When Alfred B. Maclay purchased an antebellum quail-hunting lodge as a retirement home in 1923, he turned his landscape design skills to the surrounding hills.
Several years after he died, his widow opened the formal gardens as a tourist attraction, turning it over to the state of Florida in 1954.
Resources for exploring the area
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Address: 3540 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee
Fees: $4-6 per vehicle plus $3-6 per person garden entry fee Jan-Apr
Restroom: At the parking area and near the historic home
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily, gardens 9-5 daily
From Interstate 10 exit 203, Tallahassee, follow US 319 north to the light for Maclay Gardens Blvd. Turn left and follow signs.
About the Park
Three camellias in a bowl near the door: that was what Louise Fleischman Maclay asked for whenever the manor house was open once she deeded her family’s grand plantation estate to the State of Florida.
It started as Killearn Plantation and Gardens in 1923, the Maclays, Alfred and Louise, gathering camellias from around the world to add to their growing collection of gardens.
Alfred was known for his love of camellias, and visitors from around the world would bring him specimens of unique varieties.
Today, the extensive gardens along Lake Hall include dozens of hidden niches and pools as well as a Noah’s Ark of Florida native species.
The flow of form is subtle: As you approach the house, the grounds yield from wild woodlands to formal Italianate walled gardens, with burbling fountains and stands of cypress.
Prime blooming months run from December to early summer, but the gardens are a joy to explore any time of year.
Covering more than 1,000 acres, the park also includes the Lake Overstreet Addition, a wild, wooded area with miles of hiking and biking trails in deep ravines, as well as places for equestrians to ride.
See our photos of Maclay Gardens
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Ancient magnolias, massive tulip poplars, and sinuous alluvial streams are all part of the delights of Phipps Park, the city of Tallahassee’s most expansive and wild urban park
Only seven acres in size, Dorothy B. Oven Park is a Tallahassee city park beloved by locals but little known outside the city, developed on a former nursery established by one of Florida’s earliest camellia growers.
A clearing in the deep forest along the north shore of Lake Jackson reveals a civilization long gone from the face of Florida, the site protected as Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park.