Thursday, October 12, 2023

Mt. Dora. Central Florida without the Disney

Lake Dora


One advantage of being married to a writer is that, when she travels for workshops, retreats, or appearances, I get to tag along, enjoy new places, and take photographs. So, in September, when The Amazin’ Ms. D attended a workshop, I joined her in Mt. Dora, Florida.

American settlers moved into the area alongside a beautiful lake in the center of the Florida peninsula in 1874, and by 1880, the first post office was established by Ross C. Tremain, the area’s first real estate developer. The Lake was named Dora, named after Dora Ann Drawdy, one of the first homesteaders in the area. The town was originally named Royellou, after Tremain’s three children - Roy, Ella, and Louis. In 1883, it was renamed Mount Dora, after the lake, and the fact that it is on a plateau 184 feet above sea level, one of Florida’s highest points.

In 1883, The Alexander House was built on the shore of Lake Dora, and it quickly became a tourism magnet. Over the decades it has expanded into a much larger complex, and has been renamed the Lakeside Inn.

The Lakeside Inn

On my first morning, I took a walk along the lake to Grantham Point Park and the Mt. Dora Light House.The walk took me past the Mt. Dora Lawn Bowling Club, which was at full capacity on a Saturday morning. Once I entered the park I was followed by some of the tamest squirrels I have ever seen, all looking for me to give them their breakfast. 

At the Mt. Dora Lawn Bowling Club

The Light House was built in the 1980’s as boat traffic on the lake began to increase. It is 35 feet tall, and it is Florida’s only certified inland navigational aid. This walk is a great place to see wild life, including at least one of the local gators.

The historic center of Mt. Dora is filled with many homes and buildings that date back to the early 20th century. These include the Mt. Dora Community Building and its City Hall. The Community Building includes an 800 seat auditorium, one seat for every town resident the year it was built - 1929.

Mt. Dora Community Building

Mount Dora is home to the Modernism Museum. Its collection ties together David Bowie, and his favorite designers - The Memphis Group, from Milan, Italy. The Memphis Group was founded in 1980 by Ettore Sotsass, and they were active together from 1980 through 1987. The Memphis Group designed postmodernist pieces, using plastic laminates, stone and plastic, in furniture, lighting and ceramics. They are known for their bold primary colors and abstract designs.

When you are in town, make sure to stop in the Mt. Dora Center for the Arts. They showcase local artists in their gallery and offer classes, including oil and water color painting and ceramics.

Through the Eyes of Klimt by Renee Lewis

Girl in a Headdress by Marilyn Leverton

On the Journey by Kathy Omeara

Morning Beach Walk by Jules Silver

Mt. Dora offers a wide choice of shopping, from tourist souvenirs to fine art. There are also some fine restaurants in town. We enjoyed breakfast at Cody’s on 4th in downtown, and also went to the Dora Cafe, about a mile away, for morning meal aimed at locals. For lunch and dinner we enjoyed many restaurants, including WAVE Asian Bistro, Cafe Gianni, One Flight Up, and the Olive Branch. Also 1921 Mt. Dora offers a high end dinner, including a great pre-fixe with an affordable wine pairing.

Mt. Dora is a very nice place to spend a Florida weekend without having anything to do Disney, Universal, or Miami Beach.


  1. Thank you for being my eyes and ears while I was on my writing retreat. Your photos of Mt Dora give me a good look at the village that I missed while I was at work. I love your shots of the museum exhibits, especially (surprise!) the girl in the headdress. Really loved that one and the architecture of the village.

  2. Great photos and description of Mt. Dora. Thank you!