A mere 2 hours away and centrally located between Tampa and Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark, garden and bird sanctuary in Lake Wales that's open 365 days a year.
The gardens, named for founder Edward W. Bok, sit atop Iron Mountain — a 298-foot hill affording spectacular views of Florida and dramatic sunsets.
Bok, who immigrated to America at the age of six from the Netherlands, later became a highly successful publisher, a Pullitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment.
He loved the “peace” of the area and wanted to create a permanent place of beauty and quiet. So he purchased the land and commissioned Frederick Olmsted, Jr., a landscape architect who transformed the property into a sweeping landscape of lush subtropical gardens featuring the Singing Tower housing a 60-bell carillon. Originally called Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, Bok presented the gardens as a gift to the American people in 1929 as an enduring token of his appreciation for the opportunities he had been given.
The gardens have pathways and trails surrounded by huge oaks, ferns, palms and Florida’s native flowering plants like azaleas, camelias and magnolias. There are more than 150 varieties of camellias, azaleas, nun’s orchids, irises, coral bean, snapdragons, delphiniums.
The Singing Tower is the centerpiece of the gardens next to a reflection pool that allows the water to reflect its full image. Built of pink and gray Georgia marble and Florida coquina rock, the 205-foot neo-Gothic and Art Deco Singing Tower boasts 60 bronze bells and is considered to be one of the finest carillons in the country.
The 60-bell carillon is played every day at 1 and 3 p.m. Be sure to look at the Great Brass Door and wrought iron gates. There’s also a sundial to the south side of the tower.
The Pinewood Estate, located in 8 acres of informal woodland, features a beautifully restored 1930s Mediterranean Revival mansion. It was built as a winter residence for Charles Austin Buck, an associate of the landscaper Olmsted. The 13,000-square-foot estate has a barrel-tile roof, carved doors, intricately designed iron work and period furnishings. Well worth the guided tour with docents to answer any questions.
Bok Tower Gardens is the ideal place to enjoy a picnic, but there’s also the Blue Palmetto Café that provides meals.
Bok Tower Gardens is the perfect tranquil setting to forget the hustle and bustle of daily life.
If you go
Bok Tower Gardens is located in Lake Wales, about 2 hours from Hernando Co.
Open 365 days a year from 8 a.m.– 6 p.m. Last admission is 5 p.m. The Visitor Center, Blue Palmetto Café and Tower & Garden Gift Shop are open from 9 a.m – 5 p.m. with limited hours on holidays.
Combo Admission Adults $20 – Children (5-12) $10
This ticket option includes General Admission and access to a self-guided tour of Pinewood Estate.
General Admission Adults $14 – Children (5-12) $5
Includes admission to the Gardens, Pine Ridge Nature Trail, Preserve Trail and the Visitor Center complex.