Florida may be known for its sandy beaches and attractions such as Disney World and the Everglades, but there is so much more to see in Florida for those who want a break from the usual tourist attractions.
These botanical beauties offer visitors a glimpse of Florida’s gorgeously diverse flora; exquisitely maintained and filled to the brim with flourishing subtropical blooms and elaborate landscape features like fountains and waterfalls, many believe they are some of the most beautiful gardens on the planet.
7 Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Located in Sarasota, this tropical paradise is 15-acres of lush greenery known especially for its collection and preservation of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants but are non-parasitic in nature). Some examples include orchids, bromeliads, and ferns. Take a stroll in the epiphyte garden and admire the waterfall and koi pond; then head over to the banyan tree grove to admire these excellent epiphytes in action, and don’t forget to check out the butterfly garden for some colorful winged critters.
- Tip: Take a guided tour to learn more about the various species or a self-guided tour with audio to explore at your leisure. There are also many benches throughout where visitors can take a break and soak in the scenery.
6 Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
This Tallahassee Park was planted almost 100 years on the grounds of the winter home of the Maclays. Though the gardens are lovely, there’s plenty of other things to do here--take a walk on the property’s nature trails; kayak, paddleboard, or swim at nearby Lake Hall; all while admiring the meticulously curated landscape burgeoning with gardens and flowers.
- Tip: The Maclay house is open for tours from January-April. Built in 1909, the house is furnished with period-appropriate furniture and contains many interpretive exhibits.
5 Bok Tower Gardens
Developed originally as a bird sanctuary by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward W. Bok, these Lake Wales gardens contain a lovely combination of both native and exotic plants. Designed by well-known landscape designer and wildlife conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the plants are intended to be a food source for migrating birds.
- Tip: Be sure to check out The Singing Tower at the top of Iron Mountain. This 205-foot structure is a marvel of Gothic Revival and Art Deco design and contains a 60-bell carillon that plays twice daily.
4 McKee Botanical Gardens
Want to see one of the largest collections of waterlilies in the state of Florida? Then be sure to visit Vero Beach and check out the McKee Botanical Garden. Open since 1932, these gardens contain an astounding 10,000 plants (both native and tropical alike).
- Tip: There are many historical buildings to explore at the gardens, including the Hall of Giants, a unique structure that was built to house the world’s largest table—made from a single piece of mahogany.
3 Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
The Cummer Gardens in Jacksonville are over 100 years old, and were designed by several famous landscape artists including Thomas Meehan & Sons, known for creating garden plans for Hyde Park and the Museum of Art in Jacksonville, among others. The museum was founded in 1961 and consists of art collections from Ninah Cummer, whose passion was cultivating the lovely gardens until her death. Though the gardens were damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, they have since been accurately restored to their former glory.
- Tip: While the gardens are stunning, there are also many notable architectural features throughout, including Ninah Cummer’s collection of antique ornaments; fountains and reflecting pools; and numerous sculptures.
2 Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
The 62-acre Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville houses the state’s largest public display of bamboo, but that’s not all. It also boasts the largest herb garden in the Southeastern U.S. and is home to many lovely species such as Victorian water lilies. Signature plants include Asian snake arums and camellias.
- Tip: Kanapaha hosts Moonlight Walks where visitors can enjoy the illuminated paths and gardens; lit by special laser lights and over a thousand luminaries, these special events are a unique way to experience these gorgeous gardens.
1 Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden
Located in Delray Beach, this beautiful spot was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, a noted Japanese landscape designer. The six gardens on-site represent different historical periods that range from the 9th to the 20th century. The museum also has an extensive collection of bonsai trees, one of three worldwide to be named a World Bonsai Federation Cooperation Center.
- Tip: Check out the on-site museum that showcases Japanese art and artifacts during rotating exhibits throughout the year. Past exhibitions include ‘Collecting Stories,’ a collection of mini vignettes designed to showcase the influence of Japanese visual culture through diverse perspectives and influential artists’ visions.
Florida visitors will enjoy the many diverse botanical gardens scattered throughout the Sunshine State. Horticultural enthusiasts, botany appreciators, and lovers of lush, tropical flowers, trees, and landscaping will find these diverse gardens relaxing, charming, inspiring, and well worth a visit.