Looking for the real Florida experience?
You may not need to look further than a town over.
With 1,000 lakes and rivers, fresh springs, watersports, restaurants, shopping, antiquing, and historic landmarks this quaint, nature-filled Lake County is becoming more of a tourist destination with every passing year.
Visit Lake, the county’s tourism arm, broke down some of the best activities, lesser-known spots, and overnight stays for Lake County visitors and residents alike.
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A destination for summer fun
What makes Lake County a great summer vacation destination? Every summer activity imaginable.
The county’s lakes, waterways and downtowns “make for perfect getaways outdoors offering a ‘Real Florida’ experience,” said Ryan Ritchie, Director of Visit Lake.
Residents or visitors can dive into water activities like rowing, skiing, wakeboarding, triathlons and paddling. Rentals for these watersports are scattered all throughout Lake County.
These events bring in participants and spectators who not only support local businesses, but also book local lodging, Ritchie said.
Lake County has many other popular attractions including shopping, antiquing, restaurants, entertainment, splash pads, and of course, springs.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area is located between Astor and Altoona and is busiest during the summer months. With crystal clear water and a consistent 72-degree temperature, the springs make for a beautiful location for swimming, camping, backpacking, boating, nature viewing, picnicking, scuba diving, and exploring trails.
“Alexander Springs is perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day with water that stays the same cool temperature year-round,” Ritchie said.
Downtown Mount Dora is another great destination for strolling around and popping into coffee shops, local stores, and ice cream shops perfect for those hot Florida months.
And if you’re looking for another way to cool off this summer, there are themed splash pads open to the public in Tavares and Clermont.
Lake County is also home to some unique, lesser-known activities to try including drive-your-own boat tours, hang glider flights, aircraft flights, 4-wheelers, kayaking, paddle boarding, and seaplane tours.
“Lake County is great for lesser-known adventure seekers,” Ritchie said.
Some of these adventures can be found at Catboat Adventures in Mount Dora, Paradise Airsports in Groveland, Revolution Off-Road Adventures in Clermont, Adventure Outdoor Paddle and Jones Brother’s Air and Seaplane Adventures in Tavares.
Catboat Adventures offers two-hour drive-your-own boat guided and narrated tours. During the tours, guests navigate through Lake Dora into Lake Eustis and learn all about the interesting history and wildlife of the area from professional tour guides.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation or staycation, Lake County has many overnight options including hotels and resorts, bed and breakfast inns, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and cabins.
For the nostalgia lovers, Lakeside Inn is a good choice, Ritchie said.
Built-in 1883, the Lakeside Inn is the oldest operating hotel in the state of Florida housing guests for the past 134 years. This hotel is located in the heart of historic Mount Dora just steps away from dozens of shops and restaurants and overlooks beautiful Lake Dora. Over the years, Lakeside Inn has hosted famous figures including President Calvin Coolidge.
For those interested in visiting Tavares, Visit Lake recommends staying at the Key West Resort in Downtown Tavares. This resort is located at one of Florida’s only inland seaplane basins and is the perfect stay for thrill-seeking visitors looking to take flight or explore the Dora Canal.
Another great overnight option is the Mission Inn Resort, Ritchie said. Located in Howey-in-the-Hills, this is an ideal leisure and golf escape with hidden gems including the Yalaha Bakery nearby.
It’s also in a central location, close to downtowns like Clermont’s with breweries and shops. It’s also near the South Lake Trail.
Tourism increasing in Lake County
Travel demand increased in Lake County last year and even before the pandemic, according to the STR Report.
Specifically, the occupancy rate as increased 28.5% year over year, Visit Lake reported.
The STR Report includes data on hotel occupancy, average daily rate, revenue per available room, and other hotel-related metrics. This data is broken down by each market, with every area in Florida being covered by at least one market. Lake County is in the Central Florida market.
The most popular time of the year for tourism in Lake County is in the earlier months of the year.
“Early in the year is the most popular window for visitors in Lake County,” Ritchie said. “Florida’s pleasant weather makes it the perfect time for local sports, businesses and communities to host events that attract visitors and travelers to plan an outdoorsy escape.”
To keep up with what’s going on in Lake County Tourism follow Visit Lake on Facebook at @LakeCountyFLTourism, on Instagram at @VisitLakeFL, and online at visitlakefl.com.