In the early 1920's two men, Arthur
McKee and Waldo Sexton, bought 80 acres of tropical hammock along
the Indian River in Vero Beach, Florida.
Between the two of them they created McKee
Jungle Gardens - one of the earliest and most popular Florida
By the 1940's more than 100,000
people a year were visiting, but competition and dwindling attendance
forced them to close the doors in 1976.
The land was sold and all
but 18 acres were developed into condominiums.
The remaining 18 acres
of land sat vacant for twenty years, but reopened to the public
in August of 2001.
McKee Jungle Gardens used to have one of
the world's best collections of water lilies and orchids. Some
of the lilies survived, and just a few orchids.
The bright Macaws, screeching monkeys,
flamingos and bathing beauties that dominated the theme of early
Florida tourism were no longer there. Ponds and flowerbeds were
restored, but with an emphasis on education and natural Florida
plants and birds.
and I went to the Gardens before the hurricanes of 2004. We
haven't been back since, but understand that the hurricanes did a
lot of damage.