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Florida Guide > Days Out

Now, Historic Bok Sanctuary was hardly on our radar for a visit. It had always conjured up thoughts of somewhere serene, with spiritual or religious connotations that didn’t really fit, or appeal as part of a fun holiday around the Orlando metropolitan area. We had been told on a few occasions, by friends and acquaintances that it really was worth a day out, not least because it claimed to be the highest point in Florida, so we decided to give it a try.

The Sanctuary is located in Lake Wales some twenty five miles south of junction fifty five on Interstate four, just off US27 and takes about an hour to get there from Orlando.

By way of a brief history Edward Bok was a Dutch immigrant who settled in America at six years old. Although he came from a very poor background he worked hard and ultimately became successful as an award-winning author. Then in 1922 he decided to create a sanctuary in Florida for the enjoyment and enrichment of all who visited.

He was inspired by the beauty of the area around Lake Wales and, in particular, a peninsular known as ‘Iron Mountain’ which is claimed to be the highest point in the State at two hundred and ninety eight feet. Bok commissioned America’s most famous landscape architect of the time, Frederick Law Olmstead, to transform the area into a sanctuary that would ‘touch the soul with its beauty and quiet’

As the transformation continued Bok decided the add a centrepiece to the garden by way of a ‘singing tower’ which would play carillon bell music and in 1929 the project was completed with the dedication ceremony performed by the President of the day, Calvin Coolidge.

Upon arrival there is ample car parking and general admission is ten dollars per person. The sanctuary is effectively split into four distinct areas, which comprise the Gardens, the Bell Tower, the Pinewood Estate and the Pinewood Preserve Nature Trail.

Before attempting to plan your visit we would heartily recommend you stop off at the Visitor Center where a short informative film in the Orientation Theatre will provide not only a greater insight into Edward Bok’s life but also a pictorial guide to the Sanctuary’s flora and fauna.

As well as the theatre, you will find within the confines of the Visitor Center, a café, a gift and bookshop, restrooms and an information hall manned by the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet.

This really is one of Florida’s hidden gems and we were so pleased we had made the time available to visit…. Don’t miss it! !

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 16 October 2010
Viewed 3473 times since 16 October 2010.

The following photos have been submitted by our villa owners for this article.

Bok Tower reflected in the lake

The 205-ft Carillon tower.

Magnificent blooms

Bok garden feature
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