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.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Bonnet House is a hidden, quiet marvel just across the street from the busy Fort Lauderdale Beach. The guides will fill you in on the story of the estate, donated by an early twentieth century artist. The true joy of this place, however, is soaking in the local wildlife you might not otherwise see without leaving the city proper. Prepare to see lizards, monkeys, swans, and a very friendly parrot!