On the rolling hills overlooking picturesque Lake Hall, Alfred B. Maclay
created a masterpiece of floral architecture. Maclay, a New York financier,
began developing the gardens in 1923 when the property served as the family's
southern retreat. After his death in 1944, Mrs. Maclay carried on the development
according to his plans. The gardens were donated to the state in 1953 by
The use of native plants in landscaping to complement the exotic flora
is evident throughout the gardens. Huge pines and oaks tower over the flowering
dogwoods and redbuds. Camellias (about 150 varieties) and azaleas (about
50 varieties) are the predominant flowering shrubs; however, more than 160
other exotic species or varieties provide a rich diversity. Various walks
and paths, pools and the Maclay House with its spacious lawns, provide a
variety of floral scenery.
Blooming begins in December with the camellias and continues into the
summer. Each week yields a new visual experience as each species completes
its flowering cycle. An admission fee to the gardens is charged during
the peak of the blooming season, between January 1, and April 30.
The hills and shoreline of the park are forested with mixed hardwoods
and pines which provide additional natural beauty in all seasons. Lake Hall
is a pristine habitat for freshwater fish, alligators, turtles and migrating
waterfowls. More than 150 species of birds and numerous other animals, including
deer, bobcat and grey fox, have been observed in the park's woodlands.
The Maclay house, open January through April, is furnished as it appeared
when the Maclay family resided there. Exhibits interpret the family and
gardens. A booklet for sale at the ranger station interprets the gardens
and park. Labels identifying the plants in the gardens are helpful to
the plant enthusiast.
Additional written materials are available at the ranger station. Classes
on ornamental plant care are available throughout the year by the landscape
gardener. Call for dates and times.
TOURS & ACTIVITIES
Guided garden tours are conducted on Saturdays and Sundays during the peak
bloom, around mid-March. Call ahead for dates and times. Special tours also
may be arranged with a three-week notice.
The park offers picnicking, swimming, boating and nature study.
The picnic area overlooking Lake Hall is the most picturesque in north
Florida with a large picnic pavilion available for rental.
Largemouth bass, bream and bluegill are caught in Lake
Hall. A Florida freshwater fishing license is required.
The lake is excellent for canoeing and small sailboats. Only boats without
motors or with electric motors are allowed. Visitors are reminded that
most of the lake's shoreline is private. Please respect the property of
The Big Pine Nature Trail meanders through the wooded hillside overlooking