Top 5 Botanical Gardens to Visit in Southwest Florida

If you want a day filled with color, fragrance, and fresh air, why not plan to stroll around one of these top Southwest Florida gardens? The tough part will be choosing which one to visit!

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a unique and scenic urban garden set in a stunning Sarasota, Florida bayfront setting. Covering just 14 acres, the gardens are easy to explore. Once the home of Marie Selby, this tropical garden opened in 1978 and has the largest scientific collection of epiphytes, orchids, and bromeliads in the USA. If you love color, you’re in for a treat!

Beyond the conservatory, there’s a Bonsai Garden, Koi Pond with bamboo and tree ferns, Rainforest Children’s Garden with a 12-foot waterfall, Butterfly Garden, and a Hibiscus Grove. The gardens also feature a covered pavilion with bench seating–perfect for relaxing and enjoying the views across the bay.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is a top Florida public garden. Photo by Nita Ettinger, Must Do Visitor Guides

Photo credit Nita Ettinger,

The drive time from Naples to Marie Selby Botanical is Gardens is approximately 2 hours and about a 1-hour drive from Fort Myers. Explore more things to do in Sarasota.

The orchid display at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is just one of the reasons it is one of the best botanical gardens in Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides | Photo by Nita Ettinger.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo

The Florida Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place for families–you can even bring your dog! The 90-acre gardens feature natural landscapes and aquatic habitats all with a wide array of plantings. Admission is free.

Florida Botanical Gardens’ aim is to educate visitors by showcasing native flowers, fauna, and natural resources while promoting eco-friendly practices. Gardeners will love the 30-acres of formal gardens which include the Herb Garden, Tropical Fruit Garden, Patio Garden, Succulents and Cactus Garden, Native Florida Plants Garden, Palm Garden, and the Tropical Walk.

The drive from Sarasota to Florida Botanical Gardens is between 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on traffic.

Florida’s subtropical climate is ideal for showy blooms, orchids, and flowering trees. Here’s our list of the best public gardens to visit in Southwest Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales

Standing high above the beautifully laid-out gardens, Bok Tower is a 205-foot pink granite tower with a 60-bell carillon that entertains visitors with its music. Designed by Fredrick Olmsted Jr. whose father designed New York’s Central Park, the 250-acre attraction is a gardener’s paradise. Winding paths connect a series of ponds and gardens, each with their own theme or color scheme. Brass sculptures by Bok Tower Gardens’ President, David Price, add to the interest.

Listen to the beautiful bells of the Singing Tower carillon at Bok Tower Gardens which is one of the top botanical gardens in Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides | Photo by Nita Ettinger

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

On arrival, check the “What is Blooming” display in the Visitor Center before exploring the gardens. The Endangered Plant Garden, Kitchen Garden, Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, Wild Garden, and the Pollinator Garden all provide colorful plants, shrubs, and established trees. Visit in spring to see 150 varieties of azaleas and camellias at their best!

Dogs are allowed at Bok Tower Gardens with a $5 admission–they are not allowed in Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, the Alexander Discovery Center, Pinewood Estate, The Shop at Bok, inside The Blue Palmetto Café, or at ticketed special events, weddings, and receptions.

5 Florida Botanical Gardens You Should Visit. Must Do Visitor Guides |

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Bok Tower Gardens is roughly a 2-hour drive from Sarasota making it a great day trip option!

Edison Ford Gardens, Fort Myers

The Edison Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida are best known for their historic homes and replica laboratory. However, inventor Thomas Edison spent much of his time in the winter planting experimental trees and shrubs in search of a replacement for rubber latex. There’s a special Garden Tour for keen horticulturists.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida is one of the best public gardens in Southwest Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides.

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

The gardens surrounding the historic homes are filled with established tropical plants, including many types of ficus. The ultimate is the 400-foot banyan tree, planted by Edison in the 1920s. Today, the 21-acre gardens are home to over 1700 plants including 400 species. Showy orchids nestle high in the branches of sub-tropical trees which include showy Poincianas. Enjoy cassias, vines, hibiscus, fragrant frangipani, and many fruit trees.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida is one of the best public gardens in Southwest Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides. Photo by Nita Ettinger

Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Edison & Ford Winter Estates is about an hour from Naples and less than a 2-hour drive from Sarasota. Discover more things to do in Fort Myers.

Naples Botanical Garden, Naples

One of the largest, and arguably one of the best botanical garden in Florida is the 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden. The award-winning gardens were developed from scratch in 2009. Undulating paths take you from wetlands preserves to uplands areas.

There’s color in all seasons with spring azaleas, summer jacarandas, and vibrant fall foliage. The interactive Smith Children’s Garden includes a splash area and rope bridge while the Brazilian Garden is alive with bright color including

Orchid exhibit at Naples Botanical Garden which is one the best botanical gardens in Florida. Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides |

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

heliconias, and red-stemmed porteas. The Orchid Gardens alone have over 1000 species of naturalized orchids in an area focusing on an old tabebuia tree.

The drive from Sarasota to Naples Botanical Garden is around 2 hours and a 1-hour drive from Fort Myers. Explore more things to do in Naples.

Must See Southwest Florida Botanical Gardens to Visit. Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides |

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Written by:

Nita Ettinger is Co-publisher for Siesta Publications Inc. and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed magazines and the website Must Do magazines are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County Chamber of Commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications can be found.

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