A beautiful, quiet setting with a curious, yet interesting history describes the Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens of Volusia. Collections of different types of plants flourish in a variety of settings on the grounds of an 1830’s sugar mill and 1940’s tourist attraction, Bongoland. Remnants of both are found among the gardens.
The remains of the Dunlawton Plantation Sugar Mill, ruins of an English sugar mill erected in the early 1800’s, are listed in the National Register of Histroric Places. The ruins include chimneys and other structures made of a stone called coquina. This type of stone is a combination of mollusk shells and fragments, quartz sand, and calcium carbonate as a binder.
A covered boardwalk allows visitors a close look at the machinery and tools used to create molasses from the sugar cane. Interpretive signs take visitors step by step through the process while providing interesting historical information about the area.
In the mid 1900’s, The Lost Mission and Olde English Sugar Mill stirred tourist’s imaginations as they explored the old sugar mill ruins. Another attraction opened alongside known as Bongoland, named for Bongo the baboon who lived there. A miniature train traveled around the park which included a recreated Seminole Indian village. All that remains of Bongoland today are the concrete dinosaurs found in locations around the gardens.
Paths meander past a butterfly garden, an herb garden, a camellia collection, a cactus garden, a fern grotto, and a lily turf area, just to name a few. There are many more. Audubon Trail offers a place to view migratory and native birds. A Florida Hammock Trail displays a pristine hammock ecosystem.
There are four lovely locations in the gardens to hold wedding ceremonies. Nature’s Chapel is the most requested as it offers bench style seating, an area for the ceremony, and a separate area for the musicians.
The meticulously groomed grounds are due to the dedicated volunteers of the Botanical Gardens of Volusia, Inc. Three Eagle Scout projects, one elementary school project and other volunteer groups have created a space where people may relax, learn, and explore.
The gardens are located at 950 Old Sugar Mill Road in Port Orange and are open from 8:00am – 6:00pm daily. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Please, no smoking, no alcoholic beverages, no pets, no picnics, and they ask that visitors stay off of the trees and dinosaurs. For more information or to inquire about reserving a spot for a wedding call (386) 767-1735 and leave a message.