Located in Sumter County, Florida, Lake Panasoffkee is a popular natural park and reserve which offers a multitude of outdoor experiences. Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Orlando, visitors can enjoy birdwatching, cycling, horseback riding, fishing and hiking on the lake shores. Boat trips are available for adventurous travellers wishing to view the very best of Florida’s wildlife.
A great way to explore Lake Panasoffkee is via an airboat adventure. Visitors are treated to a trip through the marshes, swamps and backwaters where myriad wildlife can be seen. Catch glimpses of alligators, turtles, ducks, snakes and rare birdlife in this relatively untouched area of Florida. Alternatively, rent a boat and glide across the main lake effortlessly, capturing the majesty of freshwater marshes and oak-lined banks. Keen anglers can attempt to catch crappies or trophy bass weighing up to 9 pounds or larger. Hikers can enjoy woodland walks, and there are 28 kilometres of multi-use trails available with picnic tables and grills en route. There are also several kilometres available for horseback and horse drawn buggy riding. Outdoor types will relish the opportunity to camp underneath the stars by Lake Panasoffkee. There are several sites on the trails and stalls with water, fire rings or grills. Cyclists can ride across 12 kilometres of terrain around the lake, as trails are clearly marked for all levels of expertise. Although many prefer to camp, barbeque or picnic around the lake, there are also several restaurants in the area. From buffet style dinners to seafood eateries there’s plenty to tempt a hungry adventurer.
It takes just over an hour to drive from Orlando, Gainesville and Tampa to Lake Panasoffkee. Driving is the easiest method of transport to access the lakeside facilities. Buses are available from surrounding cities including Lakeland, Ocala and the Villages of Sumter County. There are 3 Amtrak rail stations within half an hour of Lake Panasoffkee, the nearest is in Wildwood, 24 kilometres away to the furthest point.
Around 1813, Black Seminoles settled by the lake and named the area Starkey's Village. They planted one of the oldest orange groves in Florida and cultivated rice, sugarcane and corn in addition to raising livestock. In the late 1800s, a Cleveland entrepreneur purchased the land and utilised the leftover orange stock and the oak forests on the property. The area became more developed and began to attract more tourists. Today, Lake Panasoffkee tempts lovers of the great outdoors, those keen to escape the buzzing metropolis’ and anglers eager to catch that ever-elusive trophy bass.