Netherlands-born Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Bok – who, incidentally, was also an environmental activist and philanthropist who edited the first magazine in the world to have one million subscribers – was inspired, while taking walks to the top of Iron Mountain in 1921, to create a bird sanctuary and garden. Now the space, called Bok Tower Gardens, is home to over a hundred species of birds and is enjoyed by visitors year-round as one of Florida‘s top places for a pensive meander.
The 205-foot Gothic tower, colloquially known as “the Singing Tower,” was finished in 1929; Bok himself is buried nearby. You can take a walk on the Pine Ridge Trail (about three-quarters of a mile) and wander through the sandhill forest community, which is an endangered ecosystem. The gardens have a pretty Reflection Pool that shows off the Singing Tower, and there’s also a 30-room Mediterranean-style historic home from the 1930′s, the Pinewood Estate, that you can guide yourself through.
The carillon (sort of a cross between an organ and a bell tower) is played in half-hour concerts at 1pm and 3pm every day, but check the schedule to catch special performances, like the Moonlight Concert (January-April full moons), Under the Stars (May), and Sunset & Symphony (November).
To be honest, it’s just a nice, breezy place to sit and contemplate either the wonders of nature or your recent/upcoming life choices. Open year-round from 8am to 6pm, the Bok Tower Gardens also has the obligatory visitor center, cafe, and gift shop. It should be pointed out that, unfortunately, your doggie can’t come with you – no pets allowed. Kids can check out a Reading Backpack (for free in the visitor center) with books and a blanket to sit on.