Florida is a long, narrow peninsula which enables us to visit many destinations as a day trip – no overnight stay required. That works for us because we are spontaneous travelers for the most part. It is nice to decide on Friday to take a drive on Sunday and be greeted by something beautiful and interesting just a couple of hours away. Lake Wales is one such place. It is located in the middle of the state, about two hours from our home. There are several reasons that you might want to visit there, but our favorite is the Bok Tower Gardens and Pinewood Estate. The Gardens and Estate are open year round, with some blackout dates. Please check the schedule on their website before you go. Our favorite times to visit are at Christmas and in the Spring. Springtime offers a glorious display of azaleas and camellias while the winter draw is the fully decorated Pinewood Estate. The home was built in the 1930’s for Bethlehem Steel Executive, Charles Buck. The Mediterranean style home has distinct Latin influences throughout that reflect the owner’s interests. It is well worth a tour even when not decorated for Christmas.
The photography enthusiast will appreciate the reflective pond in front of the tower. Find just the right spot to set up your tripod and you will be rewarded with a full reflection of the tower. The photo below will give you an idea of the possibilities.
Admission is reasonable at $18 per person and you can likely find a Groupon or other discount rate through a search on the internet. Plan several hours here to fully enjoy the gardens and home. The walking trails meander throughout the estate and vary from gravel to paved paths, so sturdy walking shoes are suggested.
Pack a lunch and eat on the grounds, or enjoy something from the menu at the Blue Palmetto Cafe. As a side note, bicycles are not allowed inside the gardens.
If you happen to have your bikes with you and want to extend your trip overnight, head North to Winter Garden, which is about one hour away. There you can ride the West Orange Blossom Trail. This well marked, paved trail extends 22 miles from the Orange/Lake County line, through Killarney, Oakland, the city of Winter Garden, and downtown Apopka. We mapped a ride of about eighteen miles and took our time, enjoying several rest stops along the way. Our favorite stop was in downtown Winter Garden for a slice of pizza at the Winter Garden Pizza Company. Of course, you can skip the pizza (that would be criminal) and power ride the entire trail if that is more your thing. The full trail does not loop around, but there are sections that do. It is shaded in areas and exposed in others. Most of the trail is scenic, however, it does wind through a couple of residential and industrial areas. Take a look at the Park website here to plan your ride.
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