Having contemplated this admirable grove, I proceeded towards the shrubberies on the banks of the river, and though it was now late in December, the aromatic groves appeared in full bloom.William Bartram
South of Fruit Cove, FL is a town called Switzerland. As SR-13 edges closer to the St. Johns River, the pines fade away and are replaced with magnolias, maples, and oaks. This section of Florida was famously mapped and explored by William Bartram, an 18th century naturalist that explored what were at the time the southern most of the 13 colonies along the coast. His travels included what is now Florida, occupied by Spain at the time. After 3 days sailing from what is now downtown Jacksonville, he arrived in Switzerland. This area was part of a plantation owned by a Swiss business man. Nowadays this section is called Alpine Grove.
St. John’s county now owns this piece of land and has opened it as a public park. Work remains to restore a few of buildings on the property, but it is still a beautiful area to walk. At the entrance on SR-13 lies the first parking lot, a small butterfly garden, and a trail head. One can continue down the road to the next parking lot to avoid walking to the river. Along the way, orange trees have been planted – reminiscent of the original plantation and the citrus that was harvested here. The trail follows a small ravine that flows into the St. Johns. At the end of the park is another garden, an open area, and a dock.