Mount Dora, 30 Miles From Orlando Yet A World Away

Mount Dora light house

Mount Dora, less than 30 miles from downtown Orlando, seems a world away from the crowds gathered at Disney World. The small historic lakefront town, in the heart of the rolling hills of Central Florida, was once a popular winter destination for Northerners in the early twentieth century.

Porsche road rally
Porsche Road Rally Mount Dora, Florida

I’d heard of Mount Dora, as it’s known for having one of the largest gatherings of antique and collectible dealers in Florida, but I had never visited until my husband and I participated in a Porsche Rally that was being held in the historic town. There was an invasion of sorts when close to a hundred or more Porsches descended on this antique loving town for a weekend of fun. Lying on the shores of beautiful Lake Dora, it is part of the Harris Chain of Lakes that cover 50,000 acres in the rolling hill country of Central Florida between Ocala and Orlando. While less than an hour away from Orlando and Disney World, Mount Dora feels like it is more than a world away from one of the fastest growing metropolitans regions in the US.

Lakeside Inn, Mount Dora
Arriving At The Lakeside Inn

Over the course of two days, we traveled the picturesque two lane roads that connect Mount Dora with the nearby towns of Eustis, Tavares and beyond enjoying the beautiful scenery. The area feels very different from the oceanside town on the Atlantic where we now reside. I loved its rolling hills, large lakes, Spanish moss draped oak trees, flowering magnolias and old homes that have been carefully preserved that line the pretty streets.

Even if you aren’t planning to stay in Mount Dora and only want to make a day trip from Orlando, you must stop by the historic Lakeside Inn. Built in 1883, it is the last remaining Victorian era hotel in Central Florida and longest continuing running hotel in the state. The inn is located right on the shores of Lake Dora and is the centerpiece of the historic downtown. President Calvin Coolidge and the First Lady, Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford all stayed at the hotel. If the weather is nice, I suggest planning a visit to the inn around sunset. Try to get a rocking chair on the broad front porch, order a cocktail and enjoy the gorgeous setting and great sunset views in the late afternoon. Just remember, everyone staying at the hotel will be trying to do the same thing.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

The hotel itself is a step back in time and if you want to stay there keep in mind that it is an old historic hotel. We decided to stay at the hotel because it was hosting all the Porsche events but I did my research before making my reservations. I would suggest you read reviews as I did (50% good and 50% bad) and then make up your own mind. Some of the rooms have undergone renovations but others haven’t so I requested and got an updated room. After staying at many bed and breakfasts over the years and once living in a home built in 1730 , I knew what to expect. The floor and stairs creak, the windows are old, there are no elevators, rooms can be small as was the television, there’s no mini bar or coffee machine in the room and the bathroom was dated. What mattered was that everything was clean, the A/C worked well and the bed was comfortable. Come with the right expectations and you will enjoy your stay but if you are expecting a modern hotel, the inn is probably not the place to stay. If that is the case, there are a variety of bed and breakfast inns and other hotels to choose from.

What I can tell you is that you simply can’t be in a better location, the setting is beautiful and the views out over the lake are gorgeous. The hotel was sold out for the Porsche event but the staff was friendly and accommodating. We enjoyed cocktails on the porch each evening and southern style biscuit breakfasts on the porch each morning. Unless we were participating in a driving event, we walked from our hotel to all the antique and vintage shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants in historic downtown area.

The town is full of outdoor cafes, cozy wine bars and excellent restaurants. We had a delicious meal at one of the towns most charming restaurants, the Goblin Market. It has three small book lined dining rooms as well as a lovely bar and lounge.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

For lunch another day, we ate at Pisces Rising. The 1918 bungalow overlooking the lake still has portions of its original dining and living room. The main dining area and outside deck are modern additions to the old house. The restaurant tries to source most of its ingredients from local farms and purveyors. I would say that the food served was a blend of Floridian and Caribbean style cooking and was very good.

Known for its antique markets, annual art festival, craft fair, plant and garden show and many other special events including classic car shows, Mount Dora is a charming town where you can keep busy for a day or two . Oh and did I mention it is call the “Bass Capital of the World” for those who enjoy being out on a lake and fishing?

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When the crowds of Orlando becomes too much for you, I suggest you make a day trip to Mount Dora. While you might be disappointed that there is no mountain in this quaint town, it has an elevation of 184 feet and might feel like a mountain in our mostly flat state of Florida. Whether enjoying one of the simple pleasures of a small town such as having a biscuit breakfast on a shady front porch or sitting on the porch in a rocker as the sun sets over the lake or perhaps going for a lazy stroll down the historic Main Street, Mount Dora is a charming Old Florida town that I think you might enjoy visiting.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

45 thoughts on “Mount Dora, 30 Miles From Orlando Yet A World Away

  1. Thanks for showing us around Mt. Dora. I love these Old Florida towns! It’s so nice to know there are still special places like this. We’ve driven through there a few times but have never stopped to see it. I wish I had read this post before we went to Orlando a couple of weeks ago. It would have been a great place for us to explore.

  2. That looks idyllic – sadly I missed Mount Dora when I visited Universal Studios and Epcot. I got very lucky with the timing – a week after Thanksgiving and there were no queues at all!

    1. Karen, both my pups are from this area, but I’ve never spent any time visiting. You’ve made me want to go! What a beautiful post.

  3. How beautiful! My very first trip to the US was to Orlando – unfortunately it being a business trip, that meant I didn’t get to see anything at all apart from the (beautiful) hotel and some shopping outlets. So my thoughts always were, OK I’ve been to Orlando, there wasn’t much to see, so don’t need to go anywhere near it again… But seeing these lovely places not far from there, it really makes me want to take another trip 🙂

  4. That looks so lovely… a perfect location for an afternoon – or two – of strolling around. Your post also reminded me of the organized Porsche road trips my husband and I went on with our local club, and during the annual Porsche Parades all over the country. We have recently sold our car but the memories are still strong.

  5. I’ve never been to Mount Dora, but have always heard it was lovely. And your pictures prove that to be the case! The part of Florida between Orlando and Ocala is probably my favorite — hills, and loads of them! Rather unusual in Florida. Sounds like a great B&B, too. Fun read — thanks.

  6. This is my kind of place. We head to Florida once a year to visit family and sometime are near Orlando. This will be a stop for us. Thank you so much for sharing! I pinned this as well.
    Happy Sunday!

  7. I had no idea this pretty little town of Mt Dora existed! I will certainly try to visit it the next time we visit Orlando. The in sounds very much like Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which is also old and historic and somewhat charmingly outdated. I do enjoy places like that!

  8. What an elegant looking place (although I imagine quite noise with the Porsches there!!). I had never heard of Mount Dora – next time we are there, we will definitely check it out.

  9. Karen, what a charming town and inn. Your photos are wonderful and your description lets me know I would enjoy. I would love dining in a room surrounded by books. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. This sounds like such a wonderful, relaxinglplace to visit! The historic hotel reminds me a little of the one on Makinac Island–those kind of hotels are so beautiful!

  11. What s lovely place but I do know what you mean by gauging your expectations. We haven’t gone on any trips yet, I’ve only been fully vaxed and two-weeks in as of today, everyone else seemed to be ahead of me. We are planning a short trip to Montreal in the fall so I can gauge my stress level before we take an overseas flight.

  12. What a super cute area and hotel. Love all those rockers on the porch. If you don’t have kids or grandkids staying clear of Orlando is always a good idea. Will have to check it out on our way down to Naples hopefully this winter. Stay well and take care

  13. Thanks for giving us this glimpse of old time Florida. Lovely! And I am glad you managed to get away for awhile. I used to go on rallies in a bug eyed Sprite, years ago. They were lots of fun. Places like Mount Dora are all to rapidly disappearing into strip malls and housing developments.

  14. This is the first I’ve heard of Mount Dora, and it sounds like a great getaway! I had no idea that Florida had rolling hills. That inn sounds fantastic. I grew up in a house in Charleston that was built in the 1850, so I get it. Creaking floors are part of the ambiance! And the southern biscuits on the porch in the morning? Yes, please! Also, that restaurant with the book-lined walls. Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Karen. On a side note, Laura drives a Porsche, too. We love it! 🙂

  15. Karen – what a great respite from the Orlando scene! As much as I love Disney World, this is more my speed! I’d never heard of Mt. Dora. Thanks for the great information and the hotel review – I love. a historic hotel, so good to know about! The Porsche rally looks like fun, too!

  16. Very fun! My husband has been a big Porsche fan his whole life so he would have enjoyed seeing that rally.

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