By  Mike Miller   Updated August 31, 2023

Haines City, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Haines City, Florida is a town of about 33,364 people in Polk County in Central Florida.  It is near the intersection of I-4 and its intersection with US-27.   

The town is six miles south of Interstate 4, 19 miles west of Walt Disney World, and about 38 miles west of downtown Orlando.

Haines City Polk Hotel WatercolorPolk Hotel, Haines City

The entire area around I-4 and US-27 is loosely referred to as Haines City although the town proper is to the south.

The motto of the City of Haines City is "The Heart of Florida."


Haines City, Florida was first platted in 1885, and was known as Clay Cut. Not long after that, the South Florida Railroad reached the area but didn't put a station in town.

Haines City Florida Polk HotelVintage Postcard Polk Hotel

Local history says the early settlers persuaded the railroad to build a station by agreeing to rename their town after a railroad  official, Colonel Henry Haines.

In the early days, and still to some degree, the area was in the middle of some of the most fertile citrus groves in the state.

Citrus growing and processing became the main business of Haines City.  

The Polk Hotel was built in the 1920s and was one of the largest and most elegant hotels in Central Florida.  The brochure images below give you an idea of what it was like back in the day.

Haines City Polk Hotel Brochure
Haines City Polk Hotel Brochure

A major employer in Haines City was Suni-Citrus Products Company, founded by a man named Emory Cocke. This company had developed special processes to convert orange peels and pulp into cattle feed.

I met Mr. Cocke during my engineering career many years ago, and he was an interesting man.

His office ran efficiently even though it looked like it was right out of a 1930 movie with old telephones, typewriters and a general vintage atmosphere.


Downtown Haines CityDowntown Haines City

In recent years Haines City has seen tremendous population growth because of its easy access to job centers in Tampa, Orlando, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. 

In the early 1970s Haines City had its own theme park, Circus World.  It failed and was reborn as "Boardwalk and Baseball."

That had a good run but finally closed and the site is now a large commercial center at I-4 and US-27.

Haines City Florida Community CenterLake Eva Community Park, Haines City, Florida

Some of this growth has resulted in prosperity for the town as can be seen in the newly opened Lake Eva Community Center and Lake Eva Park shown in the photo above.

Lake Eva Park has an aquatic attraction with water slides that the kids really enjoy.  The park is one of the favorite places in Haines City for the whole family to enjoy.

New subdivisions have been developed on the edges of the city, especially in the areas near I-4 north of the city. 

Downtown Haines CityDowntown Haines City

One of the largest of these is Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club.

These modern developments are in stark contrast with the old Palm Crest Hotel, formerly known as the Polk Hotel,  in downtown Haines City that has dominated the skyline since the 1920's.

The hotel is now the home of Landmark Baptist College.

Like most smaller Florida towns, the downtown area is the last to be modernized.

The northern end of the Scenic Highway 17, is in Haines City and follows along the east side of US-27 all the way down to Sebring along the sandy Lake Wales Ridge.

It is a ride I highly recommend.  You will enjoy the thousands of acres of citrus groves that are the most prominent scenery through this hilly lake filled region.

Another interesting drive is to take US-17 west out of Haines City and drive through Lake Alfred about 12 miles to Winter Haven.

Winter Haven is home to dozens of lakes and a major theme park, Legoland.


Lake Eva Park 
555 Ledwith Avenue, Haines City, FL 33844. (863) 421-3700 

Lake Eva Park is our favorite spot for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing picnic. The magnificent oak trees provide ample shade, and the gentle breeze from the nearby lake is refreshing.

Take a seat on one of the benches and watch the ducks glide across the water. If you’re traveling with little ones, they’ll love the super playground. Don’t forget your camera—the picturesque views are Instagram-worthy! 

Ridge Island Groves
6000 Old Polk City Road, Haines City, FL 33844.(863) 422-0333
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM 

Step into a citrus wonderland at Ridge Island Groves open-air fruit market. This family-owned farm offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle.

Wander through fragrant orange groves, plucking juicy fruit straight from the trees. The friendly staff will happily share their knowledge about citrus farming. Stock up on fresh oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits—you won’t find anything sweeter!

And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a sun-kissed sunset over the groves. 

Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park
4335 Firetower Road, Haines City, FL 33844. (863) 696-1112 

Escape to nature’s sanctuary at Catfish Creek Preserve State Park. As you explore the sandy trails, keep an eye out for wildlife—this peaceful oasis is home to deer, bobcats, and a variety of bird species.

The real magic lies in tranquility; it’s the perfect place to recharge. Wear appropriate footwear, as the sandy terrain can be tricky. Pro tip: Bring your binoculars for birdwatching—you’ll be amazed by the feathered residents.

Picnic tables are available. Dogs are welcome.

Southern Dunes Golf Club 
2888 Southern Dunes Blvd, Haines City, FL 33844. (863) 421-4653 

Calling all golf enthusiasts! Southern Dunes Golf Club is a golfer’s paradise. The meticulously maintained course offers challenging holes and stunning views.

Tee off against the backdrop of rolling hills and pristine lakes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’ll appreciate the friendly atmosphere. After your round, unwind at the clubhouse with a refreshing drink. Fore! 

Haines City Community Theatre
303 Ledwith Ave, Haines City, FL 33844.  (863) 421-1893 

Indulge your love for the arts at the Haines City Community Theatre. This intimate venue hosts a variety of performances, from classic plays to local productions.

The cozy atmosphere and talented local actors create a memorable experience. Check their schedule for upcoming shows, and you might just catch a hidden gem that adds a touch of culture to your Florida adventure.


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