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Okeechobee is a Seminole Indian word meaning “big water,” and Lake Okeechobee, a 730 square mile fresh water lake, lives up to its name. The largest lake in Florida, it is a vital part of the central Florida ecosystem. A lakefront house or cottage on these shores is an ideal location for the nature lover and fisherman.
Fishing has brought visitors to the shores of Lake Okeechobee since the Seminoles. The largemouth bass are known to be record setting and speckled perch, black crappie, blue gills, and catfish are plentiful. Fishing guides know the waters well, and the tackle shops will make sure you have the right equipment. Boat rentals are available. If you bring your own rig, there is easy launching to be found at an assortment of boat ramps. You may even choose a waterfront rental with the convenience of your own dock.
Boaters know the lake as the central point of the Okeechobee Waterway connecting the east and west coasts of Florida. The Ortona Lock and Dam on the west side and the Port Mayaca Lock on the east shore offer an interesting view of boats locking through to access the water level of the lake. Rent a boat or take a tour. Don’t overlook the airboat rides. Several outfits offer exciting airboat adventures with unforgettable views of gators, bears, and the beautiful scenery of the marshes and cypress trees.
You will of course be wanting to fry up some of your own fresh catch, but the home-style restaurants in the charming towns that border the lake will be tempting. In Okeechobee, Lightsey’s is a landmark and draws visitors from all over for the Sunday buffet featuring gator, catfish, oysters, frog legs and other Southern specialties. BBQ is not forgotten, and the Hispanic community assures the Mexican restaurants offer authentic and enticing dishes.
Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail runs along the edge of the lake offering a 110 mile tour from the vantage point of the 35-foot high Herbert Hoover Dike. It is perfect for hiking and cycling, and the views of the water are accented by the many types of wildlife you will see. The habitat, tied into the well-being of the Everglades, is protected as a National Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. The Trail can be accessed by car at different points.
Agriculture is part of the area’s charm with sugar cane fields and citrus groves. The Sugarland Express tour in Clewiston will let you taste the sweet cane right from the fields and visit the sugar mill and refinery. Local honey is a star in LaBelle, and for real pioneer food and fun take in the Swamp Cabbage Festival in February.
Out on the water of the lake, the temperatures will seem cooler, but the winter months are temperate with overnight lows in the 50s and days in the 70s. Bring your hats and sunscreen for summer days in the 80s. Some say the biggest bass are caught in the Fall when the water temperatures start to dip, but the consensus is there is never an off season for fishing on Lake Okeechobee.
Due to the Central Florida location, the Lake Okeechobee area is a pleasant drive through groves and cattle ranches from either Florida coast. To the north, Orlando International airport is a convenient hub to fly into and rent a car. West Palm Beach airport to the south is another option.