More than a year or so ago we packed our small family into our SUV and headed over to Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens in Port Orange. We had a nice stroll around the gardens, but not much was saved in regards to pictures. Our camera battery died after the first picture, and the iPhone pictures came our horrible! Instead of posting an article with lack-luster photos, we filed this adventure away and figured we would check it out again another day. That day finally arrived, but this time we had another addition to the family!
Remember, we had already been to Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens in Port Orange, so it wasn’t really anything new and exciting for us. Instead of an adventure, we were really just looking to get out of the house for a little while. With our latest addition only being a week or sol old, we didn’t really want to go very far, and wanted a quick little trip. Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens was just what we needed!
To give you a little bit of a background here, Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens is often times referred to as Port Orange Gardens, and is a completely privately run and maintained public garden. There is no admission fee, and it’s a great place to walk through with the family. There is quite a bit of rich history at this location, and the fact the volunteers maintain the property adds a bit of charm to it as well.
Once the Mrs. loaded out littlest guy into her baby carrying sling, we entered the garden and my oldest didn’t seem to remember much from his first visit. This was almost like a brand new adventure for him! When you enter, there are maps available, which I highly encourage you to take. Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens isn’t a huge location, but it’s easy to get turned around once inside.
All across the property you’ll find lots of mini gardens and areas that are completely different but yet somehow seem to flow nicely together. For example, there is a butter fly garden right across form an asian themed garden, and even a human sun-dial. I personally thought that was pretty cool, but my little guy didn’t quite understand it. There are just so many little spaces to explore inside this large garden that you can take your time and enjoy an afternoon strolling. There are benches throughout the gardens which would be perfect to sit and enjoy a sunny afternoon.
So what’s up with the name Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens? Well as it turns out, the site was home to an actual sugar plantation many, many years ago. Much of the original equipment is on display under a nice modern roofing system that protects the local history. If you’re into the whole sugar processing history, you’ll enjoy seeing this part of Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens. I personally wasn’t too excited about it as I have been to Bulow Plantation, New Smyrna Beach’s Sugar Mill Ruins, and even Fort Christmas. The equipment is mostly the same, but it’s in very good condition so it’s still worth a gander.
Continuing with the rich history of Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens, there is a bit of surprise and mystery as it was also once known as BONGO Land. Yes, that’s right before Mickey Mouse owned Central Florida, Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens was actually known as BONGO Land! There are concrete dinosaurs throughout the perimeter of the property that we made many years ago by a local artist. BONGO Land was one of the Florida’s very first tourist traps! People would pay to see the dinosaurs in this tropical landscape. There are quite a few of the statues still standing, and some you can get right up close and personal with. That map found at the entrance it useful to make sure you see them all. Out little guy loves to watch Dinosaur Train, and thought he would enjoy seeing the dinos, but he didn’t really quite please to see them.. In fact he wouldn’t turn his back to the Triceratops! This was our newborn’s very first adventure, but unfortunately he’s so small, there really aren’t any good photos of the family together. That’s him in the blue sling thing…
While Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens would be a great place to get married, considering they have a beautiful open air chapel, there are some things you won’t find there. The first thing that comes to mind is a baby changing table. A bench could substitute in a pinch, but it would have been just as easy to go back to the car for a quick NASCAR style diaper change. I also asks one of the volunteers why I didn’t see any picnic tables. Unfortunately no food or drink is allowed in the gardens due to litter bugs. This is a FREE privately run garden staffed by volunteers and they don’t have the manpower to pickup after everyone. It’s a shame really, as the addition of a few tables and maybe a playground would turn this pretty cool garden into an awesome park!
Although there isn’t much excitement to draw a crowd, I can certainly see our family turning to Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens in Port Orange time and time again. Not so much for a full afternoon, but for a quick side trip to let the boys run off some of their energy. I would consider this a “bolt on” excursion, and would probably be better coupled with another local activity or event. We really enjoyed our quiet time in the garden and look forward to literally seeing this location grow!
Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens Port Orange Details:
|Date(s):||Closed Christmas||Time(s):||8:00am – Closing Times Vary|
|Address:||950 Old Sugar Mill Road Port Orange Fl 32129|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE|