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Spotlight on:
Hendry County

Explore the Everglades in this laid-back community

Bask in the open spaces, crisp clean air and the huge inland lake of this majestic, green countryside in the southern-central part of the Sunshine State. Named for one of its first settlers, Major Francis A. Hendry, Hendry County was created in 1923. The Lake Okeechobee area nearby was once a fishing camp for the Seminole Indians, who dwelled there for years, before the first European settlers came along. Sugar plantations came a bit later, which led to the town being called "America's Sweetest Town."

Clewiston is the largest and most populated area in the whole county, with eclectic stores and delicious restaurants. While in Clewiston, stop by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum to gain an appreciation for the Seminole culture and local history. Located on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation, it is owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Also in Clewiston is the Clewiston Museum, which works at preserving and exhibiting items relating to the Hendry heritage, including the sugar industry, fossils, the cattle industry, hurricanes, commercial fishing and Seminole culture. Venture out for a full day with Historical Eco Tours, which begin with a morning of birding in the 6,000-acre Stormwater Treatment Area 5. This is followed by a relaxing lunch at the Swamp Café, with a private tour and lecture at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum shortly afterward. One of the perks of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki experience is the mile-long boardwalk that meanders through the scenic 66-acre cypress swamp. The final stop for the Eco Tour is the Clewiston Museum, with its fascinating agricultural and historical exhibits.

The marshy Everglades offer vast expanses of open spaces, waterways and a remarkable environment in which to launch a variety of explorations. There are canoe adventures, tubing excursions along the river and contemporary bed and breakfasts that offer a quiet escape amid the picturesque calm wilderness that is the Everglades. You can also rent a canoe or kayak to row your way through this relaxing swampy cypress paradise. Just be sure to reserve the boat you want to use early on and obtain all of the necessary permits with plenty of time before you go. Tour the incredible ranches in Clewiston and engage in hunting charters for Osceola turkey, wild boar and a­lligator. These private hunting charters are located close to the Florida Everglades, at the unspoiled private ranches where overnight lodging in comfortable cabins is available.

Check a few items off your bucket list with these next few adventures just waiting to happen. The Florida Ridge Air Sports Park boasts ideal conditions for soaring midair on tandem sky rides. There is no other feeling like free-flying through the sky, soaring like birds. Delight in the energizing sensations felt as you free-flight in unrestricted airspace with wide open fields stretching out below you for miles and miles in all directions. For those looking for an even more intensely exhilarating high, book a sky dive at Skydive Air Adventures. Skydive tandem for your first go and, if you love it, you can even get licensed to skydive solo in just one week.

As one of the world's largest inland lakes, Lake Okeechobee is a tranquil setting for boaters, wildlife viewers, swimmers and more. The water sports, Everglades tours, airboat rides, and fishing provide endless opportunities for outdoor entertainment and a time for renewal while enjoying the endless beauty of the lake. Clewiston has been noted for its excellent sport fishing, particularly of largemouth bass. There's also golfing, a swimming pool and lighted tennis courts in Clewiston for those pursuits away from the lake. Get some exercise on the 110-mile Florida Scenic Trail, which winds its way around the lake and is ideal for catching the breeze, biking and hiking.

At the Clewiston Inn, discover the southern charm and hospitality this gorgeously restored Classical Revival building has to offer, boasting the perfect combination of modern comforts and country elegance within. Perfectly nestled 60 miles west of West Palm Beach and 60 miles east of Fort Myers, you're ideally situated in the heart of sugar cane country with its peaceful and welcoming setting. The Dixie Crystal Theatre is another interesting historic site to stop off and visit, which has also been known as the Clewiston Theater in the past.

LaBelle, Florida, is a quaint, charming town that hosts the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival every February to honor the Florida state tree. The festivities include a beauty pageant, rodeo and 5K walk/run, among other fun, interesting activities. LaBelle, also known as "Belle," "Belle City," and "LaBelle," is a tiny settlement that was mostly inhabited by trappers and cattle drivers as early as 1889. The town straddles the Caloosahatchee River and has been called the "City under the Oaks" for its lovely vegetation along the river banks. Another tiny community, Felda, proudly offers the "Felda Mall," a gas station for weary travelers to fill up, quench their thirst and shop for a souvenir or two.

Enjoy the serene setting and solitude, and relax while relishing this glorious environment. whether you book a tour through the museum, opt for an adventure through the Everglades, or just enjoy the beautiful picturesque lake nearby, you will have the time of your life.

Awesome Okeechobee
Bordering Hendry County is the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. At 730 square miles, Lake Okeechobee is the headwaters of the Everglades and, at only 10 feet deep, is home to some of the biggest large-mouth bass and large-mouth bass tournaments in the state. Whether you're a seasoned fishing buff or the guy who just bought a rod and reel for the first time, chances are you'll have a great time.

You can also try fishing for bass from the bank, but if you really want to get one of the trophy fish you might need to venture out a little farther onto the water. You can rent a boat or bring your own. Most of the boat rental facilities are located in Clewiston, located on the lake's southwest bank.

For More Information:
Hendry County Tourist Development Council
863-983-7979
www.visithendrycounty.com

Florida Department of Tourism
888-735-2872
www.visitflorida.com

Places to Visit
The Glades RV Resort
La Belle, FL
Big Cypress RV Resort
Clewiston, FL