Most visitors to Gainesville attend activities at the University of Florida, but I headed there to dig into nature. I joined the Jacksonville Camera Club‘s trip to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens to practice outdoor photography.
The drive took approximately 90 minutes. Clearly marked signage directs drivers where to turn off a major highway and follow the access road to enter the lush 62-acre preserve. The canopy of live oak trees and surrounding foliage makes one quickly forget Gainesville’s suburban sprawl of malls, chain stores and restaurants.
A Kanapaha experience begins and ends at the visitor center which includes an upscale gift shop and thankfully, cool, air-conditioned respite from summer Florida heat. The main walkway (wheelchair friendly) runs a mile and a half and branches like tree limbs into smaller side paths. These passages lead to hidden retreats, benches, waterfalls and fountains. I felt I was walking through the pages of The Secret Garden.
A variety of landscape themes capture your interest as you stroll the property. You’ll find a labyrinth surrounded by blooming sunflowers,an herb patch and might see a wedding in one of the gazebos. The water gardens bloom with Amazonian water lilies, the biggest variety in the world. The state’s largest public bamboo gardens encircle a statue of a Buddha and include a bamboo irrigation system. A colorful butterfly garden presented me the opportunity to capture the delightful creatures.
The park makes an enchanted outing for babies, children, adults and those on Florida family holidays. The facility is pet-friendly for dogs on leash and for picnics. An escape to Kanapaha Botantical Gardens offers fertile grounds to anyone wanting to go green.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
4700 SW 58th Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608
- Adults: $6
- Children (ages 6-13): $3
The city of Gainesville is approximately 100 miles north of Orlando.