Located in central Florida’s Okeechobee County, the city of Okeechobee had a population of about 6,000 residents at the time of the last census and is named after the state’s largest lake, on which northern shore it resides.
Lake Okeechobee is often referred to as Florida’s inland sea for its vastness. One of the region’s most popular natural attractions, it may be most well-known for the lunker-sized strain of Florida largemouth bass that calls its waters home.
A variety of recreational options are available in the area, and day trips to the coast are convenient as well.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Okeechobee, Florida.
1. Lightsey’s Seafood Restaurant
Though Okeechobee isn’t a coastal town, it sits on the coastline of Florida’s largest lake, and its restaurants offer guests a variety of fresh and saltwater dining options.
Located on SW Parrot Avenue in town, Lightsey’s Seafood Restaurant specializes in preparing and serving memorable meals with fresh local ingredients, many of which have been taken from the lake.
Catfish, alligators, and even turtle dishes are popular menu items, and they offer fresh ocean fish, shrimp, and shellfish delivered daily as well.
The restaurant has been around since 1977 and offers an array of steaks, salads, chops, and other non-seafood fare, as well as delectable desserts like key lime pie.
2. KOA Campground and Golf Resort
KOA Campground and Golf Resort in Okeechobee is like a bunch of different resorts all located together in one convenient location.
Featuring golf, tennis, three pools, and easy access to some of the country’s best bass fishing, it’s the kind of place that tends to occupy large chunks of many vacationer’s time.
Park amenities also include a fitness center and lots of annual holiday events, such as a Mardi Gras celebration and Christmas activities for the whole family.
The facility features tractor-trailer and RV parking areas with full hook-ups and a variety of cabin and campsite rental options too.
Staying at the resort is surprisingly inexpensive, and it tends to fill up quickly during peak times.
3. Bass Fishing
Bass anglers from all over the country flock to central Florida for much of the year to try their hand at landing hefty largemouth bass from the primordial waters of Lake Okeechobee.
In many ways, the lake is the undisputed champion of bass lakes in the world; each year it produces mammoth fish that often top the scales at more than ten pounds.
For anglers who’d prefer to hit the water with a professional guide, there are a variety of providers available, and most of them have loads of experience bringing man and fish together.
For those who’ll be visiting with their own boats, the lake features numerous ramps and an abundance of nearby dining and lodging options.
4. Dupuis Nature Center
DuPuis Nature Center is part of the Center for Environmental Studies that’s managed by Florida Atlantic University. In addition to research, the facility offers visitors a number of recreational and educational options centered-around animals and the environment.
The center includes both indoor and outdoor portions, the former of which is full of engaging, interactive displays, and many of them have been designed with young visitors in mind.
The staff offers regularly scheduled nature walks and other learning opportunities, and there’s a popular butterfly garden too.
The visitor center is open from Monday to Thursday from 8:30 AM to 4 PM.
5. Seminole Casino Brighton
Featuring nearly 30,000 feet of space and more than 350 slot-machines, Seminole Casino Brighton on Reservation Road in Okeechobee is about as close to Vegas as visitors to the Sunshine State can hope to get.
Previous guests have noted that the casino was clean, comfortable, and full of dining and alternative entertainment options in addition to gambling and that it was the perfect place to hang-out during the middle of the day when the Florida sun was at its hottest.
Frequent gamblers who join the casino’s player’s club have lots of opportunities to save money on things they’d probably buy anyway, like concert tickets, trips to the spa and merchandise.
6. Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park
During the early and mid-19th centuries, the Native Americans fought valiantly against determined settlers intent on taking their ancestral lands.
The Battle of Okeechobee took place on Christmas Day in the late 1830s and pitted more than a thousand federal troops against a conglomeration of Native Americans that included Miccosukee and Seminole warriors.
With their superior numbers and modern weapons, the U.S. troops claimed victory, and the battle marked a decisive point in the war, after which the Native Americans were never able to regain their prominence.
The battlefield is located on SE 38th Avenue in Okeechobee and is a must-see for lovers of local history and Indian culture.
7. Savannas Preserve State Park
Located along the Atlantic coast between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce, Savannas Preserve State Park isn’t a typical beachfront park. Instead, its grounds include pine forests, inland marshes, and unique Florida wet prairies that aren’t found outside the region.
The park is comprised of more than 7,000 acres that are home to an amazingly diverse array of plants and animals. It’s an especially popular destination for outdoorsy types, nature lovers, photographers, and hikers.
There’s also a visitor’s education center that includes interactive exhibits and a gift shop, and guided tours may be booked onsite as well.
8. Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens
For harried travelers who’ve tired of commercial attractions and long days on the beach, botanical gardens can be great escape destinations.
Located on SE Westmoreland Boulevard, the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens are a vibrant oasis of tranquility in an otherwise bustling area. It’s a free attraction that can occupy and engage families for hours without wasting lots of hard-earned dollars.
The gardens are open from Wednesday through Saturday, and the grounds include several distinct cultivated areas that boast both native an exotic species. It’s also a venue that hosts special events such as entertainment, arts and crafts, and guided tours.
9. Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast
Unlike those visiting other areas with far fewer family-friendly attractions, families who find themselves in Okeechobee have a number of convenient options at their disposal. For those who hit the road to the Atlantic coast, the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast is one of the most popular.
Located on NE Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach, it’s chock-full of engaging and educational exhibits for young minds, touching on a little bit of everything – from animals and nature to space exploration and technology.
By vacation attraction standards, the cost of admission is dirt cheap, and they’re open most days from mid-morning until late afternoon.
10. First Data Field
Lovers of baseball that visit Florida during the spring training season have an abundance of options to take in preseason games between teams from all over the country getting ready for the upcoming Major League season.
First Data Field is located in Port St. Lucie and was built in the late-‘80s as the spring training home of the New York Mets.
The state-of-the-art stadium holds more than 7,000 spectators in comfort. Catching a game or two and enjoying a hot dog and a beer won’t require a second mortgage as it will at many big-league stadiums when the regular season is in full swing.
11. Jaycee Park
Though Florida is home to many exclusive resorts and pricy cities, for savvy travelers it’s still possible to find a few diamonds in the rough without wasting money and spending half the day in the car.
Located in Vero Beach, Jaycee Park is one of the town’s often overlooked gems that features quiet, scenic beaches with lots of amenities to make spending an entire day both comfortable and convenient.
Jaycee Park is popular with snorkelers, sunbathers, and shell collectors. There are bathrooms, showers, and lots of covered seating areas.
Much of the park is wheelchair accessible, and it hosts special events and festivals throughout the year as well.
12. The Vero Beach Museum of Art
Florida has a large number of art museums and galleries known to feature works in a variety of mediums done by artists from all over the world.
The Vero Beach Museum of Art is comprised of more than 50,000 feet of space organized in five distinct galleries. Its permanent collection includes paintings, sculptures, and hand-blown glass pieces, to name just a few.
The museum’s collection focuses on local and regional artists, and its amenities include a modern auditorium that hosts live entertainment productions and guest speakers. Throughout the year, more than 100 classes are offered to amateur artists and local enthusiasts.
13. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest refuges of its kind in the state, and it’s open to visitors daily from morning until sunset.
As its name implies, the refuge is most well-known for the abundant pelican species that call it home. For those visiting from other areas of the country, they’re particularly interesting birds to watch.
Previous guests have commented that the refuge was often hot and loud, but that their visit was one of the most memorable experiences of their trip to Florida.
It’s common to see manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles in the waters surrounding the refuge as well.
14. Vero Beach Theatre Guild
Located on San Juan Avenue, the Vero Beach Theatre Guild is a community-based venue that produces amazing performances with local actors and directors. It’s becoming an increasingly popular attraction for visitors as well as those who live in the area.
The theater’s productions include dramatic plays, whimsical comedies, and traditional musicals, and its history in the community stretches back more than five decades.
Thousands of volunteer hours go into making each production, and visitors tend to agree that the performances far exceeded their expectations.
Tickets are reasonably priced, and attending a show is a great way to spend an evening being entertained and supporting the community.
15. Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival
Movies and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly, and for lovers of the cinema and intoxicating spirits produced from grapes, there’s no better event than the Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival.
An annual event that’s fun for a wide range of ages and interests, it takes place over three days in the middle of June and includes a variety of social, artistic, and cultural events as well.
Other activities include social events where guests can rub elbows with actors and producers, food events sponsored by local restaurants and caterers, and lots of dancing, movie showings, and family-friendly activities.