When we arrived in the sunshine state, one of the first things we wanted to do was discover the REAL Florida. We’ve all heard of Disney World and Universal Studios, which of course are pretty amazing . . . but have you heard of Circle B Bar Reserve? We hadn’t!
One of our friendly new neighbors told us about Circle B and recommended we add it to our list of hidden gems and are we glad they did. At the first chance we donned our walking shoes, sprayed ourselves with insect repellent, packed plenty of water and headed off to this 1,267-acre wilderness.
Whether you're visiting Florida or a resident, Circle B Bar Reserve is a must see. Just an hour outside of Orlando, Circle B is a place for everyone (no pets allowed), whether you're a family on a budget, honeymooners or retirees, you’re going to love this place and it’s for free! Free parking and free entry. As soon as we drove down the entry road, we knew we were in for a treat. It twisted and turned as we got deeper into the reserve, oak trees canopied the road draping in Spanish moss and ferns. It felt like we were driving into a scene from Jurassic Park.
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Circle B offers many different trails, mainly easy or moderate and plenty with shade, which during the hottest time of the year, June, July and August, is necessary, unless you plan on an early start. There is also a discovery center that is great for kids and lots of covered picnic spots with grills, watch out for your food though!
We started out on the Shady Oak trail, (0.7 miles) which had lush tropical plants and more Spanish moss draped trees, countless butterflies and birds seemed to follow us along the path to the lake. Just as we stopped to take a selfie a bald eagle flew out of the tree right behind us, it felt incredible as we watched it swoop and glide away to another tree.
At every turn there seemed to be something to see, when we reached Lake Hancock the water gently lapped the shore as we joined the Alligator Alley trail, (1.2 miles). As the path meandered along the shoreline, we spotted the many majestic great blue herons, white Ibis, great egret and anhinga sunning themselves on branches that stretched out over the lake. It is important to remember that this is a wilderness area and to respect that the wildlife is not tame and should not be fed. It is the home of many alligators and we saw their tail tracks from one side of the path to the other, at certain times of the year a part of the path is closed off due to their mating season (May-June, check with reserve for details).
There is a covered observation platform, with a short boardwalk that takes you out over the lake, it’s the perfect spot for you to rest, drink and watch out for alligators, turtles and other wildfowl. You can be sure of seeing many birds putting on a show for you, as they dive into the water for a prized fish.
As we continued along Heron Hideout trail, (0.3 miles), with the lake on one side of the path and marsh on the other, a raccoon ambled along in front of us, shooting into the undergrowth, then popping out again further along the path. With all the birds and other wildlife each making their own distinctive sounds, it is like the most wonderful chorus of nature filling the air. We can’t recommend this place enough, or wait for our next adventure there!
Respectfully, please leave this nature reserve as you find it, undisturbed for its inhabitants and ready for the next visitor.
We will be recommending more hidden gems of Florida, which will either be free or low cost, so watch this space if you are planning a vacation to the sunshine state!
Circle B Bar Reserve is situated at 4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland, Florida 33803
for more information please visit http://polknature.com/polk-nature-discovery-center/welcome
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