Home to both Bok Tower Gardens and Lake Kissimmee State Park, the sweep of public lands around Lake Wales spans both high points and the low, marsh-edged Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Surrounded by many natural lands, Lake Wales makes a good base camp for exploring southern Polk County since it has hotels and restaurants, unlike most smaller communities along the ridge.
Established in the 1920s during the Florida land boom, the city has a compact downtown with Spanish Mission architecture common in that period and a railroad museum in its old depot. The Lake Wailes Trail, a paved bike path, parallels its namesake lake, and Spook Hill attracts the curious with its claim that a car in neutral will roll uphill.
Lake Wales thrived as a citrus growing and packing center, and still has a prominent packing house along US 27. Enjoy the scent of blooming citrus on a drive down Scenic 17, the original highway of the region, that follows one of the highest ridges as it connects Haines City, Dundee, Lake Wales, Babson Park, and Frostproof.
Trails and Parks near Lake Wales
Best Parks and Preserves Around Lake Wales
Bok Tower Gardens
Atop one of the highest hills in the Florida Peninsula, Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida’s most spectacular landscaped gardens, “something to appeal to both man and animal, a meditative place,” as envisioned by Edward William Bok in the 1920s.
Lake Kissimmee State Park
Discover the beauty of the land between the lakes east of Lake Wales while exploring the vast prairies and fern-laden hammocks of Lake Kissimmee State Park
Tiger Creek Preserve
Edward Bok’s “Jungle,” a deeply folded landscape between Tiger Creek and Patrick Creek south of Lake Wales, is protected by The Nature Conservancy as Tiger Creek Preserve.
Catfish Creek Preserve State Park
At Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, the steep ridges of blinding white sand are some of Florida’s most ancient landscapes, an unusual and unique natural area for Central Florida