we can all enjoy the peace and serenity of the gardens.
South Florida and the Florida Keys
Start your road trip at one of Florida’s largest stretches of freshwater marsh, protected at Savannas Preserve State Park. Once at risk of being developed and dredged, these marshes and savannas of the park were saved by Carol Herzog, a lifelong lover of the outdoors and outspoken activist for the creation of the preserve. Thanks to her efforts, you can spend the day hiking the park’s numerous trails or kayaking along its scenic waterways.
Drive down the coast two hours and grab some sunscreen, because your next stop is Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. Located in Hollywood, the park is in part named for civil rights activist Eula Johnson. One of the biggest supporters of equal rights in Florida throughout her lifetime, one of Johnson's most well-known achievements was helping plan and lead “wade-in” protests across South Florida to integrate public beaches. While spending the day relaxing and swimming at what was once the county’s designated “colored” beach, you can reflect on the efforts and sacrifices Johnson and other women have made to open these places to everyone.
The final day of your road trip will see you leave the mainland and make for the sunny Florida Keys! Drive an hour and forty-five minutes to scenic Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park and explore the shaded trails amid tropical hardwood hammocks. Dagny Johnson, the park’s namesake, was instrumental in the fight to save the property, which was once slated for development. Founder of the Upper Keys Citizens Association, Johnson worked to ensure that the hammocks would remain as both a haven for native wildlife and an essential buffer for fragile offshore habitats.
Once you’ve had your fill of the island’s lush trails, drive another hour to your final stop of the trip, Curry Hammock State Park. Once belonging to the Curry family, it was deeded to the state by Lamar Louise Curry, a local teacher and lover of the environment. Her love of conservation is evident in every corner of the park, including the shaded mangroves that welcome paddlers and the shallow seagrass beds that are perfect for snorkeling.
When night rolls around, pitch a tent at the park’s campground or enjoy sleeping under the stars, and reminisce on another wonderful road trip.