Botanical Garden of the Month – McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach
Many of you will remember the old McKee Jungle Gardens, which closed in 1976 and most of you have visited the delightfully resurrected and enhanced (if smaller) McKee Botanical Garden that opened twenty years later.
It was established on 80 acres in 1929, when Waldo Sexton (who founded the Driftwood Inn, the Ocean Grill, and the Patio Restaurant among other enterprises) and Arthur G. McKee purchased an 80-acre (32 ha) tropical hammock along the Indian River. Tropical landscape architect William Lyman Phillips from the firm of the legendary Frederick Law Olmsted designed its streams, ponds, and trails. Its indigenous vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants and seeds from around the world. The gates opened in 1932 as a tourist attraction. Sexton and McKee furnished the gardens with monkeys, alligators, lions, tigers, and an elephant. By the 1940’s, more than 100,000 tourists were visiting the Gardens each year, so that it was one of Florida’s earliest and most popular natural attractions. Why not enjoy a visit to the garden and lunch at one of Waldo Sexton’s iconic restaurants?