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Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens

View of gardens and the wedding chapel
View of gardens and the wedding chapel
Cynthia Scarborough

Just a short distance south of Daytona Beach, in a secluded area in Port Orange, Florida is a garden known as Dunlawton Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens. Hidden from the traffic, nestled between subdivisions, the site at 950 Old Sugar Mill, is a peaceful refuge. Open daily at 8 am the Gardens are a delight to behold. Paths meander through the site, past the massive Confederate oak. Flowering plants, both annuals and perennials line the walks or are placed throughout the park.

Not far from the Confederate oak are the remains of a sugar mill with steam powered machinery, vats and portions of an original structure which are housed in an easily accessible open air pavilion. Placards detail the process of grinding cane, skimming and stirring the vats and the backbreaking labor that was necessary to process sugar from surrounding fields.

Further back in the gardens are some whimsical items. Life-sized dinosaurs are interspersed through the area. They are the remains of the former "Bongoland", a tourist attraction from the 1950s. The dinosaurs are made of concrete and appear pretty sturdy. However, they are not to be climbed upon, so curious and exuberant children do need to be kept in check.

The Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens are a popular venue for weddings. There are numerous areas that can be reserved for a fee for wedding parties. There is a flower circle site that is especially pretty in the spring, a covered gazebo site that would probably be a good choice during dicey weather conditions and a chapel site that seats up to 80 people under a canopy of old growth trees.

The gardens can be hot and muggy. It might be best to explore them during the early morning or late afternoon hours. It is recommended that you wear some bug repellent. Mosquitoes, ticks and other creepy crawlies can be found among the foliage.

Tours of the gardens can be arranged by appointment. Guided tours are between 9:00 am and 11:00 am on Wednesdays. It is necessary to schedule tours two weeks in advance. For more information call the Gardens at 386-767-1735.

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