Historic Bok Sanctuary Gardens

Florida Guide > Days Out

Historic Bok Sanctuary located just off US27 at Lake Wales is well worth a visit at any time of year. There are a number of separate areas of interest here, not least the Carillon Bell Tower and the Pinewood Estate but for the purpose of this article we are going to focus our attention on the gardens.

In the early 1920’s Edward Bok commissioned Frederick Olmstead a leading landscape architect of his time to design and transform the area, now known as the Historic Bok Sanctuary into a haven of peace and tranquillity for all to enjoy.

Today the meandering gardens are testament to Olmstead’s achievements and create a dazzling backdrop of colour at all times of the year. As well as the flowers in bloom, (specimens of which can be found considerately labelled outside the Visitor Center before you venture into the gardens) there are shady nooks and plenty of resting places from where to enjoy and appreciate the serenity of the environment.

One of the trails leads to the ‘Window by the Pond’, which is the perfect place to observe the Sanctuary’s wildlife in its natural habitat. The small wooden hut has a number of benches that seat about twenty people, all facing a large picture window overlooking a typical Florida wetland. Patience is a prerequisite but, if lucky, visitors may catch a glimpse of an alligator, gopher turtle or a rare Florida Scrub Jay. This area is also home to lots of flying insects, so if you are susceptible to bites, you have been warned.

The main trail leads up a gentle incline in the direction of the bell tower where the ‘White Garden, a popular spot for wedding photographs, was in full bloom. The ‘Reflection Pool’ just a little further on lived up to its name with the Carillon Tower serenely mirrored in its still waters.

‘Sunset Overlook’ the highest point in Florida at two hundred and ninety eight was where Edward Bok’s dream and inspiration first began, and has wonderful westward vistas over to the Gulf of Mexico. During the fall the Sanctuary plays host to the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and presents an extravaganza of pop and light classics as the sun goes down beyond the horizon.

There are surprises at every turn, for example over fifty varieties of exotic butterflies are attracted to the specially planted areas and there is a stone lantern with dove carvings which was a gift from the Japanese as a tribute to Edward Bok’s interest in world peace.

This is a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours and comes highly recommended.

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