Scenic Highway 17 is known as the Ridge Scenic Highway in Polk County.

It meanders for 39 miles from downtown Haines City through Lake Hamilton, Dundee, Lake Wales, Highland Park, Babson Park and ends just south of Frostproof on US-27.

You will see hundreds of lakes and thousands of acres of orange groves and many historic communities.

It's Old Florida through and through. 

The scenic highway has much less traffic than US-27 just to the west, and the smell of orange blossoms in the spring will make you want to stay in Florida forever.

At least that's what happened to me many years ago.

Here are 5 of the several historic small towns you will see along the way.

HAINES CITY is an old citrus town located at the north end of the highway.  It's downtown features the majestic historic Polk Hotel. Click photo for more info.

LAKE HAMILTON is a small town of 1,500 with the nickname of "The Top of Florida."  The town was founded in 1913, and has seven small lakes in its limits, and is on the eastern shore of a larger one - Lake Hamilton 

Lake Hamilton, FloridaLake Hamilton, Florida

DUNDEE is named for a town in Scotland.  When the railroad was first extended from Haines City to Sebring, Dundee was the first stop.  It was incorporated in 1925.  The town now has about 4,000 people.  

Dundee Railroad DepotDundee Railroad Depot

CHALET SUZANNE was for many years one of Florida's most popular small resorts and restaurants.  It is closed now, but the remaining structures can be seen on Chalet Suzanne Road just west of Scenic 17. Click on photo for more info.

BOK TOWER GARDENS is a serene sanctuary located just east of Scenic 17.  The "singing tower" carillon and magnificent gardens have been welcoming visitors since opening in 1929.  Click on photo for more info.

MOUNTAIN LAKE is an exclusive private community founded in 1915.  The famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed the residential area, and Seth Raynor designed the golf course.  It is located adjacent to Bok Tower, created by one of its residents, Edward Bok. Only 125 homes are here, and you have to be invited by a resident to visit. Click on photo for info about lodging. 

LAKE WALES is an old city with a beautifully renewed downtown area. The historic Walesbilt Hotel is in the process of being completely renovated. Click photo for more info.

HIGHLAND PARK is a tiny village with an historic inn and golf course. Its developer built Casa Josefina in honor of his wife.  It has 32 bedrooms and 10,000 square feet. Click photo for more info.

BABSON PARK was developed by a famous businessman, Roger Babson, who also founded Webber International University. Click photo for more info.

HILLCREST HEIGHTS is a town of fewer than 300 people adjacent to Babson Park.  The western city limit is the shoreline of Crooked Lake. Historic Hillcrest Lodge is the centerpiece of the town.  Many celebrities stayed at the hotel, including Bobby Jones, Babe Ruth, William Jennings Bryan, and Roger Babson.  The Lodge is still in operation.  Call 863-638-2732 for reservations.

Vintage Postcard, Hillcrest LodgeVintage Postcard, Hillcrest Lodge

FROSTROOF is in the middle of citrus and cattle country and was the home of two agricultural pioneers, Ben Hill Griffin and Latt Maxcy. Click photo for more info.


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