Aside from beaches and theme parks, Florida has so many beautiful gardens that I forever discover incredible new ones. With the state’s favorable year-round temperatures, flowers and trees thrive, making them an ideal location for impressive gardens. As a travel writer, I have seen many amazing attractions. I love botanical gardens all the time, so I visit a lot of them. Here are eight of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen in Florida.
1. Naples Botanical Garden, Naples
In the Botanical Garden of Naples you will find winding paths with surprises at every turn. You’ll admire the waterfall, which is in a secluded part of the park that’s laden with bromeliads, and the showy blooms around it. The park is also within easy walking distance.
A real treat awaits you in Kapnick’s Caribbean Garden that you will smell long before you arrive. The seductive aroma of the frangipani is intoxicating – a little piece of wonderland. You can also see tropical fruits and vegetables here. This part of the Botanical Garden is why the Botanical Garden of Naples is my favorite and the unusual themed gardens, including the Brazilian and Asian gardens, really make this place stand out.
Don’t miss the excellent gift shop full of housewares, glassware, gourmet foods and plants to take home and grow.
Pro tip: On Sunday and Tuesday mornings, visitors to the Botanical Garden of Naples can bring their four-legged friends.
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2. Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
The peaceful Bok Tower Gardens are best known for their 20-meter-high tower of carillon bells played by a living carillon. But these simple, elegant and very beautiful gardens offer a lot more than that. In order to fulfill the beautiful vision of namesake Edward Bok for the room, there are quiet places to sit and reflect or meditate on the 250 hectare property. There is a cart in front of the garden with the seasonal flowers, which you will see in full bloom that day. I found it helped me identify the flowers that I saw.
The space is also a bird sanctuary and is home to the Pinewood Estate, an elegant 20-room Mediterranean mansion – another reason to explore this peaceful place. At Christmas time, the mansion and the property are dressed in Christmas decorations. It is spectacular!
The Bok Tower Gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., one of the most famous landscape architects in the world. Olmsted also worked on design projects on the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial, and the White House grounds.
Pro tip: Enjoy a delicious chicken and blueberry salad or a turkey and smoked Gouda sandwich at the Blue Palmetto Cafe, the hotel’s restaurant.
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3. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the former home of Marie Selby and her husband William, is a lesser-known 15 acre Florida garden gem that you won’t want to be without. I was blown away by the orchid collection in Marie Selby with more than 6,000 picturesque beauties. The bromeliad gardens are rich and stately, while the live plant collection is some of the best in the world. Don’t miss Banyan Grove, great for stunning photo ops.
This garden should take about 2 hours; An audio tour is available. Save time for the butterfly garden, which helped restore the local population, and the koi pond, possibly the most picturesque spot on the property.
Pro tip: Lunch at Selby House Cafe, where the tropical chicken salad and Catalan tuna bowl are delicious choices. Save space for a lemon and rosemary bar.
4. McKee Botanical Garden, Vero Beach
Waldo E. Sexton, an eccentric and artistic native of Vero Beach, created the beautiful McKee Botanical Garden, a subtropical paradise on Florida’s Treasure Coast. It’s filled with native Florida plants and trees and some rare exotic species. Living part-time in Boquete, Panama, I was shocked to see shampoo ginger plants at McKee. These cost a lot of money to nail salons in cities around the world.
You will love the lily ponds and be impressed by the huge hall built around a huge table made from a single tropical wood panel. The Spanish outdoor kitchen is also an architectural marvel.
McKee is 18 acres and is manageable for everyone. The temporary art exhibits are well worth exploring, and there are beautiful statues and artwork spread across the property. Keep your eyes open for hidden treasures. McKee is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pro tip: Admission is only $ 1 on customer review days.
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5. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville
There are 26 different gardens within the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. This beautiful 62 acre attraction sits on a lake and is home to the most incredible bamboo forest I’ve seen in Florida. All you need to do is snap a photo in the bamboo garden, Florida’s largest public collection and the perfect background for a social media profile picture.
Kanapaha is another great place to see picturesque water lilies and lotus flowers. In other gardens there are conifers, roses, butterflies, azaleas, ginger, potted plants, herbs, hummingbirds and much more. Don’t miss the maze, a unique feature of the property.
This is definitely one of the best and most beautiful gardens in Florida.
6. Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee
Oodles made from delicate, colorful, beautiful camellias and azaleas can be seen in the 1,176-acre Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. Come in late fall to see them bloom under the live oak roof and along the brick-lined walkways.
Maclay, a cotton plantation winery quail hunting area, is a botanical and architectural masterpiece. There is also a Florida state park that offers fishing, kayaking, and swimming. It contains several historic sites and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park is home to a 1909 house that you can tour, as well as other attractions, including an amazing reflective pool (with great photo ops!) And the many secret gardens of the Maclay Winter House.
7. Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens on Jacksonville’s breathtaking Saint Johns River offers beautiful views of the Fuller Warren Bridge, stunning formal gardens, and an outstanding art museum rolled into one. It’s the largest visual arts venue in Florida, but the gardens are my favorite part. They contain rare horticultural pieces and are adorned with sculptures, fountains, arbors, and reflective pools.
The English Garden is my favorite, a rarity in Florida. Delicate flowers protrude from under the canopy of living oaks. It’s a fascinating sight that’s as pretty as a famous painting. The jewel of Cummer Gardens, however, is the Italian Garden, where you’ll find two gorgeous reflective pools and Italian marble garden ornaments.
Pro tip: You can experience an interactive garden tour from the comfort of your own home on the Cummer Museum website.
8. Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Miami Beach
The Miami Beach Botanical Garden is an urban green space with incredible plants and trees, all of which are carefully labeled. This 2.6 acre garden is very walkable and absolutely free – a great way to spend an hour in nature. You will be amazed at the giant milkweed herb, a beautiful plant that I immediately wanted to take home with me and plant in my own garden.
The gardens here feature native, edible, and Japanese plants with koi ponds and fountains that dot the landscape. There are also at least 100 types of palm trees. Expect kapok, silk, and banyan trees. Crepe myrtle; Magnolias; Frangipani flowers; and a lot of bamboo. The Japanese bridge is an excellent place for pictures.
Pro tip: A few blocks away is Miami’s famous open-air pedestrian mall on Lincoln Road, which is perfect for shopping, dining, and people-watching.
As a college-aged southern girl, I went to Vero Beach’s Indian River Garden Club. Garden clubs were all the rage in central and south Florida. It was a pleasure to go on annual excursions to see private gardens. If you currently live in Florida or are considering moving there, make sure to check out the local gardening clubs – they perform many civic duties and go a long way towards beautifying the state.