Even if you do not make it to see the Magnificent Waterlily Display, McKee has beautiful gardens, and pathways to enjoy anytime, but if you do get to experience the Waterlily Celebration on June 19th, you will be amazed. The ponds and waterways throughout the garden are adorned with over 80 varieties and over 300 potted and 100 free range plants including day and night blooming varieties.
McKee Gardens has an interesting history, and we are fortunate that the land developers Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton never planted citrus on this tropical paradise as originally planned. The property’s natural beauty was deemed too special in its native state to disturb so McKee and Sexton employed landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, of the esteemed firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds, and trails. Phillips, and his team, assembled an outstanding collection of waterlilies and orchids, augmenting native vegetation with ornamental plants and exotic specimens from around the world. In the 1940’s over 100,000 visitors enjoyed the gardens annually.
In the 1970’s, attendance at the gardens waned, tourism changed, and the family-owned establishment was unable to complete with the bigger Florida Tourist Attractions. Sadly, in 1976 McKee Jungle Gardens closed and was sold to condominium developers. All but 18 acres of McKee Jungle Gardens were developed. The precious undeveloped 18 acres were once the center of McKee Jungle Gardens and for 20 years lay dormant until a group of community visionaries got to work. In 1994, with the help of The Trust for Public Land, a fund-raising campaign was launched to buy the land from the developer, who at the time was finalizing plans for a shopping center. With bare hands, basic tools and unimaginable heart, volunteers of every age cleared the trails to reveal once again the jungle’s treasures. This community effort touched so many that even a young girl gave her weekly allowance to help rescue the Gardens. On November 18, 2001, the formal dedication of the saved, restored, and newly named McKee Botanical Garden was celebrated.
Today, McKee Botanical Garden remains true to Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton’s vision. There are over 10,000 native and tropical plants to behold and one of Florida’s largest and most celebrated collections of water lilies. Several restored architectural treasures such as The Hall of Giants and Spanish Kitchen have been meticulously restored to Sexton’s original vision.
Now, McKee Botanical Gardens is a Florida Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic places and is recognized by the Garden Conservancy as a preservation project of national significance. It is a wild place, as its founders envisioned, a Florida Treasure, and a place of natural beauty.
350 US Highway 1
Vero Beach, FL 32962
Admission to McKee Botanical Garden is $15 adults and $10 children. Purchase your tickets in advance. Visit McKee Botanical Gardens on the Website at https://mckeegarden.org
McKee Botanical Garden is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
You can visit McKee Gardens in a day or take an overnight out to the area, if you do overnight there is plenty to see and enjoy in Vero Beach. Bring your bathing suit, enjoy a cool dip in the water, or after a lovely afternoon in the gardens, chill out at Archie’s the local beach bar and burger joint.
You can’t beat living in Florida there is always something beautiful and fun to do.