This Florida Town Is the Perfect Lakefront Getaway — and It's Home to the Oldest Continually Operating Hotel in the State

Mount Dora, Florida, is less than an hour from Orlando.

Everyone knows Florida has great beaches, but did you know it can also be the perfect lakefront getaway? 

That’s where Mount Dora comes in. This adorable destination offers a true vacation with a relaxing atmosphere and a slow pace typically found only in small towns. With a quaint downtown, six-mile-long lake, historic architecture, and plethora of art shops and galleries, there’s plenty to explore in Mount Dora. Whether you’re looking for an active vacation or a restorative one, a romantic getaway or something for the whole family, Mount Dora has something for everyone.

Colorful Buildings of Downtown Mount Dora

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Best Things to Do in Mount Dora, Florida

Mount Dora lighthouse in Grantham Point Park

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Contrary to popular belief, Mount Dora does not get its name from any nearby peaks. Instead, it's Lake Dora that gives the town its moniker, as well as plenty of activities to keep both tourists and locals busy. 

Start with a visit to Grantham Point Park, where you’ll find one of Mount Dora’s most famous landmarks: a 35-foot-tall lighthouse, one of very few freshwater lighthouses in Florida. Grab a seat on one of the benches for stunning sunset views or cast your line in designated fishing areas. 

Nearby is a shore-hugging path that will take you to Palm Island Park. This unique oasis has a mile of elevated boardwalks allowing you to walk through tall grasses and marshlands with the shade of cypress trees towering above. Palm Island is ideal for safe wildlife viewing, too, as you’re likely to catch a glimpse of migratory birds or even alligators.

For a closer look at the lake, rent a kayak or paddleboard from Adventure Outdoor Paddle; hop on a mini catamaran tour with CatBoat Adventure Tours; or explore at a slower pace aboard  Dora Queen, an old-school paddlewheel boat.

Though the area's natural beauty is impressive, what draws most to Mount Dora is its quaint downtown. Just a few blocks wide and long, Mount Dora’s downtown can easily keep you entertained for the day, but it's also compact enough to ditch your car and enjoy a leisurely stroll. Throughout the area, you’ll find eclectic boutiques, art galleries, and craft stores. On weekends, head to Village Market for a taste of local produce, meat, and cheese from regional farmers.

Best Hotels in Mount Dora, Florida

Exterior of Heriloom Inn

Courtesy of Heirloom Inn

Become a part of Mount Dora history with a stay at Lakeside Inn. Opened in 1883, this property is the oldest continually operating hotel in all of Florida. In 1930, President Calvin Coolidge and his wife even spent a month at the inn. Today, the bright yellow buildings welcome visitors with 90 guest rooms and suites, a large lakefront pool, two docks perfect for launching explorations of Lake Dora, and a 200-foot veranda with white rocking chairs. 

But Lakeside Inn isn’t the only property with more than a century of experience in hospitality. The Heirloom Inn is another worthy choice for accommodations in the heart of the historic downtown area. This property houses six suites, including some with a full kitchen. It also has a pet-friendly policy so you can bring your furry friend along for your Mount Dora vacation. 

For a top-rated bed-and-breakfast that seamlessly blends its historic past with a more modern aesthetic and amenities, stay at Adora Inn. The only thing you won’t find in the six comfortably appointed rooms are televisions. That’s because the goal of this property is to help guests relax and unwind. Don't miss the multicourse gourmet breakfasts.

Best Time to Visit Mount Dora, Florida

Scenic area around Mount Dora Lighthouse

Elizabeth W. Kearley/Getty Images

Like many of Florida’s most popular destinations, Mount Dora experiences intense heat in the summer (though the town’s oak and cypress trees help with that), slightly cooler spring and fall seasons, and mild winters. But there’s more to consider besides weather: the annual event calendar. 

Mount Dora is a town that knows how to have a good time, with special events and festivals taking place nearly every month of the year and sometimes multiple weekends in a row. Though Mount Dora celebrates everything from the art of storytelling to craft beer and even blueberries, there are a few festivals that are particularly popular and worth planning a trip around.

Every February, hundreds of artists gather for the Mount Dora Arts Festival, which showcases work from every medium and attracts visitors by the hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, cycling enthusiasts will want to check the calendar for Florida’s oldest and largest bike festival. Typically taking place in the fall, the annual Cycle Mount Dora draws more than 1,000 bikers of all skill levels for multiple days of riding. And if you’re a fan of the holidays, stop by Mount Dora in December for a jam-packed schedule of events and 2,000-plus holiday lights twinkling over Donnelly Park in downtown.

Although technically not a festival, Renninger’s Antique Center certainly feels like one. A stop here is a must for weekend visitors to Mount Dora, but true treasure hunters should keep an eye out for the market’s periodic Antique Extravaganza, when the number of vendor booths jumps from 200 to 800, bringing more than 1,500 antique dealers who sell their most impressive items.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Mount Dora, Florida

Left: Dining area of Goblin Market Right: Close up of a dish from Goblin Market

Courtesy of Goblin Market

Mount Dora may be small, but its foodie scene is surprisingly mighty. With more than three dozen restaurants in the downtown area alone, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds — from international cuisine to Southern favorites. 

If you’re dining with a group of travelers, especially indecisive eaters, make a stop at Mount Dora Marketplace. Ideal for a quick lunch or a long, leisurely brunch, this food hall features a variety of eateries serving everything from delicate crepes and flavorful Lebanese food to craft beer and barbecue street tacos.

For an upscale meal in an art-inspired space, head to 1921 Mount Dora, located across the street from the Modernism Museum. This restaurant serves modern Florida cuisine (think pineapple-lacquered pork rib eye and sweet potato biscuits) alongside beautiful pieces of art, including a Murano glass chandelier above the chef’s table.

Book lovers, meanwhile, shouldn't miss The Goblin Market Restaurant & Lounge, a bistro-style eatery serving elevated, internationally inspired dishes in dining rooms lined with bookshelves. You’ll feel like you’re enjoying a meal in a classy library.

Other noteworthy restaurants include the Magical Meat Boutique, an English-style pub; Olive Branch Grille & Bar, which serves Mediterranean and Italian cuisine; Shiva Indian Restaurant, a family-owned eatery with traditional Indian cuisine and vegetarian dishes; and any of the four on-site restaurants at Lakeside Inn.

Getting to Mount Dora, Florida

Getting to Mount Dora is a breeze, thanks to its location about 40 minutes north of Orlando. Touch down in the city’s international airport, then rent a car for your adventure. Considering Mount Dora’s proximity to Orlando, you can even use a ride-share app to get you there, then take advantage of the town’s walkability for the duration of your stay. Arriving from Tampa is also easy, as it's less than a two-hour drive away.

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