It doesn’t seem like nearly 20 years ago now that I first hit the road with my kiddo to discover a new craze called Geocaching. This modern day treasure hunt was a way to combine a few of my favorite things: road trips, spending time with my daughter, and exploring the outdoors. And it didn’t cost much more than a tank of gas and lunch or dinner at a new place we would discover together.
So, when I learned one of my favorite things was going to be happening in one of my favorite destinations, I had to plan a trip. In honor of Geocaching’s 20th anniversary, Sebring has organized a Geocaching Tour, complete with a downloadable Passport, four GeoTrails to explore, and a fun kick-off event with coffee and donuts in the morning and a wind down at a family fun event at the winery in the evening.
One of the great things about geocaching is that it starts whenever you want, and you go at your own pace. So, I told my wife we were going on a getaway full of nostalgia and new finds, and we packed the truck and headed off.
Sebring is one of Florida’s hidden gems, with a rich history and an abundance of natural beauty, art and culture, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The four GeoTrails are designed to take travelers on a journey through Sebring, Avon Park, and Lake Placid, and give them a taste of the region’s history, and arts and culture, while immersing them in spectacular natural surroundings.
We started out by exploring Sebring’s lovely downtown, a designated Historic District, with 22 buildings just over a century old listed on the National Historic Register.
Founded in 1912 by Pottery manufacturer, George E. Sebring—who also has a town named for him in Ohio—the city is built around a circle with a park in the center and avenues emanating out like spokes. Circle Park is the traditional hub of Sebring’s social activities.
Walking around downtown, we passed an array of historic buildings that pre-date 1920. Helpful hint: Circle Park and Circle Drive are fantastic places to look for caches and get a glimpse of the town’s history at the same time.
You can’t talk about the town’s history without mentioning the Sebring International Raceway, the Birthplace of American Endurance Racing and home to an annual 12-hour endurance race since 1952. We spent our first night there, at Seven — Sebring Raceway Hotel, situated on turn seven of the track. We loved the motorsports theme, even without the excitement of a race. We had dinner that night at Apex at Seven, one of the restaurants at the hotel. We split the mega Bavarian Pretzel—definitely big enough to share—and the 22 oz ribeye for two, perfectly grilled, served up with Apex Fries—tossed with parmesan and truffle oil. We had no room for dessert but enjoyed a couple of signature craft cocktails, a Highland Buck for me—named for the county that Sebring is in—bourbon, ginger liqueur, with splashes of orange, lemon, and ginger beer. My wife enjoyed the Sebring Breeze, with gin, fresh lime juice, elderflower liqueur, basil, and a splash of soda. Then it was time for bed so that we could be ready for a full Saturday adventure.
Sebring is known for its agriculture and wanting to experience that, we headed out to the Ranch & Harvest Trail that took us to a variety of places highlighting the area’s agriculture, such as cattle ranches and places that grow sugar cane, oranges and grapes. First we went to Maxwell Groves, a family-owned farm stand in nearby Avon Park that has been selling citrus for nearly a century. In addition to cases and bags of Ruby Red Grapefruit, Tangelos, Tangerines, Valencia and Navel oranges and Temples and Honeybells, the store is also famous for its hand-picked, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and dairy-free soft serve orange ice cream. Other flavors are available too, like lemonade and creamsicle and key lime, plus jams, jellies, honeys, syrups and they even have more than a dozen flavors of fruit wine. But we opted for a couple of traditional soft-serve orange cones and sat back in the orange rockers on the porch to relax and enjoy some of the juiciest ice cream around.
That afternoon, we made a visit to Sugar Sand Distillery, which is located in the middle of a 10-acre sugar cane farm. We opted for a tour of the field and the distillery and sampled their rum, vodka, whiskey, moonshine, and gin, and enjoyed a cocktail sample with our spirit of choice.
My wife wanted to sample some more agriculture so we visited the recently opened Secret Gardens Winery & Farm. The family who owns Secret Gardens planted a 5.5-acre vineyard next to their famed blue pole barn, and will be harvesting their own muscadine grapes in 2022. Now, they produce seven different fruit wines, including blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry—my wife’s favorite—elderberry, and muscadine. We enjoyed a few samples at the antique bar in the barn tasting room, and picked up a few jars of handmade goodness to take home.
We knew that Lake Placid was the “Caladium Capital of the World,” growing 95 percent of the world’s supply of the leafy, heart-shaped plant and even has an annual Caladium Festival dedicated to the plant. Lake Placid is also called the “Town of Murals” with more than 60 murals dotting the town, each with a hidden item—making for another type of treasure hunt. So, armed with a guidebook we picked up at the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, we decided to explore them and try to find the hidden object in each, while seeking out caches. This is when we discovered the new geocaching game of Adventure Labs, which took us around downtown to some really beautiful and informative murals.
It’s amazing how you can work up an appetite just cruising around checking out the scenery and looking for caches! After an afternoon of treasure hunting, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner that evening at the Lazy Lobster Shanty. We shared the lobster dip with garlic pita points, and I had the seafood chowder, and medley—two skewers of shrimp and scallops, and a crab cake— and my wife loved her crab mac and cheese. The blueberry pie for dessert was some of the best I have ever tasted.
Our final day in Sebring, we wanted to explore the spectacular natural areas, also a great place to hunt for geocaches. Tons of treasures were just waiting to be found, caches and otherwise. We began the day exploring around Lake Istokpoga, a great fishing lake, but also a nice place for a picnic or a stroll on one of the nature trails. We snagged a few caches before heading off to one of our favorite places, Highlands Hammock State Park, to explore more. On this trail we were able to see a lot of scenery we don’t get to see back home, from boardwalks through the swamp to beautiful lakes at sunset, and watching the sunrise through the pines.
We got plenty of exercise and found some cool caches before our time among so many hidden gems came to a close. At the end of our stay, we hit the highway, thinking about our next trip back to Sebring.