Off the Beaten Path from West Palm Beach: Pahokee, Fla.
With its centennial approaching in 2022, Pahokee can look back on a time when it was recognized as “Winter Vegetable Capital of the World” and refrigerated train cars stocked with Pahokee produce were heading out around the clock. Although that was in the 1930s, to this day the good earth still provides the town with its livelihood. And there are still sights to see: you just need to know where to look. Arguably the best place to look is on the waterfront.
1. What’s Up? Dock!
When you consider you’d have to drive more than 100 miles to complete a round trip around Lake Okeechobee, it’s almost unbelievable that Pahokee is the only city with direct access to the lake. That distinction is what explains the elaborate marina on the waterfront. There are dozens of slips for private watercraft, and even more room when you add the protective breakwater that surrounds those spaces. The extended dock also adds the bonus of dropping by for a few hours of fishing. From here you can cast for catfish, crappie, bluegill, bass – and anything else that may be biting.
2. Picture Perfect
The marina is only half of the complex. The other is the Good Sam campground that enjoys one of the finest settings in Florida with just a narrow strip of land separating its 118 tent and RV sites from the shores of Lake Okeechobee. It’s a fairly modern experience with full hookups and Wi-Fi hotpots across the grounds. And when you’re done fishing and ready for relax, take a walk around and check out the clubhouse and swimming pool. As the day comes to a close, find a table at Pahokee Mo’s Tiki Bar & Sunset Grille. Inside, a wall-to-wall opens to the west to frame a Technicolor Lake Okeechobee sunset.
3. On the Trail
While you’ll get a sense of the grandeur of Lake Okeechobee from the marina and the campground, there’s a third way to witness its vast beauty. And for that, you can thank Herbert Hoover. Constructed in the 1930s to protect lakeside towns from flooding, the Herbert Hoover Dike encircles the lake and provides a 35-foot-high vantage point along the perimeter. Capping the top of the levee is the extra-wide recreational path known as the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST). Part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, whether walking, jogging, or bicycling it won’t take long to appreciate the ever-changing scenery as the added elevation opens up panoramic views of the lake.
4. One for the (Toll) Road
If you’re heading to Pahokee from the north, you’ll drive through areas of lush vegetation, elegant royal palms, and clusters of banana trees. Less than four miles from Pahokee, keep your eyes open for the community of Canal Point. Although it’s just a speck of a place, a historical marker notes that this was where Conner’s Toll Highway, a 52-mile road built atop what had been muck land. How long does it take to complete a 52-mile road? In 1924, it took William Conner’s crew just eight months. It likely took more time to construct the massive channel that directs the canal through Canal Point. Seen from the summit of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, you may see massive gates open and close to regulate water levels or, in some cases, usher boats in and out of the lake.
For more information, visit the City of Pahokee.
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