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Image: Getty Images Sunset at Lake Okeechobee in Florida

It’s February 19th and this winter has been unusually – for lack of a better word – wintry. The iceboxes otherwise known as Chicago and New York City have experienced extreme conditions reminiscent to Winterfell in Game of Thrones. Just a day and a half drive south, you’ll discover a town north of the Everglades with the third largest freshwater lake and fourth largest lake wholly within the United States. A town where current temperatures range from 80 to 86 degrees and it feels like, well, 80 to 86 degrees and the most important item to remember on your trip is sunscreen.

“I’ve always heard lots about the big apple, so I thought I’d come up here and see. But all I’ve seen so far is one big hassle. Wish I was camped out on the Okeechobee.”

We have nothing against the big city, but apparently Hank Williams Jr. has an affinity for this fishing town. If the country music legend wrote about this tongue twister town, there must be a story.

Aerial of Port Mayaca Lake Okeechobee Florida.

Port Mayaca Lake Okeechobee. Image: Getty images

Okeechobee is a Seminole word meaning “big water.” This massive lake remained undiscovered by Americans and Europeans until the 1830s, when U.S. army personnel discovered its existence during the Seminole wars.  Also known as Florida’s Inland Sea, you’ll find a wildlife rehabilitation, noteworthy fishing, historic state parks and bustling casinos nearby.

Here are seven fun things to do in and around Okeechobee:

  • Seminole Brighton Casino. If you’re looking for a smaller casino where the dealers are friendly, and the slots are plentiful, then this is it. Central Florida’s casino offers high-stake bingo action and a full-service restaurant and lounge. And Friday and Saturday nights are rockin’ with live acts ranging from classic rock to country.
  • Camping. From tent camping and RV park campgrounds to cabin rentals, the Sunshine State is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and camping lovers. Florida is home to a wealth of colorful fish, offers incredible beaches, beautiful lakes, wildlife refuges, divine camping spots, upscale glamping, great hiking, biking and more. The beautiful Okeechobee Landings RV Resort is close to the 110-mile Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, Clewiston Golf Course and just a couple hours from the amazing Ten Thousand Islands.
  • Boating & water fun. Check out Roland Martins Marina & Resort, a full-service marina, offering boat rentals, fishing guides and swimming pool. Waterways on either side run into the “Big O,” as the lake is called, making it part of a 152-mile boating passage way through the middle of the state known as the Okeechobee Waterway. After a long boating day, you may find vacationers enjoying a tropical cocktail at Scotty’s Tiki Bar. It’s a favorite for bikers traveling through South Florida.
Aerial view of Lake Okeechobee with boats cruising on water

Aerial view of Lake Okeechobee. Image: Getty images

  •  Hiking. You’ll find some of the best hiking in Okeechobee County. The Florida Trail Henry Creek Trail Head has some gorgeous sunrises. Henry Creek to Okeechobee is a great 8.7-mile hike offering spectacular sweeping views of the open water. From sandhill cranes to colonies of cormorants to caracara and bald eagles, the wildlife is a site to see. The pinkish and wheat-colored tufts of delicate lovegrass and columns of palms may also catch one’s eye.
  • Port Mayaca Polo Club. February and March is polo season and you can even check out the Linfoot Polo Clinic from April 12-14. Located in western Martin County, this family-oriented polo club hosting competitive tournaments at their 8 tournament polo fields. Check out their miles of trail ways and their club pavilion surrounded by over 360 acres of farm parcels. Admission is free, with the exception of Molly’s House Charity Match. Bring a picnic and stay for a while. The weather is usually perfect. If you’ve seen Pretty Woman, you know about the Divot Stomp. Meet new people and sip some champagne, all while keeping the field safe and beautiful.
Men riding horses playing polo.

A Play on the Ball. Image: PortMayacaPoloClub.com

  • Beaches. There’s no shortage of beaches in Florida. Travel east just an hour from the Big O and check out a beach where the water is clear and the waves are fun. Jensen Beach is a great spot to seek out dolphins, various fish, crabs, conches, butterscotch clams and corals. There are lifeguards on duty, and it’s been noted that it’s a great beach for beginner surfing and body boarding.
Aerial view of Jenson Beach, Florida

Jenson Beach. Image: Getty images

Juno Beach Park is great for some peace and quiet and for some doggie fun on their dog friendly side. There’s plenty of scenic views from the natural surrounding Sand Dunes. And the fishing pier gives you even more beautiful views of the beach and the waters. Juno Beach is a turtle hot spot where Green Sea Turtle, Loggerheads and Leatherbacks come by the thousands to lay their eggs. Check out the nearby Loggerhead Marinelife Center, just south. The beach is full of “poop bag” dispensers for your convenience. Pro tip: bring your pup’s shampoo and get them cleaned off in the outdoor shower before heading back to your hotel or RV park!

Thatched roof near palm trees at fishing pier with blue sunny skies.

Juno Beach Fishing Pier entrance. The park faces the Atlantic. The thatched roof and the Coconut Palms really add to the tropical feel! Image: Getty images

  • Fishing. Explore Lake Okeechobee bass fishing the #1 Trip Advisor – by customers & veterans – pro team. Okeechobee bass fishing is considered some of the best freshwater fishing in the United States. The Florida crappie fishing, speckled perch or speck is the most sought-after panfish on the lake. Head out on the lake with a BASS Masters Elete Pro Angler.
Man holding bass fish on boat in Florida

Image: Roland Martin Marina, Facebook.com/LakeOkeechobeeBassFishing

Man wearing baseball hat posing with large bass fish on boat

Image: Roland Martin Marina, Facebook.com/LakeOkeechobeeBassFishing

These guides don’t just have amazing fishing experience, they’re sponsored by BassOnline.com, Columbia Sportswear, and more! You can learn from the captain that was featured in Florida Sportsman magazine! Most of the major fishing organizations, including Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and the Florida Bass Federation Nation, have tournaments on Lake Okeechobee.

Man holding largemouth bass with lake in background

Freshly caught Largemouth Bass. Image: Getty images

The $10,000 Fast Break Open Two-Man Tournament awards $10,000 to the angler with heaviest two-day aggregate. The Kissimmee River flows into Lake Okeechobee from the north and also has prominent fishing. The river is teeming with bass, catfish and a wide variety of panfish. Nearby, you’ll find Camp Mack Lodge, Marina & RV Resort, where ‘at the end of the road, your adventure begins!’

boats docked at marina near trees on sunny day

Image: GuyHarveyCampMack.com

Motorhome parks next to picnic table and tree on a sunny day

Image: GuyHarveyCampMack.com

  • Cowtown Rodeo. Experience the Americana, steer wrestling thrills and bull riding excitement of the Okeechobee Cowtown Rodeo. Held at the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Rodeo Arena on March 8th, 9th and 10th, this is a fantastic show for cowboys and roping enthusiasts. The Okeechobee Cowtown Rodeo event is unique because it is affiliated with the PRCA or Pro Rodeo association. Some will come to see the stock show and horse show, but the PRCA rodeo events provide the true excitement.
Cowboy on horse at rodeo

Image: OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

Find more about Okeechobee here.