Nestled on the scenic banks of the Manatee River and flanked by appropriately stately 300-year-old oak trees, the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation State Park is steeped in history and cultural relevance.
The oldest building within Manatee County, this impressive mansion is also South Florida’s last remaining antebellum plantation house.
As most others were destroyed, burned to the ground or otherwise lost as a result of flood, fire, hurricanes, or during the American Civil War and Seminole Wars, a visit here reveals a mid-19th century legacy into west-central Florida life that few other buildings in the state can offer.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion is spread across 16-acres. It is the former residence of Major Robert Gamble and is believed to be where Judah P. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State, took refuge prior to fleeing to England.
It also features the grounds of a now defunct sugar plantation where Gamble ran a lucrative business in the 1840s.
How to get there
The park is located in Ellenton which you will find on U.S. 301 South.
It is situated about a 30 minute drive from Sarasota and around 45 minutes from Tampa.
If you are driving you will find plenty of parking onsite.
Hours and Fees
Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation is open every day of the year from 8 am until shortly after dusk.
Both the visitor center and the museum stay open from 9 am to 5 pm on Thursdays through to Mondays.
During those days the center closes for lunch between 11.45 am and 12.45 pm.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the visitor center is closed. So tours are therefore not available. The center also closes on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
You will not be charged an entrance fee to visit the park. Though if you want to tour the mansion you will have to pay $6 per adult and $4 per child between the ages 6 to 12 years (at the time of writing) to do so.
The mansion and its grounds are the main drawcard within the park and visitors can enjoy it in several ways.
Below is a small selection of some of the things you see and can do during your time at Gamble Plantation State Park.
Tours at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Throughout the day guided tours of the mansion are run six times. The first one starts at 9.30 am and the last one starts at 4 pm.
The mansion is furnished in an authentic style that was befitting of a prosperous mid-19th century plantation.
The tours are run by friendly and informative guides who are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Walking at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
The beautiful grounds at the park are perfect for strolling around.
This is particularly the case around the old sugar plantation area where you will get a sense of history as to what life was like here in the 19th century.
Nature & Wildlife
This Florida state park is notable for its oak trees that flank the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial. These trees provide a natural habitat for several species of migratory birds.
As well as these trees it also features several native plants within its immaculate gardens.
Picnicking at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Within the beautifully maintained grounds you will find a nice picnic area.
This is shaded by the live oaks and is situated behind the historic plantation house.
If you do enjoy a picnic here please be respectful of the property and take all your trash with you.
Geo-seeking at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Like with many state parks in Florida geo-seeking is also a popular activity at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.
Throughout it several treasures have been buried. To find them you will need to head on to the participating geocaching website for the most up-to-the-minute details and clues as per their location.
The best way to do this is to download this information onto your GPS device.
Some treasures are very easy to find, others are more difficult. But once you have discovered them, be sure to replace the trinkets with something of your own. This will keep the fun going for someone else!
Pets at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Pets are permitted to join you at the park, but only within specifically designated areas.
They must also be well behaved at all times and kept on a handheld leash that is no more than 6 feet in length.
Some other restrictions on their presence may apply too. So it is worth contacting the park’s main office for further clarification as to their pet policy.
Camping at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Unfortunately there are no accommodation options available at the park. However you will find plenty of hotels, motels and Vrbo style apartments in nearby Sarasota and Tampa.
If you are specifically looking for a campground for your RV, trailer or tent site, there are quite a few within the surrounding area.
Between them they offer everything from sites that have full hookup connections with electricity, water and sewer to rustic sites that are best set up for self-sufficient campers.
Depending on which campground you stay at, amenities may include comfort stations with hot showers and flush toilets.
In addition, you may well find a swimming pool, children’s playground, laundry, dump station and a boat ramp.
Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
3708 U.S. Highway 301
Ellenton, FL 34222
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park: