Grand Boulevard is one of South Walton’s must-see destinations. Locals and visitors alike love the architecture, restaurants and shops and fabulous events hosted by the Town Center each year. But what many people do not know, is that right across US98 is one of South Walton’s lesser-known treasures: The Coffeen Nature Preserve. The 210-acre protected land trust is not only a pristine example of the natural beauty of the Emerald Coast, but it is also home to some of the coolest stories and artifacts of the Second World War.
How many people drive by each day and have no idea?
Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Emerald Coast Parkway, Coffeen is home to hiking trails, a coastal dune lake, native plants and animals and much much more. The land was originally purchased by the Bushnell family prior to WWII. During the war, the Army/Air Corp leased the land from the family for a secret military operation. It was here that they tested and developed the JB-2 missile to combat the German “buzz bombs.”
You can actually walk the trails in Coffeen and trace the old missile launcher tracks on foot or explore the bunkers first hand. Some of the old housing structures from that era are still standing and are equally beautiful and fascinating.
After the war, the preserve property was returned to the owners, and soon after that an incorporated partnership was formed with the sole purpose of preserving the land and lifestyle for generations to come.
Dorothy Coffeen, a storied woman of conviction and panache, was integral to the success of the Coffeen Nature Preserve and Four Mile Village. In my opinion, if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t be enjoying Coffeen today. She firmly believed that the land should stay as untouched as possible: “A place of peace and quiet and a haven for all God’s creatures. It is a place where Nature can take precedence over the superficial, and where those who can appreciate Nature in her various moods and forms can find a haven; where all of God’s small creatures can live their livers without molestation, suffering neither man’s indifference nor pursuit.” – Dorothy Coffeen, 1968
Coffeen and Four Mile Village are open to the public through scheduled reservations. So, do yourself a favor and make a reservation – (850) 622-3700 or click here for more information. Caretakers Susan and Bruce Paladini are wonderful and welcoming people who truly believe in the mission of Coffeen. Susan has great stories to tell and is a wonderful host and tour guide.
Coffeen is a site to see – add it to your “South Walton Bucket List” and check it out as soon as you can!