Florida is famous for its coastal cities, beaches and golf course communities. But the central part of the state has its share of worthy attractions also. One of the most interesting and unique is the Bok Tower and Gardens, near the city of Lake Wales, Fla.
Built by Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant who had a successful career as an author and magazine publisher, the Bok Tower and Garden opened in 1929 as his gift to America. Bok, the grandfather of a Harvard University president, is buried on the site.
The large grounds of the former Bok Estate house a 20 room Mediterranean-style mansion named Pinewood, extensive gardens and trail and the impressive neo-gothic and art deco Singing Tower. The tower is a marble and coquina structure that houses a rare 60-bell carillon that offers concerts daily. Also on the grounds are a visitor center, a restaurant and gift shop.
The tower lies atop Iron Mountain, on the second highest point in Florida on the Lake Wales Ridge, a 150-mile-long sand ridge that was an island when the rest of Florida was under water eons ago, allowing distinctive flora and fauna to flourish there that are worth seeking out. The base of the beautiful 205 foot tall tower is at 298 feet above sea level, making the tower visible for miles on the surrounding flatlands on either side of the ridge.
The lush gardens surrounding the tower were designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Paved trails wind throughout the gardens and to and from the tower.
Admission is $15 and well worth it.
Before you go
• Bok Tower can be reached by highway.
• By air, the nearest major airport is Orlando International (MCO) and 57 miles away. Tampa International (TPA) is 74 miles away.
• By train, Amtrak stops in Lakeland, 32 miles away and in Tampa 64 miles away.
• By car, Bok Tower is south of Interstate 4 and is close to U.S. 27 and 17 and Florida 60.
• Cruise ships sail from Tampa, 66 miles to the port and Port Canaveral, 99 miles away.
For a short visit
• A walk through the gardens and around the Singing Tower, especially at carillon concert time.
• A visit to nearby Lake Wales and/or Winter Haven, interesting Florida small towns.
• A walk along the Pine Ridge Nature Preserve and Trails to experience the flora and fauna of the Lake Wales Ridge.
For a longer visit
• The Legoland theme park at nearby Cypress Gardens.
• The impressive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Tours are available. (bit.ly/2s6cSMQ)
• Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo at River Ranch (a real Florida dude ranch).
• Some of the many theme parks at Orlando.
• The many attractions in and around Tampa Bay.
At a glance
• Over 50 advantages: Beautiful music and great views make this a good place to relax.
• Mobility level: Low, with some moderate hills.
• When to go: Anytime. Winter has the most pleasant weather and the biggest crowds. Florida summers are hot and sticky. November and March are great times.
• Where to stay: Lake Wales, Winter Haven and nearby areas host many national chain hotels.
• Special travel interests: Carillon music, gardens.
Jeffrey Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein are publishers of Living on the Suncoast Magazine. They can be reached at email@example.com.