Mount Dora is a delightful small town in Central Florida and is an easy hour drive from Orlando. The town hosts more than 30 festivals a year, from Christmas to Cyclotober, and everything in between. This small town packs a lot of punch when it comes to celebrating. Bring your four-legged pals along, too. Mount Dora is one of Florida's most pet-friendly destinations.
This Florida small town has racked up the honors also. It has been named one of the Top 100 Great Towns of America, One of the Best Small Southern Towns, One of the Best Romantic Escapes in Florida, and "Friendliest Small Town in Florida." Mount Dora is an ideal destination for a long weekend getaway.
The Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce hosted my visit, including all activities. All opinions remain my own.
Things To Do In Mount Dora
So many choices, so little time was our reaction when researching our visit to Mount Dora. With many outdoor activities, water activities, shopping, and museums, this small town is packed with choices.
Jones Brothers Air And Seaplane Adventure Tours
A seaplane tour is the best way to start your visit to Mount Dora. Watch the plane land on the water and taxi up to the Lake Dora beach or pier, and then board the flight for a memorable experience.
Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures offers a selection of tours. We opted for the Splash and Dash tour, which gave us an overview of the Harris Chain of Lakes and a flyover of Mount Dora and Tavares. Our pilot James gave us some great insider information on the area, sharing some of his favorite places to visit.
If you've never flown in a seaplane before, this is a must-do activity! The view from above is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Historic Mount Dora Tour
Once you've seen the area by air, it's time to dig into the history. There are several ways to explore Mount Dora's historic side; you can walk, drive, or tour by golf cart. We did a partial walking tour and a golf cart tour with Mount Dora Transit.
The walking tour takes you through the historic downtown area and is very easy to navigate. Stop by the Visitors Center and pick up a map of the walking tour.
The Mount Dora Transit golf cart tour takes you a bit further through historic neighborhoods. They also pick up and drop off anywhere within the historic district for free, though tips are welcome. I would suggest doing a combination of both the cart tour and the walking tour.
Glide Segway Tour
This Segway tour gives you history and nature all rolled into one fun activity. As you glide along on your Segway, you'll have a unique perspective of Mount Dora. Get up close and personal with nature as you traverse the Palm Island boardwalk.
Massive ancient cypress and live oak trees draped in Spanish moss edge the boardwalk. You'll spot anhingas, cormorants, alligators, and more wildlife as you silently glide along.
Glide offers three tours: a 1.5-hour guided tour, a 2-hour guided tour, and a sunset tour. Training is provided before the tour.
Mount Dora By Water
There are several options for exploring Lake Dora and the Dora Canal. For adrenaline junkies, a favorite way to explore the lake and the Dora Canal is with CatBoat Adventure Tours.
As you speed across the lake and the wavetops on your CatBoat, you'll be living the dream! But have a change of clothes handy. I can guarantee that you'll return soaking wet from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, but you will have a ball as you race across the wavetops.
For those who prefer a drier tour, Premier Boat Tours offers a two-hour narrated eco-tour through the Dora Canal.
Premier Boat Tours also offers a one-hour sunset cruise on Lake Dora. Bring a beverage (adult beverages are fine) and toast to a perfect ending to your day as you watch the sun slip down the horizon.
Best Restaurants In Mount Dora
Mount Dora's culinary scene is very surprising! From the simple to the complex, Mount Dora has something to please everyone's palate!
Fifth Avenue Streatery
"Southern fusion Meets Down-Home Cooking" is very appropriate for Fifth Avenue Streatery's tagline! I love all things Southern, and I adore Southern food done right.
And the folks at Fifth Avenue Streatery have elevated some of the South's most iconic dishes, like fried green tomatoes, and combined them with comfort foods, like the simple hotdog, and the result is fantastic! I highly recommend trying the Devilish Eggs, the 'Shroom Dog, and the crab cakes.
The Salted Fry
Crafting some delicious Belgian-style fries, or pommes frites, The Salted Fry is also a must-visit. In addition to their incredible fries, they offer both hot and cold sandwiches. And for those Harry Potter fans out there, they serve Flying Cauldron butterscotch beer soda.
Wolf Branch Brewing
Wolf Branch in nearby Eustis is breaking the glass ceiling. Whitney, one of the owners of Wolf Branch is one of the brewers and the first female brewer that I have met.
Wolf Branch was born out of the love of craft brews. Jose studied brewing in Germany, and he is an Army veteran. Jose and Whitney believe that their employees are not just employees; they are family.
Jose and Whitney want Wolf Branch Brewing to be a hometown gathering place that welcomes everyone, not just beer snobs. And if you have an idea for a beer, let them know! The sky's the limit; from traditional brews to off the wall beers, they love to get input and ideas from their patrons.
The Village Coffee Pot
The Village Coffee Pot is another gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Akhtar Hussain, the proprietor, came to Mount Dora in 1990 and opened the Village Coffee Pot.
He fell in love with coffee shops and sidewalk cafes when he was studying in Europe. Akhtar says the key to the Village Coffee Pot's success is that "you can voice your opinions and discuss anything. But with kindness. You want to walk out the door and be friends, not enemies." You can look forward to enjoying delicious coffee drinks, gelato or sherbet, baked goods and deli treats, and soups, too.
Where To Shop In Mount Dora
Stroll the streets of Mount Dora, explore some of the side alleys, and you'll discover some interesting boutiques and specialty shops.
Julianne’s Coastal Cottage
Filled with coastal decor, quilts, housewares, and gourmet gifts, Julianne's also boasts a tiki bar. I suggest a stop at the tiki bar before you get too engrossed in your shopping for samples of their wine slushies. A word of caution: You'll want more than one sample.
With your wine slushie in hand, now it's time to shop to your heart's content. I'm sure you won't be able to resist the urge to purchase "just one thing."
This shop is a nature lover's dream come true. Papilio is filled with locally sourced plants, butterfly motif art, and more. Papilio is the shop where you'll find what you didn't know you needed but must have.
Best Hotels In Mount Dora
When visiting Mount Dora, there are several lodging options. You can opt for a bed and breakfast or rent a cottage. Here are our top recommendations for staying in the heart of historic Mount Dora.
The Inn was built in 1883 and is Florida's oldest hotel that is still in operation. President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge are among the notable guests to have stayed at the Lakeside.
The property of the Lakeside Inn is lush and green and dotted with beautiful ancient oak trees with moss hanging like scarves from their limbs. Nestled in the trees, you'll see Victorian-era hotel buildings. The grass then slopes to the lakeshore, gradually giving way to a small beach area.
The main building boasts a 200-foot-long veranda filled with tables and rocking chairs, allowing guests an opportunity to slow down, sip a glass of wine or a cocktail, and just inhale the breathtaking beauty of the lake.
Heron Cay Bed And Breakfast
Heron Cay is one of the most luxurious bed and breakfasts we have visited! Margie is a superb hostess, along with her two Borzois: Max and Ringo. Coffee is available at 8 a.m. each morning, and breakfast begins at 9 a.m.
This Victorian bed and breakfast offers eight unique rooms, and each room has fluffy white robes, hairdryers, a flatscreen TV, a refrigerator, and of course, Margie's sumptuous breakfast! Spend some time just relaxing with a glass of wine on one of the many porches of Heron Cay. Take a dip in the sparkling turquoise pool water.
Heron Cay is a short four-block walk to town, so no need to take your car. If you don't feel up to the stroll to town, not to worry. Give Mount Dora Transit a call, and they'll send the golf cart for you.
Mount Dora makes a perfect getaway. With great restaurants, unique boutiques, loads of tours to choose from, and excellent lodging choices, this small town is filled with options for everyone.
But don't pack so much in that you forget to experience the most essential part of Mount Dora -- its small-town charm. Sit a while in one of the parks and chat with the locals.
Stop into the Chamber of Commerce for the latest information and maps. Stroll the streets and window shop as you sip a beer or a wine slushie. As Mount Dora fades from your rearview mirror, you'll sigh in contentment as you plan your next visit to this surprising small town.
More On Must-Visit Florida Towns:
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- Day Trip From Miami: 9 Amazing Experiences In Key Biscayne
- 9 Beautiful Towns You Must Visit On Florida’s East Coast
- 9 Reasons Vero Beach Is An Incredible Vacation Destination
- 4 Hidden Gems In Central Florida You Must Visit
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Mount Dora’s festivals and events, referenced in the first paragraph of this article, here.