If you’re a closet farmer or just a fan of off-the-bush produce, Sumter’s family owned U-pick farms and farmers’ markets are a must-see/must-do. Start bright and early at the Brownwood Farmers’ Market, open Saturdays from 9am to 2pm in Brownwood Paddock Square®. Take I-75 exit 329, head east on State Road 44 for about 5 miles and turn left onto Meggison Road.
Berry season is April to June, so if you’re here with us for the spring, you’re in for a treat. Head west on State Road 44 to CR 475 North and turn right. In 9.8 miles, turn left into Whispering Oaks Winery, a great place for wine tasting and U-pick blueberries.
After a couple of buckets of berries, some wine samples and maybe even a tour, make your way south and head over to the Cypress House Ranch B&B. This rustic little inn is more than just a place to sleep. It offers trail rides, riding lessons, a swimming pool and breathtaking scenery. All the rooms are upstairs, so you’re guaranteed a good view. They’re closed from June 1st-August 15th, so plan accordingly.
Wake up bright and early and head downstairs for some breakfast. It’s going to be a wild day. The Florida Bass Conservation Center is a fantastic place to learn about Florida’s efforts to protect our freshwater ecosystem. It’s open Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM, and self-guided tours are available all day. There’s an awesome aquarium that overlooks the hatchery itself that allows you to get up close and personal with Florida’s famous largemouth bass. There’s even a catch-and-release stocked pond if you want to try your hand at catching a few. Just go back to Bushnell, continue west on County Road 48 and turn right onto County Road 471. You’ll drive through Webster. When you cross County Road 50, the Conservation Center is about 5 miles south on the left.
The Conservation Center is smack in the middle of the Richloam Wildlife Management Area. The WMA has hundreds of trails, great hunting and fishing, and some of Florida’s best wildlife watching. Grab your picnic basket and go exploring. Be careful! The WMA is open to hunters, so check with the Fish and Wildlife Commission to be sure of the safety rules .
You can easily spend the whole day enjoying the WMA, but if you’re looking for variety, there are frequent shows and events at the Sumter Equestrian Center, one of Florida’s up-and-coming equestrian showplaces. This beautiful, family owned facility is host to everything from hunter/jumper and dressage competitions to 4-H shows and draft horse pulls. Travel back north on 471 to 48, turn left and go back to Bushnell. Turn left at the flashing light at Seminole Avenue. The Equestrian Center is about seven miles on the right.
If it’s Saturday, you’ll want to check out the Florida International Teaching Zoo in Bushnell. They’ve got amazing animals, a rookery filled with migratory birds, tours throughout the afternoon and a predator feeding at 4pm. The zoo is north of Bushnell, about 15 minutes from the Equestrian Center and the Cypress House Ranch.