Lake Alfred

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Mansion at Mackay Gardens & Lakeside Preserve.

Lake Alfred is small town of 4,000 people in north-central Polk County, Florida. The town lies along U.S. 17/92, which runs north/south through the center of town. Easily a drive-though community for motorists, it is worth a stop to hike through Mackay Gardens, browse the family-owned businesses along Haines St, or maybe even learn to water ski.

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

Lake Alfred was established in 1883 soon after the South Florida Railroad reached the area by settlers escaping the cold of Fargo, North Dakota. The town was initially called "Fargo", but the Post Office objected over confusion with Largo. The town then took on the name Chubb and later Bartow Junction because it lay at the junction of a road leading south into the county seat Bartow. In 1913, it was named Lake Alfred after the nearby lake which, in turn, had been named for Alfred Parslow, an early settler. The Mackay estate on the north shore of Lake Rochelle was built around 1920. It was purchased in 2004 by the city and is slowly being renovated to its original glory and will hopefully be placed on the National Register of Historic Places soon.

Climate[edit]

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Check the weather forecast for Lake Alfred at NOAA.

Lake Alfred's climate is much the same as the rest of Central Florida (except coasts). Winters are mild, with highs in the 70s (21-27°C) and lows in the 50s (10-15°C). Lows in the 30s (0-5°C) are common after cold fronts and there are usually a handful of lows below freezing each winter, although that requires clear skies, so it usually warms very rapidly after sunrise (30°F at 6AM, 55°F by noon is typical). Cold fronts occasionally pass by as squall lines, so tornadoes in December or January are not unusual. Snow is rare; the last measurable snowfall was in 1977, although sleet/wintry mix fell in an unusually cold January 2010. Summers are hot and humid, with highs around 90-95°F (33-35°C) and lows around 74-78°F (23-26°C). During the summer, onshore winds from both coasts travel inland, heat up, rise and build into thunderstorms, usually along a rough line. Lying in the center of the state, the line of storms (each called a "seabreeze") often collide and become severe, with tornadoes (small EF0-1s...not like the powerful tornadoes in the Plains states), 50+ mph winds, and hail possible. Strong storms are usually preceded by cooler winds caused by the rain-cooled air (cold air sinks) rapidly flowing away from the storm. The temperature after a strong thunderstorm passes can drop from 95°F (35°C) to 75°F (24°C) and since the storms can be fairly small, you can drive 5 miles and the temperature will drop/rise 20°F (10°C) between rain-cooled and surrounding areas.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Lake Alfred is located along U.S. 17/92, just north of Winter Haven and east of Auburndale and a few miles west of Haines City. County Road 557 runs north from town to Interstate 4 (exit 48); a branch of it—C.R. 557A—connects to Polk City.

By bus[edit]

Winter Haven Area Transit (W.H.A.T.) operates one route through town, along U.S. 17/92. Route 15 ([1]) runs between the Winter Haven Terminal (north side of downtown) and downtown Haines City. Adult fare is $1.50/ride with no free transfers. A day pass for adults costs $3 and is good for 24 hours. Discounts are available for students & seniors.

By air[edit]

The nearest commercial airports are Orlando International Airport (IATA: MCO) and Tampa International Airport (IATA: TPA).

Winter Haven Municipal Airport (IATA: GIF) & Jack Brown's Seaplane Base (FAA LID: F57) are located just a couple miles west of Lake Alfred off U.S. 92. They serve general aviation, but not regularly-scheduled, commercial flights.

Get around[edit]

Map of Lake Alfred.

The only effective way to get around town is with a car or on foot. The town extends just a dozen or so blocks in all directions from the intersection of Haines St and northbound U.S. 17/92, so walking is a reasonable option. The nearest car rental agencies are in Winter Haven and Auburndale.

By bus[edit]

Public transportation consists of WHAT Route 15 ([2]) along U.S. 17/92. This will only get you a mile or two within town, so at $1.50/ride isn't a practical way to get around Lake Alfred.

By taxi[edit]

See[edit]

  •    Mackay Garden & Lakeside Preserve900 Mackay Blvd (From U.S. 17/92, turn east on Mackay Blvd. First entrance is narrow, landscaped and goes past front of mansion to reach parking lot. Second entrance is close to parking lot & playground.),  +1 863 291-5270. Beautiful old mansion & estate with a playground and nature trails. The estate was built by Scottish entrepreneur Alexander Mackay, who named it "La Rochelle". The 7,000 square foot mansion is a great example of Craftsman style architecture. The interior is only open for tours (need to be scheduled) and for private events. There are a few miles of nature trails around the estate. The trails are marked by paint on posts & trees, but some sections aren't well marked and/or aren't cleared very wide (less than 2 ft wide in spots). Near the estate is a playground, restrooms, and small, Florida-friendly garden (showcases the local vegetation to minimize watering and fertilizer). The city purchased the estate in 2004 and has invested in many improvements to the site, but there is still more to be done.

Do[edit]

Lake Rochelle boat ramp.

Watersports[edit]

Public boat ramps are accessible off U.S. 17/92 for Lake Rochelle & Lake Haines.

  •    Chain of Lakes Kayaks120 W Echo St (Turn W on Thelma St on S side of town where U.S. 17/92 split/merge. Turn left on Buena Vista Dr, then first left on Echo St.),  +1 863 229-1070, e-mail: . Hourly kayak rentals from $10/hr (2 hr minimum). Guided kayak tours (4 person minimum): $50 for a half day (4 hr) or $80 for a full day (8 hr).
  •    Lucky Lowe Ski School1116 Old Lake Alfred Rd (From C.R. 557 a couple miles N of town, turn W on Old Lake Alfred Rd. Right at stop sign, entrance is then on left.),  +1 863 956-5277, e-mail: . Water ski school. Pay for individual lessons/rides, daily (3-4 lessons), or weekly (5 days, 3-4 lessons/day, & accommodation).

Golf[edit]

  •    Cypress Greens Golf & Tennis Community1000 Cypress Creek Blvd +1 863 956-4179. Private 9-hole course. Golf club rental available.

Cycling/walking[edit]

The Winter Haven Chain of Lakes Trail is a multipurpose paved trail leading from the split/merge of U.S. 17 & U.S. 92 on the south side of town south through the northern neighborhoods of Winter Haven, ending in Central Park.

Annual events[edit]

  • Bluegrass Bash — January. Bluegrass & clogging festival held at Mackay Gardens & Lakeside Preserve.
  • Grillin' and Chillin' BBQ Competition — October. Entertainment, shopping, and...of course...BBQ! Held at Lion's Park.

Buy[edit]

  •    The Barn Antiques167 C.R. 557A (Corner of S.R. 557 & C.R. 557A, a few miles north of town),  +1 863 956-1363. Tu-Su 10AM-4PM (Closed Jun-Sep). The owners regularly travel abroad to purchase antiques and ship them back to this store. There is a good variety of finer quality English & country antiques, with lots of furniture & home decor items. They also have a good selection of stained glass windows salvaged from old homes/furniture. This isn't a high-end antique store, but most of the stuff is good quality and the place is not overflowing with inexpensive nick-knacks like most antiques stores you'll find in the region. The family also owns the adjacent "The Stable Gifts" & "The Back Porch" restaurant.
  •    Biggars Antiques140 W Haines Blvd (S side of Haines Blvd between NB & SB U.S. 17/92.),  +1 863 956-4853. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Antique store, with a focus on country antiques & oak furniture.
  •    Lang's Sun Country Groves5900 U.S. 17/92 (On N side of U.S. 17/92, a couple miles E of town.),  +1 863 956-1460. M-Sa 9AM-5PM (Closed Jun-Sep). Gift-fruit shipper, offering citrus gift baskets and assorted candies, jams, juices and small gifts.
  •    Potpourri Antiques and Gifts/Mollie's Paperie144 W Haines Blvd (S side of Haines Blvd between NB & SB U.S. 17/92.),  +1 863 956-5535. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Antique furniture, silver, & glass. Home decor and designer gifts.
  •    Ron's Tackle Box/The Old Angler's Antique Gallerie380 S Lake Shore Way (Corner of NB U.S. 17/92 & E Cumming St.),  +1 863 956-4990. M-Th 6AM-6PM, F-Su 6AM-7PM. Bait & tackle shop that also offers collectible knives, trophy fish/game mounts, and specialized outdoorsman-type gifts.
  •    The Stable Gifts110 C.R. 557A (Corner of S.R. 557 & C.R. 557A, a few miles north of town),  +1 863 956-1363. Tu-Su 10AM-4PM (Closed Jun-Sep). Various home decor gifts. Located next to The Barn antiques.

Eat[edit]

  •    The Back Porch at The Barn & stable115 C.R. 557A (Located at intersection of S.R. 557 & S.R. 557A, a few miles north of town.),  +1 863 956-2227. Lunch Tu-Sa.
  •    Chat-A-Whyle185 Lake Shore Way (On W side of NB U.S. 17/92, between Pierce St & Haines Blvd. From SB U.S. 17/92, turn left on Pierce St, then entrance is on left before reaching NB U.S. 17/92.),  +1 863 956-1515. Breakfast & lunch daily. Located next to The Barn antique store. Follow S.R. 557 a few miles north of town to the intersection of S.R. 557A.
  •    Gary's Oyster Bar & Seafood House660 E Alfred Rd (On N side of U.S. 17/92, just a mile NE of town.),  +1 863 956-5055. Dinner daily.. A the name suggest, this restaurant features a wide range of seafood eats, from shrimp & catfish to oysters and alligator.
  •    Lang's Taste of Florida Café5900 U.S. 17/92 W (On N side of U.S. 17/92, a couple miles E of town.),  +1 863 956-1460. M-Sa 10:30AM-5PM (Oct-May). Serving up fresh soups, salads, & entrees...but save room for desert. A wide range of homemade pies, ice cream, shakes, and more is the highlight. Most dishes/deserts feature fresh, local citrus & strawberries.
  •    Lavender & Lace Tea Room430 N Lake Shore Way (Corner of E Swoope St & N Lake Shore Way. From E, turn right off U.S. 17/92 on Lk Shore Way at curve when entering town. From S, turn left on Pomelo St (C.R. 557). Cross RR tracks & turn R on Swoope St.),  +1 863 956-3998. Lunch M-Sa.
  •    Luigi's Italian Restaurant228 S Lake Shore Way (SE corner of NB U.S. 17/92 and Pierce St.),  +1 863 956-9100. Lunch & dinner daily.
  •    Nini's Lake Alfred Café148 W Haines Blvd (Haines Blvd between NB & SB U.S. 17/92.),  +1 863 956-3504. Breakfast & lunch Tu-Su. Dinner every other F..

Sleep[edit]

  •    Lakeside Villas Motel1255 S Lake Shore Way (N side of U.S. 17/92 on curve at Lk Rochelle, near intersection where U.S. 17 & U.S. 92 split.),  +1 863 956-1504.

Connect[edit]

Lake Alfred's public library.
  •    Lake Alfred Post Office195 W Haines Blvd (NE corner of Haines Ave & SB U.S. 17/92),  +1 863 956-4664. M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM; Sa 9AM-11AM.
  •    Lake Alfred Public Library245 N. Seminole Ave (Turn E on Pomelo St from U.S. 17/92. Turn left (N) on Seminole Ave.),  +1 863 291-5378. M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. There are 8 computers for public use with internet access. A wi-fi wireless internet connection is available. Behind the library is a small garden. There are just 3 parking spots in front of the building; a gravel parking lot is directly across the street. The Friends of the Library bookstore is open Saturdays 10AM-3PM.

Stay safe[edit]

Polk County Sheriff: +1 863 533-0344 (Emergency? Dial: 911)

Cope[edit]

The nearest hospital and medical clinics are in Winter Haven.

Go next[edit]

Boaters and water skiers can head south to Winter Haven, where its Chain of Lakes offers plenty of space to roam. Much more in the way of nature parks and antiques shopping can be found throughout Polk County.

Routes through Lake Alfred
OrlandoHaines City  N US 17.svg S  Winter HavenPunta Gorda
TampaAuburndale  W US 92.svg E  Haines CityOrlando


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