Bok Tower glimmers in the central Florida sunlight and is visible from every direction for miles and miles. It sits atop Iron Mountain, one of the highest geographical points in Florida peninsula. The tower was designed and constructed in the 1920’s. Edward Bok imagined a beautiful landscape for people to enjoy and commissioned famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (the Biltmore Estate, the White House, Jefferson Memorial). Today, the grounds surrounding the awe-inspiring tower are home to magnificent gardens with winding paths and walking trails that lend themselves to the enjoyment of the outdoors. The tower is also a “hot spot” for various birds and wildlife. The area itself, being one of a few that remained above water when Florida was long ago below sea level, hosts a variety of unique plant and animal species.
I went in the late afternoon and was lucky to find very few people. There is a wonderful cafe at the visitor center that I really enjoy, so I grabbed myself a yummy tropical salad and a grapefruit beer and soaked up some sun before beginning my walk through the gardens. Much of the grounds have been re-landscaped in the past year. There are new walkways, gardens, open areas, and even a shuttle to take you straight to the tower. I headed down the main path and began my adventure to the tower!
As I wandered through the paths, I stopped by the “Window By The Pond” – a cabin structure that features a large window overlooking a pond where you can sit and observe wildlife and marine life. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see when I went, but it was very evident that the pond area had been redone to look even nicer than before. If there’s one thing that’s true about Bok Tower Gardens, it’s how beautiful it all is! From there I made my way to the Pinewood Estate, a stunningly gorgeous property that is open to self-guided tours. Though I didn’t do the tour on this particular day, I did it previously over the holidays when the estate was decorated and it was truly picture-perfect. It’s a Mediterranean-style building and is surrounded by a beautiful sloping lawn, citrus trees, gardens, and a pond. It’s one of my favorite spots at Bok Tower and is a perfect place to bring a picnic lunch!
After the estate, I headed toward the tower itself. The tower raises up 205 feet into the air, perched atop one of the highest points in Florida to begin with. There are eight levels within the neo-Gothic tower with just as much to see both inside and out (though the inside is only opened on rare occasions for exclusive members). The tower features colorful tiles, a brass door, hand-wrought gates, a “moat,” and a sun dial depicting the zodiac. Large koi fish live in the water surrounding the tower. I hung around for a bit watching them and feeding them (fish food is available on sight) and just really enjoyed the views. There is also a fantastic view overlooking the “flatlands” of Florida from the tower. There were a couple people having photos taken here – it’s so picturesque! The tower houses a carillon, a large structure of at least 23 bells. Live performances are given throughout the day in certain parts of the year, or else visitors can listen to the recordings that play periodically from the tower.
On the way out, I meandered through some more of the gardens and even spotted a notable palm tree – one that was planted by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929. The property really is full of little historic gems like this one. I really just love exploring the grounds and finding little new things each time – it’s part of the fun!
Bok Tower is certainly one of central Florida’s most notable landmarks, but is often overlooked as people tend to visit the theme parks and larger attractions. If it’s quiet and beauty you’re after, though, Bok Tower is what you want! Spend the day, relax, and enjoy the incredible views 🙂