Mount Dora is a little Florida town full of history, antiques, and lakeside views. The historic streets are lined with shops, foodie gems and old oak trees full of Spanish moss. You’ll immediately feel transported to old Florida. About 45 minutes northwest of Orlando, Mount Dora makes a great day trip from just about anywhere in Central Florida.
The lakeside town of Mount Dora was a site for travelers and settlers as early as the mid 1800s. Lake Dora is believed to have been named for Dora Ann Drawdy, who was one of the first settlers. In 1883, the town was renamed Mount Dora after the lake.
Why is it called “Mount” Dora? The town’s elevation is 184 feet above sea level, which qualifies it as a Mount in the State of Florida!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Lakeside Inn which is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida. It was founded in 1883, and has grown since then to 90 guest rooms.
Lakeside Inn is right on Lake Dora in the heart of the historic downtown district. There’s a beautiful view of the lake from the majority of the property, and even some of the rooms.
Our stay at the Lakeside Inn exceeded expectations. We loved the antique touches throughout the inn and our room. There is a restaurant and a lounge, plus a poolside bar.
There were lots of options for sitting and relaxing around the property: rocking chairs on the main patio, Adirondack chairs by the lake, a gazebo, and a dock for viewing the sunset.
The sunsets over the lake were absolutely stunning.
We found the resort to be very relaxing. The room was quiet and comfortable. In the evening you can hear crickets and frogs outside. The room was definitely vintage with modern touches. You’ll get a private A/C system and a small TV. You can request a mini fridge for an additional $5 per night.
I loved the vintage style of the bathroom!
The rooms use real keys, not keycards! And along with the glass knobs, we found this to be so charming!
Pool & Waterside Bar
The pool was pretty big and has a great view of the lake. There are lots of lounge chairs and additional tables at the Waterside Bar. We found the Waterside Bar to be on the pricey side. You are able to bring your own beverages to the pool (no glass containers), so we’d recommend doing that if you want to enjoy a poolside drink.
A couple things to consider: The inn is comprised of older buildings, and therefore there are no elevators. There are rooms available on the first floor, but the whole property is on a slope. So hills and some ramps can’t be avoided. Also if anyone in your group is prone to allergies, they might find the “old building” smell bothersome. Some mustiness can’t be avoided in 100+ year-old lakeside buildings.
Where To Eat in Mount Dora
Mount Dora is a hidden gem for foodies. There are so many amazing restaurants of all different cuisines. Almost everything is within walking distance in the historic district, and there’s not a chain restaurant in site. Mount Dora also allows open containers, so you can grab a drink to-go and wander around the town with it in hand.
Something to consider: Many things in Mount Dora close early. We found that by 8pm, the majority of the shops and restaurants were closing. So definitely check the times on their website before going!
Mount Dora Marketplace
The Mount Dora Marketplace is a popular spot in the historic district. It’s kind of like a food hall with shops. There are about a dozen food vendors in the marketplace, where you’ll be able to order counter-service and enjoy your food at the inside or outside tables.
We tried Wolf Branch Brewing, Empanada & Co, and Bubbles & Juice. The empanadas were so good! We definitely recommend them for a quick snack! Some of the other options inside were a mac and cheese place, crepes, ceviche, popsicles and so much more.
Considered one of the best restaurants in Mount Dora, Pisces Rising specializes in seafood dishes and has a wonderful lake view, which you can enjoy from their outdoor patio. While the menu prices are a bit high, they had good happy hour specials (hello, $3 mojitos!) We enjoyed the catch of the day, Halibut, and New York Strip Steak. Both were delicious. Definitely get the Rosemary Focaccia as a starter and the shrimp mac and cheese!
The Olive Branch
The Olive Branch is right across the street from the Lakeside Inn. We were drawn by their nightly outdoor live music, and stayed to enjoy their delicious Italian food and drinks. The Bruschetta was fantastic and was highly recommend by our server. Make sure you have a hungry group because it was a huge portion!
This is one of the restaurants at the Lakeside Inn. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also enjoy the same menu at The Veranda, which has outdoor tables on the porch overlooking the property and the lake. We had breakfast here on our last morning and we loved how convenient it was!
Copacabana Cuban Cafe
Being from the Tampa Bay area, we know good Cuban food when we see it. Copacabana Cuban Cafe is definitely good, authentic Cuban food. We loved everything we tried, and we are still drooling over the Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). They have extensive indoor and outdoor seating, so it’s perfect for any occasion. One of the locals we met says he eats here weekly and can’t get enough.
Serendipity Cafe serves a huge variety of beverages. They have tons of coffee options, teas, juice, wines, craft beer and meads. It was a nice place to relax for a bit and cool off. They place has a cool vibe with plenty of tables and couches to sit. There are also board games you can play while you enjoy your drink.
One Flight Up Cafe
One Flight Up is cute quirky cafe makes a good stop for breakfast or lunch. It’s a little crowded inside but they do have a nice patio that overlooks the street below. They have a lot of drink options like coffee, smoothies, wine and beer. The sandwiches we had were good, but the Lobster Bisque was amazing! We didn’t save room for dessert but their pastries looked delicious.
Mount Dora Confectionary
This is a great place to go for all your sweets cravings! Mount Dora Confectionary has ice cream, gelato, jelly beans, candies, and a variety of homemade truffles, fudge, and chocolates. We loved the peanut butter cup and the chocolate turtles.
Highland Street Cafe
Located just outside the main historic district, the Highland Street Cafe is a great option for a classic diner-style breakfast or lunch. If you’re heading to Renninger’s, it’s right on the way. It’s known as the oldest restaurant in Mount Dora, from the 1950s. And all the decor is dog-themed!
Other Highly Rated Options We Didn’t Get to Try
Goblin Market – This is probably the #1 must try restaurant in Mount Dora according to reviews. Unfortunately it was temporarily closed during our trip so we didn’t get to try it. They have an eclectic menu and a romantic atmosphere.
Windsor Tea Room – Another popular stop in Mount Dora, the Windsor Tea Room specializes in tea, obviously, and other cafe fare with a British focus.
Wave Sushi – I’m kind of sad we didn’t make it here, because their sushi creations looked amazing! They have everything from rice bowls, to sushi burritos to sushi donuts!
Cody’s on 4th – Highly recommended by locals for breakfast. They also serve coffee, beer, sandwiches, salads and pastries.
Things To Do in Mount Dora
Mount Dora Marketplace
The Marketplace has great food options, and it’s a nice place to grab a bite and hang out. You can take your food and drinks to go and explore the rest of the marketplace. They also have shops featuring plants, art, bath products, and more.
Premier Boat Tours
We really enjoyed taking the Premier Boat Tour of Lake Dora and the Dora Canal. The boat left from the dock right at the Lakeside Inn, so it’s very convenient if you’re already staying there. They have two tours during the day: 11am and 2pm, and the tours are about 2 hours long. It’s a great way to beat the heat during the hottest part of the day.
The guides will tell you about the history of the town and the lake, and point out any wildlife along the way. We saw two bald eagles, countless other birds, turtles, fish, and some alligators. The canal is very picturesque and was even called “the most beautiful mile of water in the world” in the 1930s. It’s a little pricey at $28 per adult, but we thought it was worth it for the experience!
Mount Dora Lighthouse and Boardwalk
A little bit out of the way from the historic district, the lighthouse is definitely worth a quick visit. It’s the only inland freshwater lighthouse in Florida. Although it was constructed in 1988, it has a vintage look and makes for great photos. It’s become one of the iconic landmarks on Mount Dora.
Just a few steps past the lighthouse, you’ll find Palm Island Park and boardwalk. Although we were not feeling up for the boardwalk in the sweltering summer heat (a large portion of it is in the sun), it is definitely recommended if you’re looking for some nature during your visit. You’ll get to walk right along the lake and through the nature preserve.
Catch a Sunset over Lake Dora
The lake is pretty large and if you’re standing on the Mount Dora side, you’ll have a great view towards the west as the sun sets.
Watching the sunset was easy from the Lakeside Inn. We even had a tiny view from our room! Of course you can always upgrade for a room with a full lake view.
You can walk to the Lakeside Inn for sunset if you’re already nearby. There are a variety of chairs around the lake, plus a dock with benches. You can also hit the Waterside Bar for a sunset drink.
There are, of course, other resorts on the lake that would probably have great views. There are also some public spots on the lake: Gilbert Park (home of the Mount Dora Lighthouse), Palm Island Park & Boardwalk, and the Mount Dora Dock.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the Jones Brothers Seaplane ride over Lake Dora and the surrounding area. We thought this would be so cool to try. I haven’t seen seaplane rides offered anywhere else in Florida. Note that the rates are pretty steep, so this is definitely a splurge activity.
Historic Site Walking Tour
Download the free walking tour PDF and hit the streets! The whole historic area is just a few blocks across, and you’ll definitely want to stop along the way to check out shops and restaurants. Many of these historic buildings are hiding in plain sight — they have been turned into a new local business and are right alongside newer buildings. We definitely recommend downloading the PDF so you’ll know what you’re looking at and have some history of the buildings. You can also take the driving tour if you want to go out even further.
Pictured here are: Donnelley House (yellow house), Crane Furniture Store(short white building), The Mount Dora Hotel(tall gray building), and Rebaum’s Hardware(red awning).
Renningers Antique Market
One of the draws of Mount Dora is the antiques. Renningers is one of the biggest antique markets in the state. If you like antiques and/or flea markets this is the place for you. Called Renninger’s Twin Markets, half is an indoor antique mall, and the other half is an indoor flea market. There are also tons of open-air booths. You can find everything from high-end antiques and collectibles to fresh produce here.
Shopping Local Stores
There are so many local shops in the historic district. You’ll find everything from art to home decor to doggy bakeries. Some of our favorites were The Spice & Tea Exchange and the Mount Dora Olive Oil Company. Just walking down the streets I’m sure you’ll see some shops you want to peruse!
Mount Dora makes a great trip if you love antiquing, history and food! There is definitely enough to do here for a slow-paced weekend trip with plenty of relaxing. If would also make a good day trip. It’s only about 45 minutes from Orlando and an hour and half from Tampa.