Bok Tower Gardens.
Being quite a
way down (South) the I27 near Cypress Gardens, Bok Tower Gardens aren't really on the
'theme park' circuit, but well worth a visit if you're into botanical gardens or
just fancy a 'chill out' day.....
Approached via a circuitous route through fragrant orange groves, they have been built on the highest spot in Florida (Iron Mountain - a whole 295 feet above sea level !!) & are some of the most beautiful & well kept gardens we have encountered. Although the focus is on the horticulture with many unusual plants, wildlife is positively encouraged. There is a very cleverly designed lookout with a large glass window overlooking a natural lake. The (volunteer) staff lay out various varieties of bird food to attract the locals. We saw a woodpecker feeding from a nut feeder suspended from a tree over one path & hyper squirrels are everywhere...
Not exactly a taxing walk up shallow meandering paths through various differing areas of planting to the 'summit' but, as Florida generally is so flat, the views over the surrounding area is pretty extensive...
For those with walking difficulties, we are pretty certain that it's possible to arrange transportation around the grounds on a golf cart - but please check !!!
Bok Tower "the singing tower" itself is the centerpiece of the gardens, it was built in the late 1920s in an art deco style. Fronted by a koi lake & surrounded by ornate wrought ironwork, the lower levels are encased in marble & decorated with many sculptures.
" Besides various flowers and trees, you can find cranes, herons, eagles, seahorses, jellyfish, fin fish, pelicans, flamingos, geese, swans, fox, storks, tortoise, hare, baboons, Adam and Eve, and the serpent."
The brass door is a work of art in it's own right.
"The door depicts the Book of Genesis, starting with the creation of light and ending with Adam and Eve being ousted from the Garden of Eden."
It is also one of the largest carillons in the world with 60 bells, the sound emanating from a beautiful pierced frieze of ceramic tile. There are two live concerts daily at 1 & 3pm.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed entry to the tower itself (there being no emergency exit) but there is an excellent visitor centre with a small cinema presentation which explains most things & the friendly staff are very willing to chat. We found an extremely well stocked & reasonably priced shop selling not only the usual souvenirs but a wide range of plants & gardening accessories. We can thoroughly recommend the restaurant - the food was excellent !
Quotes in green taken from the Bok Tower Gardens Website which is very informative & well worth a visit...