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Taking a canoe ride on Florida’s wild side

Arcadia is a small southern Florida town that has historically played a major role in the history and politics of the Sunshine State. The county seat of DeSoto County, Arcadia sits in the heartland of the state and serves as a great base from which to explore rural Florida in all of its quaint, wild and historic glory.

Arcadia is cowboy country, a point where the Old West culture intersects with Old South custom. Outdoor lovers thrive here, and if you shy away from nature and hard graft, then Arcadia isn’t for you. But if that sounds like your perfect vacation destination, then grab your spurs and get ready for an adventure.



Arcadia has a population of 7,600, and the charming downtown area is a showcase of vintage, early to mid-20th century architecture. The town is located about 45 miles east of Sarasota and boasts a rich history of cattle drives. Indeed, it was the sight of rustling and gunfights that flared up long after the cowboy way of life died in the Western states. This history is reflected in Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, which pays homage to the region’s cowboy past.

Outdoor Adventures

A major attraction to the area is the Peace River, which has long served as a transportation artery for Native Americans and settlers. It’s also a window into the region’s unspoiled ecosystem. The waterway gracefully winds through towering cypress trees and plays home to alligators, birds and more.

Early pioneers had to rough it when it came to traversing Peace River. If you want to follow in their footsteps, then book a boat ride with Peace River Charters. Many years ago, the locals would have relied on paddleboats and elbow grease to get across the rivers and nearby swamps, but with Peace River Charter’s airboats, you can relax as someone else steers the boat and gives you a guided tour. Keep your camera handy to record some of the wildlife in the region.

If you prefer something a little more old-school, there are canoe trips available courtesy of Canoe Outpost, which offers a more relaxed experience. You can choose how long to stay on the water and how far you want to go, but whatever option floats your boat, this is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Florida.

Prehistoric Past

Arcadia is rich in prehistoric fossils and as calm and pleasant as Peace River is, there’s also a bounty of history hiding under its murky waters. With Fossil Expeditions, you’ll get the tools and the information you need to dredge the water and find some prehistoric animal remains. All ages are invited, and this is a great way to get the kids involved and to teach them a few things in the process. You have to be prepared to get dirty, but the results are worth it.

For More Information

Discover DeSoto County



Florida Department of Tourism