SOURCE: Ft. Lauderdale Tourism Board / Finn Partners
If you enjoy history, art and beautiful gardens, you’re in luck. You’ll find all of these at the exquisite Bonnet House, a 1920s plantation-style home set on 14 hectares (35 acres) of gardens between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Bonnet House was once the winter retreat of artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, and their eclectic artwork, furnishings and décor can be seen at every turn. A greenhouse on the grounds holds the largest collection of orchids in the Southeast. There’s also a shell museum and a tiki bridge on a lake where swans glide through the lily pads. Keep an eye out for the Costa Rican squirrel monkeys playing in the trees—even if you don’t see them, you’re sure to hear them.
After a stretch of hotels along the oceanfront, there is an abrupt start of native vegetation and dense trees just past Vistamar Street. This is the setting of Bonnet House, a historical Florida home, which sits on 35 acres right off A1A highway, some of the last undisturbed barrier island habitat on the coast.
Bonnet house was built in the 1920s by Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett on land given to him and his second wife, Helen Louise Birch, by her father, Hugh Taylor Birch, who has a park named after him across the street. You can take a short guided house tour, but the gardens are the real treat here. The grounds cover five ecosystems like mangrove wetlands and a maritime forest as well as one of the largest collections of orchids in the South. There are even squirrel monkeys! Florida’s rapid growth and humid climate means preservation can be difficult, but the house is a good example of a bygone era.