Sebring, a small town along the lovely Lake Wales Ridge in Central Florida, is staking a claim for something new — Florida’s first (and only) craft soda festival, the Sebring Soda Festival. Local small-batch sodas made with real sugar are making a comeback, partly as an outgrowth of the craft beer phenomenon. This Sebring festival is a good opportunity to taste what it’s all about.
As you plan your Florida travels, here are seven towns that I’ve found make great bases for exploring. Each puts you in the center of outstanding places to hike, bike, kayak and explore history. Each is surrounded by natural beauty.
Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is for explorers – folks who like to find places that aren’t in the guidebooks. Here you can hike for miles in the woods, hear only nature and have a chance to spot wildlife, including bear, bald eagles and endangered scrub jays.
Old-growth live oaks draped in air plants and Spanish moss dominate 9,000-acre Highlands Hammock State Park, one of Florida’s original state parks.
Arbuckle Creek is a gorgeous river through an ancient cypress forest. It feels remote and wild but is convenient to Orlando and South Florida. It’s a gem, full of wildlife and magnificent scenery.
Central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge is made for exploration. It offers rolling hills, forests, streams, quaint small towns with lots of places for hiking, kayaking and camping.
A scenic two-lane road across the state gives you a glimpse of a forgotten Florida: Pioneer cabins, cattle ranches under old oak trees, sandhill cranes in the fields.