Florida Guide > Places to Visit
Historic Bok Sanctuary
Historic Bok Sanctuary is described in their leaflet as “A Remarkable Experience that Will Elevate Your Mind and Spirit” and I think that this sums it up perfectly. Situated in Lake Wales, easily reached from the theme parks and attractions of Orlando, it sits atop Florida’s highest point.
We spent a leisurely three hours walking around the gardens, along the ¾ mile preserve trail, visiting the tower and looking around the exhibit hall and museum. The best place to start your visit is at the Education and Visitor Center where you can view a nine-minute orientation film in the theatre, pick up maps and ask any questions that you may have.
Just as we arrived a group tour of the gardens was about to commence but we decided that we would rather go at our own pace and look around ourselves. We started with the Exhibit Hall and Museum which gives you a historical perspective on the life of the founder, Edward W Bok, followed by a walk along the Pine Ridge Preserve Trail. Here you will find wildlife and rare plant species found nowhere else in the world. It was very peaceful and we seemed to be the only two people on the trail that day.
After the trail we wandered around the gardens. Over a thousand plant types where paths meander through open spaces with picturesque vistas of the Tower and the Florida countryside. One of the most famous vistas is the “Reflection Pool” where the singing tower is mirrored in the water and makes for a wonderful photograph. We visited the White Garden, a popular spot for weddings, the Round Garden, the Window by the Pond and the Exedra and Sunset Overlook. At 298 feet above sea level this is the highest point in Florida. The view looks west over land that was the floor of a shallow sea two million years ago.
We ended our tour at the carillon tower. At 205 feet, it is a National Historic Landmark and it certainly is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved towers that we have ever seen. The tower was built to house the carillon and serve as a centrepiece for the gardens. Although the tower is not open to the public you can view a video tour in the Visitor Centre. It was built between 1927 and 1928 with brick and an outer facing of pink and grey marble and Florida coquina, which is a limestone of shell and coral fragments. There are numerous benches around the base of the tower where you can sit and marvel at this stunning structure.
The day we visited there were two recitals at 1pm and another at 3pm. The 60-bell carillon is played like a piano but instead of using your fingers, the keys are struck with a half closed hand. The larger bells are connected to foot pedals. If you wish to see the carillon being played, although you cannot go into the tower as I mentioned earlier, you can actually watch a live performance on a video monitor just behind the Japanese lantern, near the tower.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Historic Bok Sanctuary and hope one day to visit again. Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for children (ages 5 – 12).
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