Bird Watching Elopement at Split Oak Forest, FL
Grace and Eli eloped at Split Oak Forest in gorgeous Florida. This elopement location is different than most beach elopements we see in the sunshine state.
“When Grace and Eli decided to elope, the location decision was easy. They had hiked here while dating and loved this little park for the famous split oak tree and abundant birds that they could quietly sit and watch. Grace and Eli hiked into the Florida woods and eloped in nature surrounded at Split Oak Forest. The ceremony was beyond intimate, where the couple chose to stand in between a two hundred-year-old live oak that survived being split down the middle. The tree continues to grow, and can be reached by a 2-mile hike.” [Amy, the photographer]
Are you thinking about eloping in Florida? Check out our Florida elopement packages to get started.
Planning Your Elopement at Split Oak Forest
Planning your wedding day at Split Oak Forest is relatively simple. Amy tells us the park entrance and parking are free, and there are no permit fees. She suggests contacting the Land manager: Florida Fish & Wildlife, Phone: 407-254-6840 for more information on permits if you have a large group or a lot of equipment and props. Some important things to remember for this elopement location: There are no dogs or bicycles allowed, and equestrian access requires a special permit.
“The split oak is near the junction of the lake loop right around marker 11 and it takes about a 2.4-mile hike to get here. The hike is flat and very sandy, and goes through Hammocks and marshes that could flood during our rainy season here in Florida.
I would never hike in Florida without wearing high top socks and hiking boots. There are just tons of snakes everywhere here because they love our weather, and a few are poisonous. It’s important to have the proper boots on and stay on the trails.” [Amy, the photographer]
Directions on Getting There
Park Address: 10525 Clapp Simms Duda Rd, Orlando
Amy’s advice on getting there:
To get to the main trailhead from the Orlando International Airport, go east on SR 528 (The Beeline) for 2.5 miles to CR 15 (Narcoossee Rd) and turn south. Follow CR 15 south for 7 miles. Turn east onto Clapp-Simms-Duda Rd. Go east 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the right. This is a dead-end road, and if you kept driving and ran into the “Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge” you’ve gone too far.
There is a connecting park, Moss Park, and often people get lost and park in their parking lot to walk over to Split Oak trail. You can do this, but beware because that trail is called “The Swamp Trail”, and it heads off to the left towards Moss Park. It often floods, so don’t take it unless you are headed to Moss Park, or if you are birding in the marshes.
Florida Has More Than Just Beaches
There are different types of adventures you can go on during your elopement in Florida. Amy, the photographer, tells us she’s lived in Florida for 12 years and she still hasn’t hiked all the beautiful trails and parks.
“My favorite thing about some of the parks and trails here is that many of them start or end at the ocean or a lake or include some kind of amazing body of water. Some trails even have our beautiful crystal clear blue Florida Springs, and they are just amazing. Imagine getting in the crystal clear and clean blue water that is 70 degrees 365 days a year in your wedding dress, or kayaking in a glass-bottom kayak.
The trees here are so beautiful here too! We have gorgeous hammock trails and swamps that provide so many homes for wildlife. Many people think of palm trees when they think of Florida, but we also have 500-year-old live oak trees covered in draping Spanish Moss and it’s so romantic!” [Amy, the photographer]
Details From This Elopement
Grace and Eli made sure to include a ton of details that held a lot of meaning to them during their Split Oak Forest elopement. We love how Eli put the wedding ring in a pokemon ball, how they brought card games and chess to play together, and how they made bird watching a big part of their adventure.
“I LOVED that the couple brought their bird watching book that Grace gifted to Eli when they were dating. Eli got to the park early and wrote his vows down in his vow book on a fence post. The park had that early morning fog near the ground and you could hear it coming to life all around you with birds. Eli took out his binoculars and stood in this gorgeous field just watching and listening quietly to the birds around us. We were looking for some Bald Eagles and hawks, but we saw tons of Florida Scrub-Yay birds!” [Amy, the photographer]
The Beauty of Having Your Elopement at Split Oaks Park
Here at Wandering Weddings, we make sure to stress the importance of “leave no trace” when couples decide to elope. Amy shares with us that Slit Oaks park was created in the 1990s to provide a place for wildlife because the West Coast has brought so much tourism and land development for the thousands of people that move to Florida each year.
“Please take care of your local parks! I want this park to exist so that the couple can return 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now and play chess and watch birds together. The more websites like Wandering Weddings promotes and shares elopements in places you never thought of before like Florida, the more people will become aware and cherish and protect these areas!” [Amy, the photographer]
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Photos From This Split Oak Forest Elopement