Photos by Kelsey & Scott Walters
McKee Botanical Gardens – Vero Beach
We’ve been very fortunate this past winter in Florida to have mild weather with just a few dips into the colder temperatures but no hard freezes. Because of this, crops and plants everywhere are thriving and even blooming a little earlier than normal.
Thanks to our sunny days and comfortable temperatures, anything outside is the place to be right now, especially botanical gardens. These beautifully manicured spots are the ideal place to take a leisurely stroll, enjoy a picnic and take in the beauty that is our state’s natural flora.
Day Trip to Botanical Gardens in Florida
McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach is no exception. Just a couple hours’ drive south and you are surrounded by a gorgeous oasis of greenery for the day. While our climate certainly lends itself to a vast array of such gardens across the state, McKee has a few things that set it apart and make it worthy of a visit.
One thing McKee does exceptionally well is seamlessly blend art and nature. One of the garden’s semi-permanent exhibitions is the “Grand Central” StickW ork Sculpture, created by internationally acclaimed artist Patrick Daughtry and his son, Sam, and several volunteers in January of 2020.
The group worked for three weeks to bend and shape hundreds of willow saplings into a woven, natural sculpture in the heart of the gardens. The arches and small “rooms” created by the interwoven sticks are meant to be explored, making this a truly interactive exhibit that is visually stunning. Because the StickWork sculptures are completely natural, they only last as long as they can withstand the weather and elements, and will eventually break down and become part of the landscape once again. Seeing this piece for yourself (plus some epic Instagram spots) makes a trip to McKee worth it on its own, so time is of the essence.
Special Events and Things to Do at McKee Botanical Gardens
Another incredible addition to the garden is a little less organic, but celebrates nature nonetheless. Lego lovers will be thrilled to find enormous Lego sculptures of various wildlife tucked away on winding paths throughout the garden. Each Lego creature is comprised of thousands of plastic bricks, some as many as 133,263 individual pieces. The award-winning and record-breaking Nature Connects exhibit, created by Sean Kenney, will be on display until April 25, 2021. The gravity defying pieces blend beautifully within the environment and serve to educate guests on the way our natural world is interconnected.
Visitors to the garden will find a huge assortment of over 10,000 species of both Florida-native plants as well as species that can be found across the globe. Some of which have been meticulously cared for and even hand-pollinated for decades since the opening of McKee Jungle Gardens back in 1922. Visitors to the gardens can learn about the history of the Florida landmark, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, when they visit the center of the original gardens. This houses the Jungle House, a huge wooden building resembling an exotic fortress.
While every corner of McKee Gardens has something stunning to take in, many families will find they can spend their entire day exploring the Children’s Garden. McKee celebrated the grand opening of this massive undertaking in January 2020 and it has since become a huge draw to families across the state. The enchanting garden is the largest children’s garden I’ve ever seen and our family spent a good chunk of our day traversing every corner of it.
A wobbly, swinging Monkey Bridge takes you into this magical spot where you’ll find a giant tree fort complete with a pirate ship suspended in the trees and numerous bridges, tunnels and climbing platforms to tour. On warm days, you can pack your swimsuit and spend time in the refreshing splash garden, or create music in the instrument maze. You can imagine yourself as a tiny creature and skip down the giant stepping stones as you enter the fairy garden and relax among the giant blue mushrooms.
With so much to do and see at McKee Botanical Gardens, it’s easy to find a spot nestled among the flowers for every member of your family to enjoy!
McKee Botanical Gardens
Hours and Admission:
Tue – Sat: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun: 12 – 5 p.m.
$15/adult; $13/senior or youth 13 – 17; $10/military or child 2 – 12; $8/first responders; Children under 2 free
All photos property of East Coast Current