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There's something special about Lake Otis. Florida's West Central Region is wealthy in lakes. Winter Haven in Polk County sits in the middle of a huge number of small lakes; the city is built around several of them. Lake Otis is one such lake. The small 143-acre lake is home to a great many Winter Haven citizens who are sure they have the best of both worlds. Where else can you wake to watch herons and gulls fish for their breakfast while you drink your morning coffee, then walk the short walk to the Post Office or the bank to attend to the day's business? Lake Otis is that kind of lake - a living part of the city and of the daily lives of its residents.
Many people are aware that Winter Haven possesses a chain of lakes. In actuality, there are two separate chains partially within the city. However, there are an even larger number of lakes that are not connected to any chain. Lake Otis is one of those lakes. Because Lake Otis is connected only to 27-acre Lake Link via an under-road channel and to Little Lake Otis directly to the south, the lake has remained private and often unvisited. While the chains of connected lakes have seen visitors floating through using the channels and small locks, the only form of access to Lake Otis has been an informal canoe launch from a private road between the two lakes. That is about to change, however, because the city has acquired an access lot on the west shore of Little Lake Otis and is planning a boat launch ramp. (November, 2010 update: The new public access is open, complete with boat launch and dock in a landscaped, park-like setting. The project was a joint effort of the city of Winter Haven, lakes management, and property owners.)
Lake Otis is an all-sports lake with upscale housing encompassing the lakefront. Several gated communities exist along the shore. Fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill and black crappie is popular on both Otis and Link Lakes. Residents enjoy water skiing, tubing, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. Most lakefront property owners have their own docks and boats at the ready so they can indulge in a little lake-time whenever the mood strikes.
The City of Winter Haven is known for excellent schools and recreational venues. Within walking distance of Lake Otis one can find schools, coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons and a variety of specialty services. Close by is the Chain of Lakes Complex with fitness facilities, lessons in martial arts and music lessons. The Complex is part of the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center about a mile to the northwest. This larger Center holds two lighted youth baseball/softball fields, an indoor gymnasium, lighted outdoor basketball courts, a 25-meter pool, physical conditioning facilities with both free weights and machines, a meeting room, kitchen facility, a game room and a conference room. Nearby park facilities host special events in the gazebo overlooking a nearby lake. A new library has recently been built and a complete Senior Center provides meals and activities geared to older citizens. Just east of the city, the municipal golf course is easily accessed by all. Winter Haven is well-supplied with dining establishments and specialty restaurants. There are often festivals and arts activities in progress to whet the interest of every family member. And there is enough nightlife available that something is sure to suit the fancy of both residents and their guests, from the casual to more elegant to young adult.
West Central Florida is filled with activities and attractions to keep the most restless soul occupied. A variety of ocean beaches can be visited within a hundred miles of Lake Otis, from Clearwater on the Gulf to Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic. In between are such nature venues as the Green Swamp - Florida's picturesque natural water source with cypress swamps,wildlife and fishing. Disney World is less than 50 miles away. Tampa is the same distance in the opposite direction. Here, deep sea charter fishing can be easily arranged. Historic Bok Sanctuary is less than 15 miles away, where the 57 bronze bells in the majestic carillon tower ring out over the 157-acre gardens every half hour. And at Polk City, Fantasy of Flight displays restored vintage airplanes from every era. A special treat for the flight fan is the simulated flights where they can pilot historic planes and engage in bygone battles via video.
There are many reasons to visit Lake Otis. Perhaps you want to fish or water ski or just relax on the deck and watch those herons spear their morning meal. Maybe it's the idea of being able to walk to nearby services or become part of an established neighborhood of friendly neighbors who barbecue together on weekend afternoons. Or to be centrally located where you can partake of all Florida has to offer. Whatever your reasons, you can likely find vacation rentals in the immediate area, some with lake frontage or lake views. Private residences are often available by the week or month. Commercial lodgings are plentiful in the Winter Haven area and there are still a few 'fishing camp' resorts left on nearby rivers. Real Estate is usually available in the area, if not on Lake Otis, then on other lakes in the vicinity. There's no time like the present to check out Lake Otis and Winter Haven. Come see what central Florida is all about.
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