Daytona’s Hidden Treasure: Bongoland!

Dunlawton Botanical Gardens, Port Orange, FL

Dinosaurs in Florida!

Last month my husband was watching roadside attractions on YouTube when he came across Bongoland!  Boy were we surprised to learn that this FREE attraction was in our own backyard!

What is it?

The Dunlawton Botanical Gardens is the current name of the site.  Really, it is two, or three, things in one spot.  It first started as a Sugar Mill in 1830.  After being destroyed in the second Seminole War (1835) several attempts were made to continue the Sugar Mill Plantation but it was ultimately abandoned.

Florida Sugar Mill Ruins

(*Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

From 1948-1952 the property was known as Bongoland – which is the named after Bongo the baboon who could be visited at the attraction.  Dr. “Manny” Lawrence, made the Dinosaurs out of chicken wire and concrete to the best of his ability.  It once had a Seminole Indian Village Replica, train rides, and an odd variety of other entertainment.

Florida Roadside Attraction, Bongoland

(*Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

It’s newest form is that of a botanical garden.  Local volunteers help maintain the grounds and they are doing a wonderful job.  The front portion of the park is really beautiful and it shows me that all of those wonderful plants in my yard, really can look stunning when placed together in a more professional manner.  (I have over 100 plants scattered about my property from the previous owner- I believe he just stuck plants in the ground at random.)

Our Visit:

We are so bogged down with work and travel plans right now that we needed a great afternoon getaway.  We piled the kids in the truck and headed over to the Dunlawton Botanical Gardens for an afternoon visit.  Upon arrival we were saddened to learn that they would be closing at 5 p.m.  Ordinary, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but when you arrive a mere thirty minutes before closing… it is a little sad.  Make sure you check their website before you head over if you plan on a late afternoon visit – you will want more than 30 minutes to view this beautiful place!

Dunlawton Plantation Sugar Mill Ruins

My kids got a real kick out of the Dinosaurs.  Most of them were still fantastic. T-Rex…. is sort-of laughable.  He looks nothing like T-Rex should in the head.  Very funny.

The back portion of the park is an afterthought but you have to go through it to see all of the dinosaurs.  For some reason, they are not near the front of the park.  We joked about being so far back that someone would come and lock us in not realizing we were still there.   On our walk back towards the entrance we had discussions on “What is our plan of action in case we get locked in…”  It didn’t happen, but it was still an interesting conversation.

We hurried through the back-end of the park so we could enjoy the beautiful gardens and visit the Sugar Mill Ruins.  They had wonderful educational guide boards to explain the history of the grounds, sugar mill equipment, and native plants… I only had time to read a few but the few I read were really informative.  I took pictures of them to read later.

Sugar Mill Ruins, Florida

I am glad we stumbled onto the park before we left the area for our travels.  I would have hated to see information showing up for this great roadside attraction that I failed to visit before we left.

If you find yourself in the Daytona Beach area, stop in for a free visit (donations are greatly appreciated). Just arrive in time to visit longer than me!  A spring afternoon under the Confederate Oak would be a marvelous place to write, photograph, or relax!

Take two steps off the beach and see what the rest of Florida has to offer!

About the area:

While you may not have heard of Port Orange, Florida, I am certain you have heard of Daytona Beach!  This great attraction is only seven miles South of Daytona!  That’s right, SEVEN MILES FROM DAYTONA BEACH!  Who knew?  We didn’t!… and we call ourselves locals… shameful!

Map It:

When we set out on our mini-journey toward the park, we failed to bring directions with us.  I entered “Bongoland” into the GPS and nothing came up.  After a few minutes of confusion, I tried “Botanical Gardens” and it worked!  I was thrilled, considering we were half-way to Port Orange without a clue where we were supposed to go!

Don’t make the same mistake I did, grab your directions here:


View Larger Map

Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens
950 Old Sugar Mill Road
Port Orange, FL 32129
(386) 767-1735

5 thoughts on “Daytona’s Hidden Treasure: Bongoland!

  • at
    Permalink

    There was a place like this in Germany when we lived there. It was our favorite place to visit with the kids, I’d love to visit this destination with my kids.

    Reply
  • at
    Permalink

    How Neat! The Sugar Mills looks like an amazing step back into history. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    Reply
  • at
    Permalink

    What a great discovery! It looks like you had a wonderful time. It’s great that it’s so close to Daytona Beach. Next time we are there we’ll have to check it out.

    Reply
  • at
    Permalink

    Oh how fun!! I so wish we had been able to go. Seriously, how can we live that close to such a neat place and never have heard of it? I can’t wait for you to find more awesome places that are hidden from our view. Great Work!!!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *