Wauchula, the county seat of Florida’s Hardee County, may be small in population (around 5,000), but it has attractions well worth your while.
The Peace River is a just a short trek from the middle of town and a number of outfitters offer canoeing and kayaking trips that glide you downstream to gaze at otters, ospreys, herons, eagles and the occasional lounging alligator. Fossil-hunting is popular along the river’s banks.
Main Street Wauchula, with antiques shops, is highlighted by a lovely fountain and the sculptures of two sandhill cranes. (‘Wauchula’ comes from a Miccosoukee Indian word meaning “call of the Sandhill crane.”)
The nearby Arcadia Opera House, built in 1906, is now an antiques shop and museum.
Interpretive exhibits at Paynes Creek Historic State Park in nearby Bowling Green showcase the lives of the Seminole Indians and pioneers in the 1800’s. A number of nature trails wind through the area, and visitors can participate in a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bird-watching, and wildlife viewing.
Solomon’s Castle, a 20-minute drive from the heart of Wauchula, is a huge three-story building made of old aluminum newspaper printing plates, and features artworks made from recycled materials, including a replica of the Alamo and a huge 16th century galleon.
Center for Great Apes, near Wauchula, is the sole orangutan sanctuary in North America and one of only 10 sanctuaries for chimpanzees.