Let me introduce you to an outstanding nearby one-day experience that meets all my requirements that it be inexpensive, educational and family-friendly.
You will be visiting the Dunlawton Sugar Mill Ruins and Gardens in Port Orange. These pristine gardens and the sugar mill ruins are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A self-guided stroll will take you to all these lovely sections of the park that are maintained by volunteers.
As you enter the gardens, pick up the free tour guide of this outstanding botanical gardens of Volusia County. Wear comfortable walking shoes and a large hat for sun protection.
The grounds are sectioned. There are bromeliads, cactus and succulents, cycads, ivy, native plants of Florida, Lily Garden, Bulb and Rose Gardens, Asian and Butterfly Gardens, and fern grotto with a wooden bridge.
Structures include attractive outdoor chapels for weddings, a beautiful large gazebo and a police memorial.
The Sugar Mill Gardens are also home to many native animals, insects, birds and fish of Central Florida.
The original Sugar Mill Ruins are of an English sugar mill built in 1830. During the Seminole War of 1836, Native Americans overran the sugar plantation and destroyed the mill. After this raid, the sugar industry in this area never recovered.
Volusia County has built a modern covered structure protecting the entire Sugar Mill Ruins with walkways. You can view the remains of the engine room, which enclosed large steam boilers, a steam engine and a cane crusher with engine-powered rollers and a pan for catching the sugary juice. In another section, view the boiling room for processing the sugar
The tour of the Dunlawton Sugar Mill is an educational experience for the entire family.
It is also interesting that several attempts were made to operate this Dunlawton Plantation as a tourist attraction in the 1950s. The park at that time was called Bongoland and displayed prehistoric monsters. They had a number of replicas of dinosaurs and other animals molded in concrete on wire frames.
The name Bongoland honored a large baboon housed on the grounds. An Indian village was reproduced, and a small train carried visitors around
The theme park heyday of the early 1950s had not yet come, and Bongoland closed for lack of public interest.
Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens is at 950 Old Sugar Mill Road in Port Orange. For more information and to check for any changes in operating hours, call 386-767-1735 or go to dunlawtonsugarmillgardens.org. It is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas and Jan. 1. Parking is free. Donations are accepted for admission.
Port Orange is a short drive from Brevard County. Take Interstate 95 north. Take Exit 256 and go east for two miles to Nova Road. Turn left toward Herbert Street, then turn right on Herbert to the Historic Dunlawton Sugar Mill Ruins and Gardens.