Florida Guide > Places to Visit
Bok Tower Gardens
If you drive from Davenport to Miami on US highway 27, look to the left as you approach the town of Lake Wales. On the distant ridge – the highest hill in the peninsula of Florida - you will see a prominent tower, known as Bok Tower. Surrounding the tower are the Bok Tower Gardens.
The gardens make a relaxing place to spend an afternoon, a pleasant change from theme parks and shopping. There you will find almost 250 acres of gardens, with shady walks among subtropical plants, splashes of spectacular colour and views of the surrounding country.
The gardens were created in the 1920s by a Dutch-born philanthropist, Edward Bok, who made his money in publishing. The designer was a well-known landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Bok is buried in the gardens at the foot of Bok Tower.
Eight acres of the gardens are set aside for the Pinewood Estate, surrounding a 20 room mansion built in the 1930s, considered one of the finest Mediterranean style houses in Florida.
Bok Tower itself is 205 feet tall. It contains a carillon of 60 bells, and every day at 1 pm and 3 pm you can listen to a half-hour concert of carillon music. The tower is not open to the general public, but after the concerts you can meet the carillonneur. The tower reflected in the Reflecting Pool makes a great photo.
Any time of year is a good time to visit Bok Tower Gardens. Two special times are spring, when the azaleas are in flower, and between Thanksgiving and the New Year, when the Pinewood Estate historic home is decorated for Christmas.
The gardens are a good place for birds and butterflies. Over 100 species of birds have been observed here. A good spot for wildlife is an observatory known as the Window by the Pond. There is also a short walking trail through the Pine Ridge Nature Reserve, where you can find gopher tortoises.
The gardens are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The visitor centre is open from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission to the gardens costs $10 (AAA members $8). There is an additional charge for guided tours of the Pinewood Estate historic home.
To reach the gardens take US 27 for about 20 miles south of I-4 Junction 55. Turn left off US 27 about a mile past Eagle Ridge Mall, take Mountain Lake Cutoff Road, turn right on State Road 17 for half a mile, then left on route 17A. The entrance is on the left about a mile along 17A.
Author: Martin and Susan Hockey
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