For a window on Old Florida, look no further than Mount Dora, a popular winter destination for Northerners in the early twentieth century. With 1,400 lakes and an elevation 184 feet above sea level, the Central Florida town was dubbed the “Land of Lakes and Hills” by early promoters. Its most famous body of water is Lake Dora, a former entry point for steamships and home to the Lakeside Inn, the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida, open since 1883. In the downtown village, much of the action is centered on Donnelly Street, named for J.P. Donnelly, the town’s first mayor. Wander antique shops (Oliver’s Twist, Village Antique Mall) and tasting rooms (the Wine Den, Maggie’s Attic). Then, stroll to Donnelly Park, where you’ll find the Donnelly House, a stunning example of Queen Anne–style architecture and one of the town’s most notable landmarks. Just a few blocks away at the public boat ramps, the red-and-white striped Mount Dora Lighthouse stands as the only inland lighthouse in the state.
Where to Stay
Lakeside Inn / The last remaining Victorian-era hotel in Central Florida, this 130-year-old landmark features a broad porch lined with rocking chairs overlooking a private pier and beach. lakeside-inn.com
Pisces Rising / Feast on Caribbean-style seafood, steaks, and drinks—as well as sunsets over Lake Dora—in a restored 1919 bungalow. piscesrisingdining.com
Where to Play
Mount Dora Festivals / No matter what time of year you travel to Mount Dora, you’re likely to stumble upon a special event in Florida’s “Festival City.” Spring and summer standouts include the Blueberry Festival (April 29–30) and the lakeside Seafood Festival (Aug. 26–27). visitmountdora.com
Meet the Neighbors
Amy Sellers / Amy Sellers has always drawn inspiration for her paintings from the people and places that have touched her. And since she and her husband, Andrew, discovered Mount Dora six years ago, the lakeside community has served as a generous muse. “It’s almost like going back to Mayberry,” says Sellers, fifty-two, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania before moving to Tampa for college. “Mount Dora is a quaint town where everyone knows and helps each other.” Oils of landmarks like the Mount Dora Lighthouse and the Orange Blossom Cannonball tourist train line the walls of her downtown studio. Sellers says that prints and reproductions are quite popular with visitors who, like her, have fallen for this Old Florida town and want to take a piece of it home with them.