Florida Guide > Days Out

Should you wish for something completely different to Mickey Mouse, Water Parks or the beach, then Bok Tower Sanctuary is the place to go. It is approximately an hour and a quarter from Kissimmee, heading along the 192 due west and then going south on the 27, and follow the signs to Bok Tower Sanctuary.

It is reported to be the highest point in Florida, some 298 feet above sea level and built on a mountain called Iron Mountain. Having arrived at the gate and paid your entrance fee, you start to wonder what you have paid for, as from the entrance gate to the parking lot it is over a mile of winding road through an orchard of orange trees and bears no resemblance to the destination.

Once you have reached the parking area it is a short walk to the Visitor Centre, where it is recommended that you visit the theatre first for a 9 minute video film before getting your map which will then show you the various paths through the sanctuary. After you have collected your map you can look around the various exhibits in the exhibit hall, and as you come out there is a table with a display of cut flower samples of all the flowers in the gardens that are in bloom that day.

The tower is some 205 feet tall, situated in the centre of a moat. It is a musical tower consisting of 60 bells of various sizes from small to that which dwarfs a man. These play small musical tunes on the half hour, and at least a couple of times during the day, the singing tower comes to life with a 30 minute concert of world class carillonneurs playing popular and classical music that can be heard around the gardens. There are seats in shade for you to sit and listen.

One of the features besides the many walks is the Window by the Pond which is a shelter where you can hear the birds and animals and see them through a glass window close up without them being disturbed. There are various photographic opportunities throughout the sanctuary, and one especially looking up the lake towards the tower, and if the two swans are about, this enhances your photograph.

Edward Bok from The Netherlands was only 6 years old when he arrived in America in 1863, and in 1922 decided to create a sanctuary for the birds and the people in Florida, as Iron Mountain was an area where he used to walk and enjoy magnificent views of the sunsets. The carillon tower was to be its centrepiece and the whole area was dedicated in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge for the American people.

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