FPQ Lifestyles

Peaceful Pick of the Month

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida

Walkway at Maclay Gardens

You approach the gardens along this winding
brick walkway with wistful Spanish moss hanging
from massive oak, cypress and hickory trees.

This fall I visited Maclay Gardens, named “Best Garden in Florida” for 2007 by the readers of Florida Monthly magazine. Although autumn is not peak blooming season here, it is easy to see why these beautiful grounds, part of a 1176-acre state park, have been a much revered attraction in Florida since it opened to the public in 1946.

The 28-acres of ornamental gardens were first planted in 1923 by Alfred and Louise Maclay after the couple purchased the property for their winter home. It slowly developed into a horticultural masterpiece featuring a winding brick walkway leading to the former residence, a picturesque secret garden, a beautiful reflecting pool, and hundreds of azaleas and camellias for which the garden is famous. Lake Hall borders the grounds, providing a dramatic backdrop for the wood-chipped lined walking paths weaving through parts of the property. 

In designing the garden, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Maclays were intent on creating “a place of quiet beauty and serenity.” There is no spot within the 28-acres where they failed in this goal. I’ve been here in peak season when you can really appreciate a garden that has been cultivated over 80 years. Be sure to stroll behind the residence house to the butterfly garden where you’ll see hundreds of the colorful fluttering creatures. Your best visiting months are during the flowering season in winter and early spring when the stunning camellias are in full bloom.

Fishing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing at Maclay Gardens

Fishing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing
are permitted on Lake Hall.


Address: 3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, one half mile north of I-10.
Phone: (850) 487-4556
Hours: Park is open 8 AM to Sunset, and Gardens are open 9 AM to 5 PM daily.


Lawn at Maclay Gardens

Spectacular lawns sweep down from
the former residence to the lake.

Housing at Maclay Gardens

FPQ’s Allan Ishac on the
front steps of the Maclay House.

Reflecting pool at Maclay Gardens

The serene reflecting pool with Lake
Hall in the distance.

Enchanted inner garden at Maclay Gardens

You pass under this ivy-covered niche
in the outlying walls to enter an
enchanted inner garden.