Bok Tower Gardens: Discover a Serene Retreat

Written by Kali Todd

Budget Travel Guides & Tips

July 9, 2023

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Bok Tower Gardens promises a serene and noteworthy experience for visitors looking to escape from the bustling city. Situated on Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in Florida at 295 feet, is a garden sanctuary spanning over 250 acres. This site provides visitors with a fun and exciting fusion of botanical wonders and architectural grandeur with the iconic Singing Tower, a neo-Gothic masterpiece, at its heart.


Bok Tower

Bok Tower
Bok Tower

Bok Tower soars 205 feet into the sky, housing a 60-bell carillon that plays enchanting melodies throughout the day. Edward W. Bok, a Dutch immigrant, funded the impressive tower and grounds in 1929, intending to create a sanctuary for people and animals alike. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., whose father designed Central Park, made the vision come to life.

Bok’s childhood inspired the creation of Bok Tower with singing towers being common in his home country of the Netherlands. Bells have a historical significance, with calling people to church and sounding alarms in medieval times. As more bells were added, the medieval watchtowers morphed into “singing towers,” and the carillon instrument was born. 

The largest bell of 60 in Bok Tower is the Bourdon, weighing 22,400 pounds, while the smallest bell in the lineup is a mere 16 pounds. At the time of creation, the 60-bell lineup was the heaviest in the world at over 123,500 pounds or nearly 62 tons. A wide array of music can be played on the carillon, which has an impressive five-octave range when most can only play four. The carillon has a large keyboard, known as a clavier. The carillonneur uses both their hands and feet to play. Every key is connected by cables and levers to the clapper of a bell. The bells are stationary, only the clappers move via the force exerted on the keyboard.

Although daily visitors cannot go into Bok Tower, the views from the garden are stunning. Bok Tower is created from coquina and Georgia marble. Coquina is a Florida limestone made of ancient seashells bonded together. The Spanish used this type of stone in 1695 to build the Castillo de San Marcos in Saint Augustine, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. 

Garden and Nature Preserve

Window by the Pond
Window by the Pond

As you step into the Olmsted Garden, captivating natural wonders unfurl. Meandering pathways lead through meticulously manicured gardens, showcasing a diverse collection of native Florida plants, vibrant flowers, and serene water features. Seasonal blooms keep the garden in full color – with azaleas and camellias in the spring and bromeliads in the summer.

The Pine Ridge Nature Preserve, a 126-acre sanctuary within the gardens, offers an opportunity to explore Florida’s unique ecosystems. Wander along the elevated boardwalks, immerse yourself in the beauty of wetlands, and spot various wildlife species, including the threatened gopher tortoise, alligators, and 126 species of birds that call the gardens home. 

Bok Tower began its Rare Plan Conservation program in 1986, conserving Florida’s rarest plants through research, habitat restoration, plant rescues, and population introductions throughout the state. Bok Tower Gardens participates in The Center for Plant Conservation, where more than 1,500 of North America’s most at-risk native plant species are showcased through its network of public gardens.

Hammock Hollow

    Hammock Hollow is a 3-acre garden dedicated to children, encouraging nature play with garden spaces and playground areas. This children’s areas includes water features and large playground areas in shaded areas, making it the perfect outdoor spot during the summer heat.

      Historical Estate

        El Retiro's Garden
        El Retiro's Garden

        Located within the grounds of Bok Tower Gardens, the historic Pinewood Estate is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. This 12,900-square-foot Mediterranean Revival mansion, built in the 1930s and known as El Retiro, steps back in time to the glamorous lifestyle of Florida’s early 20th-century elite. Tickets to tour the mansion are separate from Bok Tower’s regular admission. Admission to El Retiro is $7 for adults and $5 for children 5-12. Dogs are not allowed inside.

          Educational and Cultural Experiences

            Bok Tower Gardens is more than just a visually stunning destination. The garden offers a range of educational and cultural programs throughout the year, including workshops, concerts, and exhibitions. Participate in a horticultural workshop to deepen your knowledge of gardening techniques or attend a music concert to witness the harmonious symphony of the carillon and other talented musicians. Upcoming events can be found here

              Final Thoughts

                Bok Tower
                View of Bok Tower

                With its striking architecture, stunning botanical displays, and enchanting melodies, Bok Tower Gardens is a place that rejuvenates and inspires a deeper appreciation for nature’s beauty. Whether you’re an avid gardener, a history buff, or simply seeking a peaceful refuge, Bok Tower Gardens is an oasis that will leave a lasting impression. Plan your visit to witness the magic firsthand.

                Regular Admission:

                Adults: $17
                Children 5-12: $5
                Children Under 5: Free
                Dogs: $5 Each

                Hours of Operation: Sunday – Saturday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, with the last entry at 5:00 PM


                Address: 1151 Tower Blvd Lake Wales, Florida 33853

                Blue Palmetto Cafe is open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and offers breakfast and lunch items for a reasonable price.

                  Wawa Free Entry Days

                    Visitors received free entry throughout Summer 2023 on the last Thursday and Friday of each month when registering here for Wawa Summer Fun Days. Dogs were allowed on Wawa Days for $5 each. Keep an eye out for 2024 promotion days at Bok Tower, to be announced! 

                    On promotion days, I recommend arriving at opening time to enjoy the park with fewer crowds and before the intense summer heat kicks in!

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                      1. Ramatu

                        What a beautiful tower. Looks like somewhere to enjoy both nature and beauty. Thanks for sharing about it.

                      2. Meggie

                        I had no idea this existed and loved learning about it. I’m adding to my list of places to visit in Florida! Seriously a great and helpful post. Thanks!

                      3. Abhishek Biswas

                        Love the way you explain

                      4. Ruthann Paul-Suess

                        What is the price of an annual pass? Where else can you use it? List of places? TN, VA, DC, NC? Thanks

                        • Kali Todd

                          Bok Tower offers a range of Annual Passes with the lowest-cost Annual Pass being $75 for an individual. Bok Tower membership options are available here There is also an American Horticultural Society (AHS) membership option that offers access to 345+ gardens in 48 states, Canada, Cayman Islands, and the US Virgin Islands through the Reciprocal Admissions Program, with Bok Tower included, starting at $35 per year for an individual. The AHS Membership is available here! I’ve written about the fantastic AHS Membership option here!


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