Sponsored by Visit Florida
Welcome to Sebring, a slice of Old Florida where ranchers and citrus growers meet with farm to table restaurants, and locals play (alongside, but far away) with alligators, turtles and birds in ancient forests, plentiful lakes, and cypress swamps.
Oh, and maybe a black bear and Florida Panther or too.
Any wonder, people are choosing to move to the Sebring region to escape the chaos of the larger metropolitan areas in Florida in exchange for a more peaceful, community focused life?
As you slowly come out of isolation and seek a break from that monotonous, four-wall, grind, a big city explosion is probably too much for your dulled senses.
With its slow pace, access to natural beauty and outdoor adventure, (and low case numbers), Sebring in Central Florida is a great starting point to ease back into family vacations.
And during the winter, you’ll find near perfect weather conditions – that warm Florida sun without the high humidity.
For those now seeking the remote working and learning lifestyle, you’ll enjoy the unhurried pace of this region, giving you ample time to explore, but to also rest and work.
We enjoyed getting to know the people in this close community on a two-night stay in partnership with Visit Florida, making sure to pack in as much fun that we could handle.
Where is Sebring, Florida?
The city of Sebring is located in Central Florida. Its location is quite ideal – 2 hours from Martin County (where we arrived from); 1.5 hours to Punta Gorda, (where we were going); 2 hours from Orlando and 3 hours from Miami.
Sebring is known as the City on the Circle for its downtown stores that are located on the edge of the roundabout in the middle of downtown Sebring.
It’s also located on Lake Jackson, one of the many lakes in the area. There are several sandy beaches for a relaxed experience swimming, picnicking, or fishing.
It’s surrounded by other Old-Style Florida towns just a 20-minute drive in either direction like the charming Avon Park and the “Interesting” Lake Placid.
Best Things to Do in Sebring
Whether you are staying for just a weekend, or a week, there are many things to do in Sebring to suit any style or comfort level.
Fast-paced lovers will enjoy activities such as jet skiing, scuba diving, air boating and the Sebring International Raceway, home of America’s oldest and most famous road racing track.
Others will enjoy the slower pace of kayaking, paddle boarding and verdant forest bathing.
Here are the Sebring attractions we enjoyed on our two-night stay. Families will be happy to know it’s an affordable Florida Vacation destination.
We’ve included activities that incorporate learning and important curricular balance for your kids: history, culture, art appreciation, PE, and rest.
Get Lost in Nature at Highlands Hammock State Park
As soon as we drove into this “land of shade” I relaxed and felt connected. It was if the giant oak, pines, and palmettos whispered, “You’re here now, you can breathe again. Just sit back, relax and take it all in.”
So, we did. Starting with a tram tour of Florida’s first state park.
Our informative guide, Ed stopped along the way to share the history of the park and teach us the meaning of words such as hammock, epiphytes, and pods, pointing out real life examples as we went. This perfectly aligned with our schoolcation mission.
Days later, Savannah was able to explain how the sex of an alligator baby is determined depending on where they lay in the nest.
The tour sparked my curiosity to a question I can’t quite grasp an answer to.
Why do male alligators feel the need to procreate if they just want to eat all their babies due to fear of competition for resources?
I guess we put it down to the unexplainable Mother Nature.
All good tours should have you ending in the pursuit of more knowledge and discussing it over dinner.
Our tram tour took us down a back dusty road along a creek and introduced us to several of the park’s crocodiles, including George the ferocious baby alligator eater, and Debbie, one of the fierce protecting moms.
The tour lasted 90-minutes and was worth doing to have someone educate and point out the most interesting features of the park.
I very much want to return to Highland Hammocks State Park to cycle the 3.1 loop road and hike some of the many trails that lead off it.
Well, I should say walk. The longest trail in Highlands Hammock is only just over half a mile, and this area of Florida is pancake flat.
It’s an opportunity for you to get lost in nature for a while, surrounded by 1000-year-old oak trees and walking under shaded canopies past cypress, hardwood swamps, evergreen flatwoods, ferns, and other habitats.
We did fit in one trail with Ranger Laura – the park’s most famous, Cypress Swamp Trail.
A half mile loop boardwalk goes above the swampy ground – in the wet season, filled with water and perhaps a few alligators – and close to the giant cypress offering that hammock shade and grandeur ambiance.
Halfway along the board walk it turns into a narrower version of the original. There’s a railing to hold on if you are nervous to walk the plank.
Airboat Arbuckle Creek and Lake Istokpoga
Air boating is a recent adventure our family loves after our Wacissa River adventure in Natural North Florida.
This one with Captain John from Airboat Wild Adventures along Arbuckle Creek and Lake Istokpoga was even better.
I was stunned this area is not protected, it’s so wild and beautiful, abundant with alligators and bird life. At one stage I looked up to a sky filled with circling buzzards, flocks of ibis, pink roseate spoonbills, and scores of tiny dragon flies. Then somewhere along the journey, an eagle soared on by.
Captain John has been running tours out here for 16 years. He’s mission is to ensure you see lots of alligators and have a great time.
We timed our trip just as the sun started warming up and brought those gators out to sun themselves. We saw so many just in the first ten minutes.
After spending time zipping over the water lilies of Lake Istokpoga, we headed back into the backwater country creeks whose shallow waters took us past farmlands, grazing cows, and massive oaks dripping with Spanish moss over the banks. It was wonderful to get the different perspectives of this region surrounding Sebring.
We barely saw another soul, just a few local fishermen passing the time away. Definitely put this on your list of fun things to do in Sebring.
Explore the Lakes
What you’ll notice when arriving to the Sebring area, is the abundance of lakes; more than I have seen in any other place.
From the big to the small, you’ll find some of Florida’s most scenic lakes, each offering different kinds of activities.
Always speak to the locals to know the safest areas for swimming. This is gator country!
Hauntingly beautiful with its cypress and oak dripping with Spanish moss, and alligators roaming freely, Lake Istokpoga is best for air boating and fishing.
Lake Jackson and Lake Placid are popular for fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming.
Lake Tulane and Lake Denton are both popular for SCUBA diving!
Mural Tour of Lake Placid
About 15-minutes south of Sebring is the community of Lake Placid, named “America’s most interesting town” in 2013 by American Digest and also dubbed “the Town of Murals.”
Scattered around the few streets of downtown are 50 murals telling the historical and cultural stories of the area including a few of the legendary icons of the area.
You can pick up a Mural Guide from the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce which gives you more information about each mural and its story.
A few of our favorites:
Layers of Time + Birding
These two murals border either side of a pretty garden at Lake Placid Noon Rotary Park I love how the small waterfall in the mural aligns with the small creek in the garden.
Eddie Mae Henderson
Honors local hero Eddie Mae who since 1980 cooks 800 dinners for the less fortunate each Christmas.
Jewels of Highlands
Pays tribute to the 27 freshwater lakes within 7 miles of Lake Placid.
And of course, be sure to get your family photo at the Lake Placid Post Card Mural. Pay attention to the trash cans and public seats as well. They are covered in art!
Lunch at Morty and Edna’s Craft Kitchen
Let the murals take you straight to Morty and Edna’s Craft Kitchen located in the revitalized old newspaper building.
Talk to any local, and they’ll tell you Morty’s is the place where everything tastes good.
Owner Eli came to Lake Placid to avoid a hurricane, which ended up following her. But it didn’t stop her from laying down roots in what she discovered as her Happy Place, where she was no longer a number in bigger and busier South Florida. She says the community aspect of this town is better for raising a family.
Food is made from scratch in her kitchen and there is a limited menu to keep it fresh and sustainable.
The locals were not wrong: my asparagus and pea frittata was fresh and delicious and Craig and Kalyra loved the locals favorite the BLT, which Eli says, “if I ever stop serving the candied bacon my customers would be very upset.”
Next door to Morty and Edna’s is The Blueberry Patch, a wonderful boutique store filled with gorgeous products for your home and beautiful jewelry and clothing. I could have bought one of everything.
Wet Dogs Brewing
We were disappointed that Wet Dogs Brewery was closed when we visited. Located next door to Morty’s with a family-friendly beer garden overlooking the public garden. Look for the London red telephone booth!
Thankfully, owner Mike was inside brewing his latest batch, so we popped our heads in to say hi, sample a couple of his beers – some inspired by Irish and Scottish beers – and learn more about his year-old brewery that has become quite the watering hole for the region.
Not just a place to drink good local brew, but to enjoy community evenings like open mic singer songwriter, and trivia.
When the weather is warm (which must be every day) he opens the garage roller doors.
Enjoy Orange Ice Cream at Maxwell Groves, Avon Park
Life is better on the porch. So, pull up an orange rocking chair out the front of Maxwell Groves, old wooden country store with a creamy orange ice cream squeezed and made fresh from the farm.
Maxwell Groves has been part of the Old Florida story since 1933 making goodies such as the ice cream, freshly squeezed juice, and citrus wine.
Secret Gardens Winery and Farm
Muscadines are the grapes native to Florida and the Southeast. As a dry wine lover, that’s usually a term that would turn me away.
Not at Secret Gardens Winery and Farm. They have managed to make the typically thickly sweet wine into something palatable (for me).
In fact, out of the several fruit and muscadine wines we tasted, with names such as Blush it Off, Hammock Time and Bee Wine, there wasn’t one I didn’t like.
I had my favorites of course, the straight from the vat, elderberry wine – a red wine you want to drink in the summer, offering you that depth and richness with a summer lightness – and Strawberry Kiss, a 100% fruit wine with a strong strawberry aroma and flavor.
Tip from Alexa: it’s the perfect summer drink made into a margarita! I have a bottle waiting for those warmer tips and will let you know.
We thoroughly enjoyed an hour or so with Alexa and Rick, owners of Secret Garden hearing of their growing success and innovation during the most challenging past year.
Wine tastings happen every day except Monday. Secret Gardens Winery often has food trucks and live music on their patio and outside wine garden with views over a small pond and the farm.
Soda Float Treat at Sebring Soda & Ice Cream
Remember when you were a child, and your parents gave you a creaming soda float for a treat?
I rarely ever drink soda anymore, but when I walked into Sebring Soda & Ice Cream – famous for its 300+ craft sodas – I could not resist.
No guilt experienced at all when I took first sip of that caramel cream soda mixed with coffee and vanilla ice cream.
The girls chose the non-nostalgic version of ice cream and milkshakes.
Sunset cocktails at Chachines Restaurant and Bar
Grab a seat poolside overlooking Little Lake Jackson at the elegant, Inn on the Lakes.
Coming back to the bird life, again, you’ll be amazed at how many there are in this region. As the sun began to set, they all flocked to the small island across from the Inn, covering it with white blobs of ibis.
It reminded me of sunset hour in Australia when all the lorikeets make their way to roost on the Norfolk pines and cause such a racket you can’t hear the person next to you speaking.
Chicanes also offers a gourmet dinner menu which ranges from fresh, local seafood to bourbon chicken and pork schnitzel. The restaurant was closed on our visit, so we instead enjoyed a delicious cheese platter with a variety of cocktails: Daquiri, margarita and gin cucumber.
Places to Eat in Sebring
Cattle ranches, farms, and the ocean only two hours away – Sebring has access to quality, local produce, which is reflected in the diversity and quality of the restaurants in Sebring serving fresh, tasty, and innovative food.
Whatever you desire you can find, from down-home casual to elegant. Many of the restaurants provide outdoor dining and lake views. Some may even have live music.
Check for opening times, as several were closed when we visited on a Sunday and Monday.
Looking for a healthy start to your day? Organically Local is the breakfast of our dreams.
Local and seasonal ingredients in colorful dishes like the fruit laden acai bowls, avocado toast with egg and tomato, spinach wraps, peanut butter and banana energy toasts, and nutritious smoothies.
Sit outside to watch the Downtown Sebring life amble by. You can do a little shopping in the boutique store next door after.
Another popular – and healthy – breakfast spot is Nutmeg’s Café offering a laid-back vibe and fresh food ranging from smoothies, avocado and bacon toast, and keto bowls.
Everything is made from scratch in the kitchen using fresh ingredients. You’ll also find treats such as cupcakes and pastries.
Don Jose Mexican Restaurant
Move from your cocktails at the Inn to Don Jose just down the road on Lake Jackson. The vibrant Mexican décor will make you think you’ve just arrived at Mexico City.
It’s funky and fun. Pass me a giant glass of margarita and sizzling steak fajitas please!
Sit on the outside patio where you’ll have beautiful views over Lake Jackson. We dined in the darker hours so missed them!
If you love steak, you don’t want to miss the legendary Cowpoke Watering Hole and one of the most popular Sebring restaurants.
They have every cut of steak you can imagine, and sinc, this is Florida cattle ranching area, you will not be disappointed with the quality of beef.
Craig said his Ribeye was one of the best he’s had and my filet with garlic butter was perfectly cooked.
You will want to wash it down with Cowpokes unique Alligator Slammer, made from Keke Beach liquor a creamy lime liquor I have never heard of before. It was delicious.
Sebring Accommodation: VRBO Rental Downtown Historic Sebring
Wondering where to stay in Sebring Fl? We chose a cute historic VRBO rental just a short 10-minute walk to “The Circle.”
It was an easy 20-minute drive to all other destinations we visited.
I loved sitting on our front porch getting a little work down with a glass of wine and watching the sun go down over the lake. We had a small slither of a view from the porch, but it was enough.
This Sebring vacation rental was comfortable with three bedrooms, all the amenities you want, beautifully decorated and stocked with filtered water, a coffee bar, orange juice, fruit, and muffin snacks.
I suggest taking a morning coffee in the sunroom and crashing on the living room couch of an evening watching reruns of Nashville!