I initially found out about Mount Dora on Instagram and Pinterest while searching for places to explore. It’s about 2 hours from Clearwater in an area northwest of Orlando.
Mount Dora was founded in 1880 and has a variety of quaint shops downtown. There’s a large lake nearby called Lake Dora. There’s three lighthouses in town and a variety of parks.
There was free parking on the street right downtown on the corner of North Donnelly St. and E 5th Avenue. After parking, I walked through town looking for somewhere to have lunch. I passed J K Thai and Sushi as well as Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill that both looked good, but was on the hunt for more of a cafe. I found Codys on 4th and popped in for lunch. I got the BLTT with a unique side summer salad that tasted so fresh and was wonderful.
With quite a few shops downtown, I stopped into quite a few of them. Some specialized in antiques, others were apparel for kiddos or adults, there were decor shops, and gift stores. After walking through a few and picking up a few gifts, I walked down to Elizabeth Evan’s Park which is right by the water.
Elizabeth Evan’s Park is down by the lighthouse. While I was walking down toward the Gazebo, I was thinking that it seemed like a great place for an alligator to live. Then I saw all the signs that said beware of gators. I took some quick photos and booked it outta there. Alligators aren’t my thing. On the way back up to downtown, I passed this “Lawn Bowling Club“. I really had no idea what it was, since it just looked like grass. Apparently this is pretty popular in the area. Basically bowling, but outside. Guess that’s what you do in Florida. Who knew?
Headed on the walk back up to town, I saw the railroad. Online I’d done some initial research on this train ride I heard about that was from here but didn’t fully understand how it worked. After a quick online search, I found out the train was going to be leaving in about 20 minutes. I figured out that the train ride goes in an “L” shape. On one end is Mount Dora, in the middle is Tavares, and on the other end is Eustis. I bought my ticket for one on the Royal Palm Railway which was about $15. The one ticket allows you to get on and off the train at any point during the day.
The train experience is based on 1940s era train rides and runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They sell snacks, drinks, and alcohol on the train which was surprising. There’s regular coach seating as well as cars with tables. It is about 30 minutes between stations. So if you start at one side of the “L” and go the entire way to the other and back, it takes about 2 hours or so.
I looked at my map on my phone ahead of time so I could enjoy the views out the window of the water. Near Eustis, the lake is on one side, whereas from Mount Dora to Tavares, the lake is on the other. The depots for each train still have the same historical charm as they did 80 years ago. After the two hour trip, I returned to Mount Dora to continue exploring. I found a bakery called Le Petit Sweet that had a variety of macaroons, other pastries, tea and coffee. I ordered a latte and a macaroon. After walking around a bit more, I decided to head back to Tampa.
The towns and train rides were a great day trip, and something a bit more unique than heading to a Florida beach for the day.