Living in the Florida Heartland

By Dave Knospe

Bordering Lake Okeechobee, Hendry County is situated in heart of South Florida with affordable natural beauty. It is only hours away from the state’s largest attractions, like the Disney Resorts and Sea World.  The county has doubled in size since 1980 due to steady median home prices, positive job growth, and low cost-of-living.

LaBelle serves as the county seat, but Clewiston, along “Lake O”, is the largest and most populated incorporated area in the Hendry County.  Other communities include Harlem, Port LaBelle, Felda, Pioneer Plantation, Montura Ranch Estates, Flaghole and Ladeca Acres.

The local economy is anchored in agriculture with products like tomatoes, beef, sugarcane, cucumbers and citrus (including oranges) grown in the region.  A major employer in the county is the US Sugar Corporation, located in Clewiston, leading the town to be dubbed America’s Sweetest Town.

What to See & Do

Tourism also drives the economy of the Hendry County, as it does most areas in the state.  There are many events, attractions and destinations for residents and visitors to enjoy including hunting, sport fishing, motorsports, bird watching, skydiving, and airboat tours.

In Clewiston, attractions include Devil’s Gardens, a wild bird and eco-adventure park, the Hendry County Motorsports Park, Martins Marina and Sugarland Tours, providing tours of where large sugar plantations used to dominate the town.  The town of LaBelle features the Ft. Denaud Swing Bridge and the Firehouse Community Theatre, while the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation is home to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States, is the “Bass Capital of the World” and in addition to largemouth bass, has catfish, speckled perch, blue gills and shell crackers.  The county also includes portions of the Great Florida Birding Trail and the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail.

County festivals include the Sugar Festival, Big O Birding Festival, Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle Bike Fest, and the Hendry County Fair.  Other events include the Big Cypress Shootout, a Seminole War reenactment, and the Everglades Boogie, a skydiving attraction.

Area Resources

The county is supported by Indian River State College’s Dixon Hendry Campus and Edison Community College’s Hendry/Glades Campus for higher education needs with healthcare services being offered by the Hendry Medical Center.  Area transportation is predominantly handled via US Highway 27, in the northern part of the county, and the area serves as a historical region for the railroad including the South Central Florida Express, currently owned by US Sugar.

As part of the Florida Heartland, nearby attractions include the Sebring International Raceway, which hosts the 12 Hours of Sebring – an American La Mans series race that draws thousands annually.  Of course, Hendry County is also just a 1.5 hour drive to Palm Beach along the Atlantic Ocean, the same distance in the opposite direction to Ft. Myers along the Gulf of Mexico and only 3 hours north to Disney World.

Enjoy the natural beauty and recreation of South Florida!

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