If you’re looking for an authentic Central Florida vacation experience, look no further than Ridge Island Groves in Haines City. They’ve got citrus groves, blueberries, peaches, a citrus packing plant, 8-10 varieties of fruit, a hydroponic garden, chickens and a gift shop that carries an incredible amount of gator heads (it’s a Florida thing). Oh, and the creamiest, dreamiest ice cream you’ll ever put in your mouth.
Like most amazing things you encounter during your Central Florida vacation, Ridge Island Groves is a little off of the beaten path, but it’s by no means a secret. There were already 10 cars in the parking lot when we arrived, and not a single one had a Florida tag, aside from ours, of course.
It didn’t take us long to realize why so many people visit Ridge Island Groves…
The Scent of Orange Blossoms
Best.Scent.Ever. No other explanation is necessary.
Archie Ritch & the Ridge Island Groves Family
If you run into someone wearing a Ridge Island Groves shirt, there is a
good chance they are a Ritch.
They are some of the nicest, hard-working and knowledgeable people we have ever
met, and in my humble opinion, what took our visit from great to fantastic.
Citrus Groves, Packing Plant and Orange Juice
You'll get see where Ridge Island Groves’ citrus gets washed, waxed and
sorted, before it circles the globe. The plant is
purposefully wide open, so you get a great view of the whole process.
Citrus is sorted by size, and all of the “ugly” ones find their way to the
Speaking of fresh orange juice, holy wow. It was so good. This is probably due in part to their special recipe, which is created by combining the juice from whichever citrus varieties are in season at that time. That makes it more of a science project than a recipe, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
Tour the Citrus Groves
Once you’ve seen all of the behind-the-scenes stuff and restored your
Vitamin C stores with the best orange juice ever, it’s time for an adventure. For $8.00,
you get a down-to-earth golf cart tour of their Florida orange groves.
This includes a stop where you get to pick your very own fresh
from Florida orange! Our guide was knowledgable and friendly. We learned
all about the different citrus varieties in the grove and the art of picking an
“We had oranges sent back home to the kids. The girl who waited on us was very friendly and helpful and the kids had great reviews about the taste and quality.”
If you’re feeling generous, or just want to secure your title as best: grandparent, parent or friend, Ridge Island Groves will ship citrus in a gift box, and send them to lucky friends and family back home.
We don’t know about you, but we're of the opinion that an edible souvenir, is
the best souvenir. (Hopefully my friends and family are reading this).
Did we mention that all of their produce is grown pesticide-free? Like we said, they’re the real deal.
U-Pick Citrus, Blueberries and Peaches
Oranges aren’t the only fruit you can pick at Ridge Island Groves. They also
have Florida peaches, strawberries and blueberries.
Ridge Island Groves is one of the few places we know of in Central Florida's Polk
County where locals can purchase pasture raised, antibiotic free chickens
(let us know if you know of others). Their White Cornish Rock Cross
Broilers actually see sunlight, eat bugs and forage for food in unique
pens called chicken tractors. These pens are moved 12 feet to fresh
pasture every day, so the grass is not overloaded with nitrogen, and the
chickens get a fresh salad and more bugs.
Ridge Island processes their meat chickens every 6-7 weeks, and each chicken yields anywhere from 3-5 pounds of meat that is superior in taste and nutritional value, compared to chickens raised in unnatural, stressful conditions.
They also carry laying hens for those interested in free-range eggs.
Many of the non-citrus fruit varieties at Ridge Island Groves are now being
grown using hydroponics. They even sell the kits, if you’re interested in
trying your hand at this gardening method.
Peach and Orange Ice Cream
You can’t leave Ridge Island Grove without trying their peach
or orange ice cream. It’s so good, and the perfect way to end the
Florida Souvenirs Gift Shop
If you plan to eat the oranges you picked instead of sending them back to
friends and family, you can always pick them up some honey, spread, jelly,
marmalade, or – and this is the most authentic of all Florida souvenirs –
a gator head. And everyone knows the truest sign that you have found
yourself in a place worth visiting is when they sell “been there, done that t-shirts,”
so make sure you snag a “I picked an orange at Ridge Island Groves” t-shirt for
yourself or a loved one.
Now it’s your turn to go and experience a true Florida citrus grove. Orange you glad we told you about Ridge Island Groves?