While visiting my mom in New Smyrna Beach, we decided to take the girls to the playground nearby. We waited for a few minutes to let the afternoon sprinkling rain pass, but it wasn't happening. So, we started driving north on US-1. If you are ever looking for a park while driving, look for brown signs. Just after a few minutes, we saw a sign to the Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens. They are located off US-1 and Herbert Street in Port Orange. My mom had not been to it, so we thought to give it a shot. Little did we know, we were in for a treat!
Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens are open 8 am to sunset every day. Guided tours are available on Wednesday by appointment only. The grounds are very interesting to both young and old. My girls had a great time searching for dinosaurs. Yep, you read it right.
Originally, the grounds belong the Dunlawton family which owned the sugar mill back in 1832. All that remains is the ruins, but they are still pretty interesting. I was amazed at the size of the equipment used.
After several attacks by Seminole indians, the sugar mill was never able to fully recover. The Dunlawtons attempted to create a tourist attraction out of their sugar mill to no avail. In the 1950's the land was leased to create Bongoland, equipped with a small train, an indian village replica and large concrete dinosaurs. While the train and the indian village replica are both gone, the concrete dinosaurs were still there.
The grounds were beautifully kept. There's a gazebo and a seating area for a wedding as well as a garden library. There's also a human sundial and various trails to go exploring.
There is no entry fee, but they do have a donations box available. This park is truly a gem in the city. We were so glad to have founded, it was difficult to get my girls to leave. To read more reviews, check out tripadvisor.
Do you like visiting botanical gardens? Which is your favorite?
Do you ever drive around looking for hidden gems?