By  Mike Miller  Updated September 6, 2023

Lake Wales, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Lake Wales is a town of about 17,305 people in Polk County, Florida. 

The town lies next to the intersection of US-27 and SR-60, two of Florida's major highways in the days before interstates.

Lake Wales Grand Hotel, Formerly the Dixie WalesbiltLake Wales Grand Hotel, Formerly the Dixie Walesbilt

It is located west of Lake Kissimmee and east of Tampa. Downtown Lake Wales is on Scenic Highway State Road 17.

This scenic highway takes you north to Haines City through hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus groves. 

Lake Wales was in the center of these groves and a major location of packing and shipping businesses.

Lake Wales Citrus Company LabelLake Wales Citrus Company Label

If you take it south you will go through even more groves on your way to Babson Park and  Frostproof and Avon Park and Sebring.


The land that now includes Lake Wales was surveyed by Sidney Irving Wailes in 1879. He changed the name of a nearby lake, Watts Lake, to Lake Wailes.

Lake Wales Florida DowntownDowntown Lake Wales

The town of Lake Wales was established next to this lake in 1911-12 by the Lake Wales Land Company.

The spelling Wales was used for the city, although the lake is still generally spelled Lake Wailes....if you can remember to do it.

In 1925 the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad built a new line from Haines City through Lake Wales on the way to Everglades City way down south near Naples.

A depot was opened in the downtown area.

Vintage Postcard Lake Wales Mountain Lake SanctuaryVintage Postcard Lake Wales Mountain Lake Sanctuary

One of the major juice companies in the early days was Donald Duck Citrus. 

It was a large employer, and its plant on US-27 in Lake Wales featured a prominent picture of the smart aleck duck himself.

Donald Duck Citrus Tag

I heard a local story that said Disney executives contacted the company in the 1960's and accused them of using the Disney character's name without the proper licenses. 

The owners of Donald Duck Citrus immediately produced an old yellowed document that proved Walt and Roy Disney had given them the rights to the name almost forty years before Disney even thought of moving into Central Florida.


Lake Wales is still a fascinating city, with the old 1920s vintage hotel still dominating the downtown skyline and currently being renovated by way of a lengthy process.

Downtown Lake Wales has been gentrified and is a fun place to shop and dine.

Lake Wales Florida MuralLake Wales Downtown Mural


At one time Lake Wales was best known for the Mountain Lake Club, a private community founded in 1915, with a top-ranked golf course designed in 1916 by Seth Raynor.

Mountain Lake has a fascinating history and is part of Florida lore not always found in the history books.  It is still a very exclusive place to live.

The community was founded in 1915 by Frederick S. Ruth of Baltimore. He bought 3,500 acres in the hilly, fertile land, which is among the highest in the state of Florida.

Mountain Lake Club, Lake Wales, FloridaMountain Lake Club, Lake Wales, Florida

Ruth hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to lay out 600 acres of the property for the residences and brought in Seth Raynor to design the golf course.

Olmsted's father had designed Central Park in New York and Biltmore Estates in Asheville.

Mountain Lake has only 125 residences, few of them within sight of the golf course, so the gently rolling land is open and space is abundant within the very private grounds.

Famous residents have included Edward Bok, publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies Home Journal, and the creator of nearby Bok Tower Gardens.

The Mountain Lake Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places.


In the mid 1920s Edward W. Bok, the publisher of The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal, owned a home at Mountain Lake.

He had come to America from Holland and became very successful in his career.

He wanted to give something back to his new country, so he acquired over 100 acres of the highest land in the Lake Wales area and created what is now known as Historic Bok Sanctuary.

Path at Bok Tower GardensPath at Bok Tower Gardens

The "Singing Tower" is one of the world's most renowned carillons, and outdoor concerts and other events are scheduled on a regular basis.

Bok  Sanctuary also hosts an international festival of carillonneurs each year.


Spook Hill, Lake Wales, FloridaSpook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida

Spook Hill has been attracting visitors for several generations.  It's a free attraction that you can enjoy from the comfort of your car. You park your car in neutral and watch your car go uphill rather than down.  Learn more about Spook Hill.


Bok Tower Gardens - 1151 Tower Blvd: Explore the serene beauty of Bok Tower Gardens, featuring a stunning 205-foot singing tower, lush gardens, and nature trails, providing a perfect escape into nature.

Spook Hill - North Wales Drive: Experience the mysterious gravity-defying phenomenon at Spook Hill, where your vehicle appears to roll uphill, leaving visitors intrigued and amazed by this optical illusion.

Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park - 2929 State Road 60 E: Embark on an outdoor adventure at this pristine state park, offering hiking trails, fishing spots, and the chance to spot wildlife in its natural habitat.

Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center - 325 S Scenic Hwy: Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Lake Wales through exhibits, artifacts, and educational programs at the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center.

Ridge Audubon Center - 200 North Crooked Lake Dr: Discover the diverse birdlife of the region at Ridge Audubon Center, featuring nature trails, bird-watching opportunities, and educational programs for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

Spook Hill Recreation Area - 608 Spook Hill Rd: Enjoy outdoor activities like picnicking, walking trails, and a playground at Spook Hill Recreation Area, providing a scenic setting for relaxation and family fun.

Lake Wales Arts Center - 1099 Florida 60 E: Indulge in the vibrant arts scene of Lake Wales at the Lake Wales Arts Center, showcasing local and regional talent through exhibitions, performances, and workshops.

Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center - 1099 Florida 60 E: Engage in cultural and educational experiences at the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center, hosting theatrical performances, art shows, and community events.

Eagle Ridge Mall - 451 Eagle Ridge Dr: Go shopping, catch a movie, or enjoy a meal at Eagle Ridge Mall, featuring a variety of retail stores, entertainment options, and dining establishments to cater to all interests.


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