One of the most beautiful, centrally located areas in Florida is just northwest of the Orlando metro area. You will find plenty of outdoor budget friendly and free activities in Mount Dora, Clermont, and Leesburg. Mount Dora is a quaint small town with an excellent annual craft fair, and Clermont is known for its rolling hills (a rarity around here!) Below sums up my favorites in the area:
1. Lake Louisa State Park – $5
Lake Louisa State park is home to a ton of activities! It offers a huge lake for kayaking and fishing. There are trails for biking and hiking. Cyclists will find 7 miles of paved bike trails and more than 20 unpaved. If you need a bike, you can rent one for $10 a day. Camping is also a popular activity at Lake Louisa – you can bring your RV or tent if you wish to camp overnight. The park also offers cabins for a fee. In addition, during the year they also often host triathlons and other races. The fee to get into the state park is $5 per vehicle.
2. Graham Pointe & Palm Island Boardwalk – FREE
Another excellent activity in Mt. Dora is to walk to the Graham Pointe Lighthouse. While you can’t climb the lighthouse, and it runs on the smaller side, this is a spot where you can walk along the waters of Lake Dora and watch the sunset. Near the lighthouse is a park for children, restaurants, as well a boardwalk. The Palm Island Boardwalk runs for about a mile, and if you’re lucky, you can view some wildlife here!
If you are lucky enough to be in town during the time of this annual festival, you will not want to skip it! People travel from all over Florida to come to this special event. The craft fair features over 400 vendors from all over the United States. This year (2020) it will be held at the end of October.
4. Hickory Point Park – FREE
Hickory Point Park is a scenic park along Lake Harris. From the park, you can take a nice long walk along one of their boardwalk trails (the trails are pet friendly as well!). You can also view the bridge over the lake from the park. If you have a boat, you can take your boat out here onto Lake Harris. The park has free admission and offers places to have a picnic with your friends or family as well.
Lake Apopka is Florida’s 4th largest lake in the state. One of the most popular things to do here for bikers and joggers is the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, which can be accessed from the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trail (access to the loop is a little farther from this point). The trail can also be accessed at Magnolia Park, closer to Apopka. This trailhead is directly off the trail and a more popular place to park for hikers. Both locations have restrooms on site. The trail is not very shady, so best for the winter season or spring.
Another popular attraction on the Lake is the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Keep in mind, this drive did close due to COVID19, but you can keep an eye on their facebook page (linked above) for updates. The wildlife drive is a scenic 11 mile one way drive starting at Lust road on a dirt path. It takes 1-2 hours to go through, depending on your driving speed. A great place to get out in nature and view birds, snakes, and alligators!
6. Pear Park
Pear park is another spot for hiking, biking, and recreational birding. The park has trails for walking and cycling – with many species of birds available to see. It also has a nature center with a geology lab inside. Outside there are miles of trails, an observation deck, and butterfly garden. If you are looking for a place a bit more secluded than Lake Apopka, this is your spot.
7. Atwood Farms
During the months of April and May, you can pick blueberries at this small, rural family farm, just outside of Mount Dora. This is one of my favorite budget friendly and free things to do in Mount Dora. The blueberries are very reasonably priced ($4 per pound). They also offer hay rides for $1 a person, and they have local honey, and a play area for kids.
8. Showcase of Citrus – $5-40
Showcase of Citrus is a larger farm than Atwood, located closer to Orlando. This farm has citrus U-Pick from November to May, a gem mine, animals to feed, and offers monster truck ride tours around their farm (the monster truck tours are pretty pricey, but they have a great group rate). They also have a small store and a play area. You can view their website for the various prices of different activities!
9. Bonus… if you have a little extra cash on your trip, you can visit a unique Clermont attraction called the Citrus Tower, a huge tower 500 ft above sea level (Not for those afraid of heights!!). Up at the top, you can get a panoramic view of the surrounding area in their glass observation deck.
That sums it up for our budget and free activities in Mt. Dora, Clermont, and Leesburg! For more fun in the area, visit our page on the Orlando Area.