Updated August 24, 2020

We know many of you are limiting travel during these uncertain times.  Although we continue to feature trips and places to visit, we are not encouraging you to visit them until it is safe.  We want to support Florida's attractions and businesses during this situation, and hope you will plan to visit them when things get better.  In the meantime, enjoy them virtually from the comfort of your home. 

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 11 of the several historic small towns and places 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

Hamiltonian Citrus LabelHamiltonian Citrus Label

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

Dundee Vintage Citrus LabelDundee Vintage Citrus Label

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.

Lake Wales Vintage Citrus LabelLake Wales Vintage Citrus Label

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.

Babson Park Vintage Citrus LabelBabson Park Vintage Citrus Label

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.

Frostproof Vintage Citrus LabelFrostproof Vintage Citrus Label


Our Facebook page has more than 101,107 followers who love off the beaten path Florida: towns, tourist attractions, maps, lodging, food, festivals, scenic road trips, day trips, history, culture, nostalgia, and more.

Take a look. If you enjoy what you see, please give us a like.


Subscribe to our Free Ezine, Florida Heritage Travel

Ever thought of starting a website or blog? I use Solo Build It! to create this website and believe it's the best way to build an online business.

Solo Build It!

Click on the ad to learn more. If you sign up for a no-risk trial I receive a small commission.

20200824-41-230-GI1.0 scenic 17

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Florida Road Trips
  4.  ›
  5. Historic Towns on Scenic 17