Explore an untamed region that revels in Florida’s wild side
Nestled between the shores of Lake Okeechobee and the vast wetlands of the Everglades, sprawling Hendry County gives visitors a taste of South Florida’s wild side. Fishing, boating, swamp buggy tours and more introduce RVers to the unique ecosystems of the Sunshine State across 1,190 square miles.
The region’s deep historic roots remind visitors of the Hendry County’s fascinating role in early American history. The area is home to the Big Cypress Indian Reservation, one of the Seminole Tribe’s six reservations statewide, and host of the tradition-rich LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival as well as the Hendry County Fair, both in February. With a menu that bursts with recreation choices and cultural sites, Hendry County is an oustanding selection for your next Florida RV trip.
Sweet Fun in Hendry County
If your idea of a peaceful vacation is spending the day boating or fishing, Hendry County has what you seek. From LaBelle, located in the northeast corner of the county, launch your watercraft from a boat ramp into the Caloosahatchee River and haul in hefty bass. The southwestern shores of Lake Okeechobee beckon anglers with crappie, bluegill and bass. Set sail or hire a guide to take you into the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States.
At Clewiston, on the lake’s southwest shores, visitors can chew on a stick of sugar cane as they ride the Sugarland Express (run by the chamber of commerce) around a local farm and sugar mill. If you’re in town in March, Clewiston’s robust agricultural economy and Southern heritage coalesce at the town’s Sugar Festival, with food vendors, tractor displays, arts and craft demonstrations. There’s also an antique car show and a children’s park.For culinary flair and Southern hospitality, it’s worth your time to visit to the historic and elegant Clewiston Inn.
If roaring engines get your heart racing, head to Hendry County Speedway, about 10 miles west of Clewiston. The park hosts demolition derbies, street stock and hobby stock races, and thunder truck events.
More thrills can be found in the skies above. Skydiving services provide thrills for adventurous souls eager to freefall over the sprawling Florida countryside. Novice jumpers can try tandem skydiving, in which they’re harnessed to an instructor after a brief class. The thrill of jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet over sprawling Florida countryside can’t be beat.
Step into Florida History
Regional history is a point of pride and a focus of preservation efforts, and guests can learn about the county’s origins at Clewiston Museum and LaBelle Heritage Museum.
The Clewiston Museum showcases artifacts from Hendry County’s beginnings, as well as fossils from prehistoric creatures that roamed Florida millions of years ago. Sugar cane and citrus production are highlighted, as well as flight training memorabilia from World War II. The LaBelle Heritage Museum houses local artifacts, documents and photos of the town’s cattle-driving and fur-trapping past.
Get in Touch with Nature
About 18 miles south of LaBelle, you’ll find a land that time seems to have been forgotten. Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest once was a logging site and then a cattle ranch before nature reclaimed it.
The 32,000-acre forest is a pristine example of the pre-Columbian landscape that once defined South Florida. The Florida panther, black bear, sandhill crane and gopher tortoise inhabit the area.
Break out your binoculars for a day spent spotting graceful winged creatures at Devils Garden Bird Park near Clewiston. This spot is home to more than 100 species, including rare and endangered varieties.
Air Boats and Swamp Buggies
A number of local outfitters take visitors on swamp expeditions using vehicles that are purpose-built for the terrain. Airboat tours whisk passengers across the surface of the water on flat-bottomed boats powered by propellers mounted on the back. Riders can feel the wind on their faces as they skim across the water to see wildlife and exotic plants.
Swamp buggies, in contrast, carry passengers on raised, four-wheel-drive vehicles with tractor tires that traverse muddy, swampy terrain. Although these vehicles are slower, the elevated position of the seats allows riders to get sweeping views of the scenery.
Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation welcomes visitors to experience the area in a different way. Guests enjoy buggy and horseback rides along with stories of the past told around evening campfires. Try your luck at the slots in Seminole Casino Big Cypress — don’t forget to take a break and enjoy local delicacies like frog legs, gator tail nuggets and traditional Seminole fry bread.
Traditional group-living structures called chickees dot the landscape, though most residents now live in single-family homes. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum hosts a number of events and activities as well as housing nearly 200,000 artifacts and archival items.
For More Information
Hendry County Tourist Development Council