Endless opportunities for recreational activities are strong elements of the high quality of life enjoyed in the Sebring area and throughout Highlands County. The mild climate invites residents and visitors alike to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities on a year-round basis.
There are numerous lakes in Highlands County – many with access for fishing, boating, water skiing and swimming. Lake Istokpoga, Florida’s fifth largest lake, is located just south of the Sebring area. Internationally acclaimed as an excellent natural resource for largemouth bass fishing, the area has numerous fishing guides and fish camps available. Lake Jackson, around which Sebring was developed in the early 1900s, is also known for its share of “Big Bass.” City owned and maintained beaches on Lake Jackson are also popular spots for family recreation. Arbuckle Creek and the Kissimmee River, along with 19 county parks and 44 county maintained boat ramps, all provide residents and visitors with diverse opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming and other related water sports.
Residents and visitors alike can enjoy golf at any of the area’s 17 golf courses, most of which are championship ranked. No two golf courses are alike – each has been designed to enhance the environment that surrounds it. Courses are staffed with professional golf instructors and offer well-maintained carts and equipment essential to the game. Fully stocked pro shops provide the visiting golfer with rental clubs and other necessities of the game. While advanced tee-times are suggested at most courses, it’s rare to be unable to book a playing time that suits the visitor’s schedule at nearly any time of year. Area hotels and resorts offer attractive golf packages for visitors on a year-round basis, and thousands of individuals and groups come here to enjoy our fine golfing facilities each year.
Through school and other community programs, team sports such as football, softball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and swimming are heartily supported by residents and visitors in the Sebring area. The Highlands County Multi Sports Complex offers facilities for competitive sportspeople to compete. Consisting of 52 acres of primary activity areas, including practice fields for soccer, softball and football, the complex hosts local leagues, and a full slate of regional and state sporting events. High school and college teams boast district or state championships in several of the team sports. Other organized sports such as Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, along with a variety of excellent programs offered by the ever-expanding Highlands County Family YMCA, provide area youth with many developmental recreation opportunities, as well as a venue for participation by parents and other interested adults. The city and county-supported Max Long Complex located adjacent to the YMCA, features a variety of excellent playing fields for all ages. Tennis, racquetball, bowling, horseshoes, horseback riding and canoeing are also popular sports enjoyed by many in the area.
The annually held Heartland Triathlon draws competitors from a wide range of locations. Beginning at City Pier Beach with a .25 mile swim in Lake Jackson, followed by a 14 mile bike ride around the lake and through citrus groves, and concluding with 3.1 mile run through historic downtown Sebring, the event provides an excellent opportunity for both residents and visitors to experience the beautiful sights of Sebring. Local cyclists, runners and swimmers consider themselves privileged to reside in this emerging mecca for individual outdoor recreational pursuits. Visitors come for the fast-paced Heartland Triathlon, but often end up staying for the more tranquil quality of life that defines Highlands County.
Nature lovers have numerous choices for hiking, camping, picnicking and bird watching. Highlands Hammock State Park, features exciting and informative hiking trails and boardwalks – some of which are wheelchair accessible. The first park established in Florida’s state park system, Highlands Hammock offers camping and picnic areas, as well as narrated tram tours through miles of well-preserved native wilderness, and provides a first-hand view of what this part of Florida was like prior to development. Other hiking trails are available through the Water Management District and the Archbold Biological Station, located just south of the town of Lake Placid.
Bicycling throughout Highlands County has recently become a popular sport and form of recreation, and bicyclists of any skill level can find a perfect route to enjoy a ride in the countryside. Some of these routes feature on-road and off-road leisure level routes through the ever-popular Highlands Hammock State Park, as well as road routes from 10 miles to over 100 miles in length around the community. Sebring has become a South Central Florida bicycling mecca of late, where the local bicycle club, The Highlands Peddlers, serves residents and visitors alike. There are several organized riding events held by out-of-town clubs each year, and thousands of bicyclists participate in these organized events, which are usually held over a three-day weekend.
Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will be pleased with an abundance of opportunities throughout Highlands County. The Highlands County Audubon Society provides information for those who enjoy such pastimes. Highlands Hammock State Park maintains an excellent birding list, in addition to serving as a home for alligators, deer, otters, armadillos, bear and other native wildlife. The park was the location of the last known sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a now extinct species. In and around Sebring and Highlands County, observers will see the Florida Scrub Jay, Swallow-tailed Kite, Florida Sandhill Cranes, Osprey and Bald Eagles, all in their native habitat.
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