13 Things To Do In Mount Dora, Florida

Here's why this central Florida gem lives up to its slogan.

Mount Dora, FL

Elizabeth W. Kearley/Getty

“Mount Dora has the feel of a small New England town but with lots of Old Florida charm, and there is so much to do here,” says Dylan Gamez, marketing and public relations manager at Mount Dora’s historic Lakeside Inn, the longest continually operating hotel in Florida. “No matter what kind of getaway you’re looking for, whether it’s a couple’s retreat, girls’ weekend, or a family trip, there is truly something for everyone here.”

Once a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts arriving by steamboat to escape chilly northern winters, today’s visitors flock to Mount Dora, just 40 minutes northeast of bustling Orlando, to play on 4,500-acre Lake Dora and see wildlife, but also to shop for antiques, soak up the vibrant art scene, and stroll the historic downtown. 

The charming, compact city center sports an abundance of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, independently-owned shops, and art galleries situated along picturesque streets studded with palms and towering oak trees cloaked in Spanish moss—a true postcard-worthy scene. 

“Mount Dora is such a friendly, welcoming place,” says Gamez. “And everything you need is just steps away. You can park at your hotel and never have to get back in your car the whole weekend.”

While the pace here is slow, there is never a shortage of things to do. Here are our favorite ways to spend a weekend—or longer—in laidback Mount Dora, Florida:

Lake Dora, FL

Education Images/Contributor/Getty

Spend A Day By The Lake

Lake Dora is one of seven cobalt-blue lakes in the Harris-chain-of-lakes, each connected by rivers or canals for a total of 77,000 acres to explore. The waters are a haven for bass fishing, bird watching, boating, and even manatee spotting, but simply taking in their beauty from the shore is a rejuvenating way to spend a day. Mount Dora’s eastern location on the lake means gorgeous lakefront sunsets too. Stop by or stay at historic Lakeside Inn, where you can walk the shoreline, relax by the waterfront pool with a book, or dine at their on-property restaurants with the lake as your backdrop. 

Hunt For Antique Treasures

Collectors from across the country descend upon Renninger’s Antique Market, a sprawling antique center, flea market, and farmer's market, where 200 vendor booths overflow with vintage finds in all styles. During its Antique Extravaganzas, the market hosts more than 1,500 antique dealers and more than 800 booths.

Colorful Buildings of Downtown Mount Dora,FL

Elizabeth W. Kearley/Getty

Stroll The Downtown Streets

The walkability of Mount Dora is a true highlight, and just about any local inn or bed and breakfast will afford you easy on-foot access to all the charm of downtown. “Our unique downtown makes Mount Dora special,” says Vershurn Ford, public iInformation officer with the City of Mount Dora. “There really isn't another city like Mount Dora because of its historic downtown. With all independently owned shops, bars, restaurants, and museums, we are truly one of a kind in Florida.” 

Get Out On—Or Over—The Water

Ready to venture beyond the shoreline? Lake Dora’s water activities are plentiful, with a variety of boat tours and rentals, seaplane rides, and water sports of all sorts, from skiing and tubing to wakeboarding and wake surfing. “Our beautiful Lake Dora offers many scenic tours by way of covered pontoon boats, seaplanes, kayaks, or CatBoats,” says Brian E. Young, events and promotions director at Visit Mount Dora, Inc. “The history of the waterway and the nature you will experience on any of the tours offered is amazing.” Adventure Cat Boat Tours are two-hour, guided trips on a two-person mini catamaran where you’re in the driver’s seat (after some instruction from the pros, of course). “You’ll experience nature and history in the most unique way as you cruise across Lake Dora and through the famous Dora Canal,” Young says. Cruise at a slower pace on the 80-foot New Orleans-style paddlewheel boat, Dora Queen, which launches from the adjacent town of Tavares and offers two-hour rides complete with live music and cocktails on board. 

Support The Arts

Mount Dora is an artist’s and art lover’s haven, with independently-owned galleries throughout town and art festivals throughout the year. The largest, Mount Dora Arts Festival, takes place in February and is one of the top-ranked fine arts shows in the country. This year, 250 artists will line the streets, in addition to a kid-friendly area, food and drink vendors, and live music.  

Palm Island Park, Mount Dora, FL


Walk The Plank(s)

“A must-see for any Mount Dora visitor is the Palm Island Boardwalk on the south end of town on the waterfront,” says Young. “This elevated nature walk will take you out onto Lake Dora at a safe distance from the water for ultimate viewing of wildlife. The boardwalk may be experienced on foot or via a Segway PT for the adventurous.” Visitors will stroll under old-growth live oaks and tall cabbage palms, and among knobby cypress trees, with ample opportunity to spot migratory birds and even gators.

Lighthouse at Mount Dora, FL


Visit A Freshwater Lighthouse

Just a bit north of Palm Island Boardwalk is Grantham Point Park, home to one of Florida’s few freshwater lighthouses. The 35-foot-tall lighthouse is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks and a great place to watch boaters and enjoy the sunset.

Step Back Into The Future

Home to an impressive collection of midcentury modern furniture, Mount Dora’s Modernism Museum is a worthwhile stop for design history buffs and those who want to learn. The museum has hosted many exhibits since opening in 2013, including Memphis Collective furniture and design objects owned by David Bowie and sculptural furniture by artists George Nakashima and Wendell Castle.

Drink And Dine

“With more than 36 restaurants and cafes in the downtown area, all within walking distance, you are sure to find something that will satisfy your palette,” says Young. Not only does Mount Dora boast an impressive number of dining options, but you can find cuisines from around the world as well as inviting outdoor seating and live music. 

The Magical Meat Boutique is a pub owned by generations of British sausage makers and offers authentic English breakfast and delicious fish and chips.

The Goblin Market Restaurant and Lounge “has a superb menu, the wine selection is excellent, and the service and atmosphere are hard to top,” says Young. 

At 1921, elevated fare from celebrated chef Norman Van Aken pays homage to local Florida ingredients with an eye toward modernity and sustainability. Housed in a historic residence across the street from Mount Dora’s Modernism Museum, the restaurant features artful masterpieces, including a Murano glass chandelier above the chef’s table and hand-crafted tables and seating in the Nakashima room. 

Mount Dora Marketplace is like a co-op with a ton of little eateries, from breweries to crepes and a Colombian restaurant,” Gamez says. “You can get an empanada from here, a crepe from there, a beer from the brewery, a hodge lodge of all the deliciousness and sit and enjoy.”

Above the Marketplace is the HandleBar, a speakeasy-style outpost with beautiful, handcrafted cocktails and views of downtown, says Gamez.

At Lakeside Inn, four dining options are open to the public, including the Beauclaire Dining Room; The Verandah, which sports beautiful lake views; Tremain’s Tavern for a traditional club-like atmosphere, light bites, and live entertainment; and the Waterside Bar for cocktails al fresco.

Get Into The Holiday Spirit 

Christmas in Mount Dora is spectacular with millions of lights throughout town and a large singing Christmas tree,” Young says. “The light display at the Mount Dora Marina on the lakefront is among the best you will ever see.” 

Visit The Oldest Continually Operating Hotel In Florida

Whether you stop by to take in the Lakeside Inn’s spectacular Lake Dora view, grab a meal at one of its four on-site restaurants, or book a stay, a visit to this pretty yellow piece of history is a must. The oldest continually operating hotel in Florida started as the 10-room Alexander House when visitors in the late 1800s enjoyed Florida’s mild winter weather and the bounty of the lake. Today, visiting the 85-room Victorian-era inn feels like stepping back in time and is a place where you can truly unwind. 

Book A Room

In addition to Lakeside Inn’s accommodations, Mount Dora is home to a wealth of charming bed and breakfasts just steps from lively cafes, restaurants, shops, parks, and the lake. At the Adora Inn on North Tremain Street street, owners and professional chefs John Cataldo and Arthur Natale craft daily gourmet breakfasts with a focus on fresh ingredients. Set in a 1916 residence, the inn pays homage to history but is outfitted in clean, tasteful, and modern finishes with a focus on comfort. Other charming local stays, like Magnolia Inn Bed & Breakfast and Grandview Bed & Breakfast are right downtown and lean into Mount Dora’s Victorian-era style. 

Hawk in Mount Dora, FL

George Bloise/500px/Getty

Discover The Wildlife

Visitors hoping to spot a bald eagle, turtle, alligator, or sandhill crane need only spend a bit of quiet time on Lake Dora’s shores. To see even more wild locals, cruise the Dora Canal, a verdant passage bordered by cypress trees and home to otters, herons, wood ducks, egrets, and more. “The canal is so wild that anytime we cruise it, my husband and I play the Jurassic Park theme song,” Gamez jokes.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles