Imagine kicking back in a hammock set high on a stargazer platform in an open pine savannah. The sound of water wafts up from below and the night sky above is littered with stars. It is a moment that Coldwater Gardens, an eco-resort north of Pensacola, Florida, goes out of its way to create.
Beyond the stargazer platform, which was built for tent campers and has a private fire pit and hammock chairs, guests come to Coldwater Gardens to bask in the tranquility of the 385 acres of gardens, orchards, and wetlands set along a creek that runs through the property.
The vibe is calm, food is grown on-site, and the lodging is spectacular — and varied. Guests can choose between climate-controlled cabins, cabanas, and tiny houses, or book a night above ground on the stargazer platform, in a modern tree house, or in one of the stilted canopy cottages. A series of glamping tents round out the lodging offerings.
And while there are plenty of places to lay your head — from basic tent sites to a tree house in a magnolia canopy — the real draw of Coldwater Gardens is the gardens themselves. The property is tucked in the pine forests and wetlands outside the historic city of Milton, one hour north of Pensacola. Five acres are dedicated to the cultivation of fresh fruit, veggies, and honey, with special attention given to the flora, which is selected to support local and migratory butterflies. An aquaponics system uses koi fish to fertilize the plant beds in one of Coldwater’s greenhouses, and there’s a chicken coop and bunnies galore.
Beyond providing each guest with a relaxing, tranquil experience, Coldwater’s mission is to restore and rebuild the property’s ecosystem, thereby making the rivers, bays, bayous, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, cleaner and more abundant.
In addition to peeping Coldwater Gardens’ restorative work — from the apiary to the aquaponic greenhouse — guests can cruise the property’s seven miles of hiking and biking trails or visit one of the four sandbar beaches that run along the creek, which is ripe for swimming, tubing, and kayaking. There’s also fishing and frequent sightings of white-tailed deer.
After you’ve spent enough time exploring the property, you can check out the neighboring Blackwater River State Forest or visit the butterfly garden at the Panhandle Butterfly House in Milton. The notoriously fine sand and calm waters of Navarre Beach are an hour’s drive to the south.
If you happen to visit over the holidays, you can spend Christmas at Holland Farms in Milton, which boasts a train and hayride to visit Santa at the “North Pole” — Florida style. Spring visitors can check out The Strawberry Farm in Milton, which has u-pick strawberries for $3 a container.
A night at Coldwater Gardens starts at $65 for a tent site, $130 for a glamping tent, and $240 for a night in the tree house.
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published 2023-11-05 00:33:22