Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark just north of Lake Wales that I had wanted to visit for some time but for all the wrong reasons. I was thinking only of blossoming flowers, numerous bird species and the famous singing tower.
It turns out I could spend all day just in the very spacious Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden which was filled with gorgeous natural elements. Never mind the kids! It was so beautifully and thoughtfully created that there was something to please your senses everywhere you looked. The space included huge trees, gently rolling slopes, sprinkly water fountains, a painting and artwork display area, a pleasant (not eardrum-piercing, brain-rattling) musical space, a rock word garden, a stage with dress-up costumes galore, unique climbing structures, winding paths… It was wonderfully designed and exceptionally engaging, down to the creative details beneath your feet.
Dang, I hope the people in this area know they are very lucky to have this in their back yard! I might be a little envious. This truly is a space for all ages. My teen was busy in the rock garden for ages while my 5-year-old painted to her heart’s content and my boys climbed and balanced and climbed some more.
Once we extracted the kids – and ourselves – from the children’s area, we headed off on some of the many lovely trails that meander through the site. My knowledge of plants is minimal – I just know I can kill them alarmingly quickly – but you don’t need to know the Latin names of the foliage to appreciate the beauty here! We strolled through the Wild Garden, the Edible Garden, the Endangered Plant Garden and the Pollinator Garden, which, naturally, was the bee’s knees.
After a pleasant lunch at the Blue Palmetto Café we headed to the Pinewood Estate. This 1932 Mediterranean-style home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for good reason: you feel as if you’ve gone back in time the moment you step over the threshold. Throughout the 20 rooms of the mansion, you’ll see the furnishings and décor of the period. When we were there, they had a challenge for the kids to try to spot a small stuffed squirrel in each of the rooms, which was a helpful game to keep kids engaged and eagerly looking around. Well played, Bok Tower people!
Finally, we headed toward the Singing Tower, the beautiful pink marble and coquina tower for which Bok Tower Gardens is so well-known. The carillon bells concert played in Bok Tower itself was lovely to listen to. We were fortunate that when we were there, there was a live (not recorded) concert played by talented Belgian carillonneur Geert D’hollander. After the concert, he exited the tower and was happy to answer questions from the public, including my daughter, and was very friendly. We then fed the koi fish in the moat around the tower.
The grave of Edward Bok lies in front of the Tower’s ornate golden door.
We sat on a bench with a view of the tower while the children ran, chased and tumbled down the slopes of the green grassy hills overlooking the town of Lake Wales. A wedding took place on the hilltop while we were there and we could see why it was their chosen site for such a momentous occasion. The setting is simply beautiful. This hilltop sits 298 feet above sea level (I know, but that’s impressive in Florida) and Edward Bok wanted to retain its beauty and create a bird sanctuary. I’d say he succeeded.
There are many massive and mature oak trees on the property. This apparently lends itself well to brothers gleefully playing pranks on their older sister who only wanted to feel the cool green grass on her bare feet as she ran down the hill…
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Bok Tower Gardens and the kids have asked to go back! I’m sure we will make that happen.
In the words of Edward Bok:
“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” ~ Edward W. Bok