Florida Guide > Places to Visit
A day out at Mount Dora
If you''re thinking about a time-warp day, free of theme parks then think about
an escape to the New England of Florida, the antique capital as well as the
rose capital of Central Florida, Mount Dora.
Located 25 miles northwest of Orlando, via U. S. 441 or from Exit 51 from 1-4.
If your West of Disney then go North about 60 miles on US27. If you take the
27 route and fancy a side trip with a bit of a difference take yourselves up
to Yalaha. You go up the 27 past Clermont, right along the 19 to Tavares and
then at the T junction you will see a sign saying Yalaha. There''s a German
bakery on the left hand side, on a Saturday morning they have a bit of
entertainment and you can eat outside if you wish. You can then carry on into
Mount Dora. The city was first established in 1880 and was named after an
early pioneer who allow the U. S. surveyors to camp on her land while they
surveyed that part of the state. They named a lake nearby after her and then
the town was named after the lake. The fact that is on a plateau about 250ft
above sea level was what start the Mount part of the name.
It''s a well preserved, frozen-in-time town with a dozen turn-of-the-century
buildings clustered around its downtown shuffleboard courts, including the
eerily exuberant Steamboat Gothic Donnelly House straight out of a Charles
Get there early and go to the Sunshine Mountain bakery for breakfast every
thing is fresh baked and made that day. They offer many different type of
croissants, bagels and Danish so there is plenty to choose from.
There must be about 30 restaurants in the town and we have tried a few and
looked in a lot of them. The real problem is that you can really only do
justice to one of them on a trip, especially after the stops at the bakery and
coffee shop. If your going to spend the day here you may want to skip lunch
and just have a coffee and small snack, that way you can enjoy your evening
When you get into town go to the restored railroad depot, built in 1913 and
decommissioned in 1950. Here you can learn about special events and famous
festivals: The artists arrive the first weekend in February; in April, antique
boat enthusiasts gather at the marina the first weekend; and the sailors take
over Lake Dora the second-to-last weekend for Florida''s largest inland
regatta; during the second-to-last weekend in October, cyclists rally for a
celebration of the sport and all levels of touring. Also in October is one of
the state''s largest craft fairs plus an invitational golf tournament.
The chamber can also provide information on less-crowded times of the year and
such activities as walking the Palm Island Nature Trail, 3, 400 feet of mulched
path and 1, 676 feet of boardwalk, longest in the state; watching the action at
the Lawn Bowling Club, second largest in the state with 14 playing surfaces,
eight of them lighted; or strolling the antique trail.
The 5th Avenue Cafe is worth a look, it''s the only restaurant dedicated to
organic cuisine. They use fresh organic ingredients, triple filtered reverse
osmosis water and all stainless steel cookware. If you want a pure vegan dish
or just the filet, fish or chicken, this place can offer you plenty of choice.
They also offer a quick Grab ''n Go breakfast or lunch.
The Lakeside Inn offers a Sunday Brunch on the Veranda and we have been told
by friends that have been that the choice and quality is good. The Inn is in
a time warp, the 120-year historic landmark is a peaceful, romantic setting of
how things were. The Inn''s cluster of five buildings are grand in the quaint
Old Florida style, built to last centuries and garnished with gables,
balconies, porches and fanciful Victorian flourishes. The estate is graced
with stately oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and an expanse of green that
sweeps down to an Olympic-sized swimming pool and Lake Dora.
The Goblin Market Restaurant is nestled on a back alley in the historic
downtown Mount Dora village. The restaurant, housed in a renovated warehouse,
features two book-lined dining rooms furnished well with modern art hung on
the walls. The private tree shaded courtyard and garden patio are open all
year for alfresco dining. Low lighting and music add the finishing touches to
There are many other eating and drinking places to try and while we have not
tried them all you may want to wander by one of these five for a look, Windsor
Rose English Tea Room and Restaurant, The Garden Gate Tea Room, O''Keefe''s
Irish Pub, Cafe Stella and Al E. Gators
The town has 12 Antique shops and a small antiques mall with one shop
specializing in the Beatles. You can also Visit the Mount Dora English Lawn
Bowls Club and if you feel like a break watch a game while you relax with a
drink. You may also want to visit the farmers & flea market. It is a well
organised and laid out market with some stalls under cover. There is also an
antiques section consisting of around six sheds all given a colour for
recognition. You will find an extensive area set out as a boot-sale and plenty
of food and drink available. It is like any other market and covers almost
anything you might need to buy. Check before you go as this is not open most
However my favourite part of the town I have left to last and that''s The Mt.
Dora & Lake Eustis Railway
It began operations on October 25th, 2003. It is a tourist passenger railroad
that runs from Mount Dora to Eustis in central Florida on the tracks of the
Florida Central Railroad. It''s based in downtown Mount Dora, and operates on
rails that date back to the 1880''s, they offer a unique glimpse into the past
with a number of vintage rail excursions that are designed for the whole
family will enjoy.
The Orange Blossom Dinner Train is one of only two self-propelled dinner
trains in the country. It gives you a two and a half hour journey while dining
and relives the golden age of railroad travel. You take a slow eighteen mile
round-trip ride along historic rails while during your ride, you are served a
The Herbie Express is a one hour and 15 minute trip between Mount Dora and
Tavares pulled by a 1942 locomotive Herbie. The 9 mile round trip passes along
the shores of Lake Dora. You will travel along Old Highway 441 passing thru an
orange grove, past a bald eagles nest. Listen to the whistle and bell of the
engine as you cross thru railroad crossings. You also travel right down the
middle of the road with cars on both sides of the train. In Tavares the train
will be turned round just like the railroads did it 100 years ago.
The Wine & Cheese Express does not run that often but is a two hour round trip
from Mt. Dora where you get to taste some fine Wines. Around Christmas time
there is a service from Mount Dora to the North Pole. You ride on The Santa
Express from Mount Dora to Santa''s Flag Stop near the North Pole for a visit
with Santa Claus. At the Flag Stop, Santa Claus will board the train and join
you for the ride back. During the return trip, Santa gives the passengers a
holiday treat and you will have the chance to chat with him and tell him what
you want for Christmas.
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Page added on: 20 July 2004
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The following photos have been submitted by our villa owners for this article.