Nov 17, Here Are Some of the Best Towns in Florida to Visit or Live

Nov 17, Here Are Some of the Best Towns in Florida to Visit or Live

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There are more than 400 Florida towns and cities.  This page tells you about what we consider to be some of the best towns in Florida to visit or live.

Arcadia

You will learn all about these places on our website whether you are looking for fun, culture, shopping, dining, a place to settle down or just a Florida getaway.

According to the Florida League of Cities, Inc., there are 411 incorporated Florida cities and towns.

In addition to these, another source has profiles for 8,643 populated places including cities, towns, neighborhoods and settlements.

We also cover many of these places.

No single website can explore this many towns in depth, so I will focus initially on those towns I know something about.  Again, this is strictly my opinion of some of the best towns in Florida.

Here is an alphabetical list of the towns and cities currently on the Florida Backroads Travel website:

Tampa

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Florida Towns at the End of the Road

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Old Florida Working Waterfront Towns

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Old Florida Towns on the St Johns River

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Old Florida Places on the Suwannee River

Ponce Inlet

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Old Florida Towns on the Indian River Lagoon

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Old Florida Towns on the Forgotten Coast

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Florida Mural Towns

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Florida Historic Homes

SPECIAL FEATURE:   Maytown Road from Osteen to Oak Hill

Cape Coral

SPECIAL FEATURE:  Lot Sales Towns

Beverly Hills, Canaveral Groves, Cape Coral, Citrus Springs, Deltona, Florida Shores, Golden Gate Estates, Indian Lake Estates, Lehigh Acres, Marco Island, North Port, Palm Coast, Port LaBelle, Port St. John, Port Malabar, Port St. Lucie, Port Charlotte, Ridge Manor, Rotonda West, Silver Springs Shores, Spring Hill, St. Augustine Shores

The capital of Florida is Tallahassee. Pensacola and St. Augustine are the oldest towns. Both were chartered in 1822, but St. Augustine was settled in 1565 and is the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States.

Other than St. Augustine and Pensacola, the history of most towns in Florida goes back to just before or after the Civil War, which took place between 1861 and 1865.

Vintage postcard of Woodland Blvd in Deland, FloridaDeland

Florida also has its share of Ghost Towns , once thriving places whose bones now bake quietly in the hot Florida sun.

Many of my favorite small Florida towns are in the Florida Main Street Program. These are typically small towns that have worked with the State of Florida to rejuvenate their downtown districts.

Many of them have become favorite Florida retirement communities for baby boomers because of their charm and walkability.

The results have been impressive, so I like to write about these towns when I can. They are great places to visit or retire.

Each Florida town page discusses the history of a town and how it fits into Florida history.

The Florida League of Cities website is also a great resource.


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Nov 17, Jacksonville To Miami Drive Is Always Along or Near the Beach

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The 362 mile drive from Jacksonville to Miami can be done in one long day, or you can take your time and visit some towns along the way.  You can take I95 all the way, but that’s no fun.

It’s more interesting to go all the way on US-1 and SR-A1A.  The most fun is to jump back and forth as you find places that interest you.

Jacksonville to Miami Drive, Section 1: Jacksonville-Ormond Beach
84 Miles

Towns along the way.

St. Augustine
Flagler Beach
Ormond Beach

Jacksonville to Miami Drive, Section 2: Ormond Beach to Stuart
169 Miles

Towns Along the Way

Daytona Beach
Ponce Inlet
New Smyrna Beach
Mims
Titusville
Cocoa
Melbourne
Melbourne Beach
Indialantic
Sebastian
Vero Beach
Fort Pierce
Stuart

Jacksonville to Miami Drive, Section 3: Stuart to Miami
109 Miles

Towns Along the Way

Jupiter 
Palm Beach
Delray Beach
Briny Breezes
Hillsboro Inlet
Fort Lauderdale
Hollywood
Miami
Coconut Grove
Coral Gables

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Nov 18, Florida Timeshares: Comfortable Lodging Throughout the State

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Featured Content

Florida timeshares provide an affordable way to vacation in the Sunshine State every year while enjoying luxury resort properties, spacious accommodations, and a wealth of fun and diverse amenities. 

Thousands of timeshares are for rent or sale in the State of Florida.

You’ll find timeshares in Florida in top travel destinations including Orlando, Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, and more. While timeshares are often thought of as expensive to own, you can find a great selection of timeshares in Florida  at popular resorts on websites like SellMyTimeshareNow.com for a fraction of the retail price. 

Florida timeshare resorts are conveniently located near their respective area’s best attractions. For example, Orlando resorts offer complimentary transportation to the Disney theme parks, while Gold Coast resorts are often situated right on the shores.

Whether you want a more secluded Florida escape or an exciting getaway near all the best tourist attractions, you’re sure to find the perfect Florida timeshare to suit your wants and needs.

Here are some examples of timeshare locations:


Wyndham Bonnet Creek 

Find spacious, condo-style suites, gorgeous landscaping, and fantastic resort amenities and activities for all ages. This Orlando resort is located adjacent to Walt Disney World for easy access to the Disney parks and attractions. On-site features include pools with water slides, lazy rivers, a poolside bar, and miniature golf. 

Hyatt Windward Pointe Resort 

On the sparkling shores of Key West, you’ll discover the ideal mix of relaxation and adventure. The resort boasts a gorgeous infinity pool, beach access, a picnic area, and a rejuvenating spa tub. Here you also have the opportunity to go on an exciting scuba diving adventure, experience the Duval Street nightlife, and play the pristine local golf courses. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge 

Find yourself amongst the wild with views of more than 30 species of African wildlife right from your own suite. This unique resort is bursting with fun and Disney magic, with amenities like an 11,000-square-foot pool with waterslides, Simba’s Clubhouse for kids, and dining at themed on-site restaurants. Plus, step right outside and enjoy prime access to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other Disney theme parks just minutes away. 

Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations Club 

Situated just a couple miles from the renowned Orlando theme parks, this relaxing resort atmosphere provides you with everything you need for a fun, yet laid back retreat. Spacious suites provide lavish decor and modern features with a large balcony overlooking the meticulously maintained grounds. Other resort amenities include jogging and walking trails, a poolside cafe, and large outdoor pools with water slides. 

Marriott Ocean Pointe 

Escape to the shores of Palm Beach with high-end villa-style accommodations to give you the coastal Florida escape you’ve been dreaming of. Discover over 145 golf courses in the area, stunning beaches, rejuvenating spa services, upscale boutiques, and the Sailfish Marina. On-site you’ll enjoy swimming pools, a fitness center, and resort dining options. 

Westgate Miami Beach 

Stay in luxurious beachfront accommodations offering incredible views and convenient amenities like full kitchens and private bedrooms. Here, you’ll have prime access to white sandy beaches, a heated outdoor pool with cabanas, fire pits, and a a tropical poolside Beach Bar for food and cocktails. The concierge can help you to book local excursions like snorkeling, cruises, tours, and more. 

Orange Lake Resort 

Among the most popular Holiday Inn Club Vacations resorts, this family-friendly property will not disappoint. Stay minutes from the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Legoland, SeaWorld, and more while also enjoying four separate villages of amenities across 1,450-acres. On-site features include four golf courses, ten restaurants, the Splash Lagoon pool complex with slides and fountains, arcades, miniature golf, and so much more. 

Club Destin Resort 

This resort is located mere minutes from the emerald-green waters and white sandy beaches that Destin is known and loved for. The area is known as the “Luckiest Fishing Village,” so you’ll certainly want to get out on your boat and reel in a fresh catch. On-site amenities include a pool and sundeck area, indoor hot tub in a gorgeous three-story atrium filled with palm trees, a putting green, and spacious condo-style accommodations.

Vacation Village at Parkway 

Located minutes from Orlando’s theme parks, this stylish resort offers amenities for families and couples alike including swimming pools and hot tubs, a children’s playground, nature walks, and a fitness center. This ideal location also puts you in close proximity to Busch Gardens, St. Augustine, and Silver Springs for a fun day trip outside of the nearby parks. 

Disney’s Old Key West Resort 

A tranquil mix of romance and Disney magic is prevalent at this gorgeous resort property. Although located in Lake Buena Vista, you will feel like you are in the Florida Keys, you’ll find pristine golf courses, swimming pools, jogging trails along the canals and fairways, sports courts, and bike rentals. Find casual dining at Olivia’s Cafe, or a quick bite at the Turtle Shack Snack Bar. And as with many Disney resorts, you’ll love the convenience of transportation throughout Walt Disney World Resort.


More information on Florida timeshares.


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Nov 18, Florida Small Inns: Authentic Old Florida

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Small inns, motels and hotels are often the most rewarding and economical way to enjoy the delights that Florida has to offer.

Villa Victor, St. Augustine

Quite often you will feel like a member of the family because many of these places are family owned.  Being locals themselves, the owners of these small places know the best restaurants, attractions and shopping to help make your vacation or even a brief stay a success.

Since they own the place and often live there, they also make sure that maintenance is not overlooked and that the place is clean.

Lakeside Inn, Mount Dora

Many of us are afraid to stay in a place that is unknown to us. With big chains we have come to expect a certain level of comfort and cleanliness. This is not always the case with the smaller privately owned places.

TripAdvisor is one of the sources that can be used to check these places out, but it’s not foolproof.  One or two bad reviews can scare you away and glowing reviews from the owners and their friends can make the place look better than it is.

The places you will learn about on the Florida Backroads Travel website have been vetted either by me, my friends or a trusted organization and will not disappoint you.

HERE ARE SOME SMALL FLORIDA INNS YOU WILL ENJOY


Camelot Beach Resort
603 Mandalay Avenue
Clearwater Beach, Florida 33767
727-467-4310

Clearwater Beach has beautiful beaches.  TripAdvisor voted the beach No. 1 of the 25 best beaches in the United States.  Camelot is a 20 room boutique hotel only 100 yards from this famous beach.  

Read More About Camelot Beach Resort


Lakeside Inn
100 Alexander Street
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
352‑383‑4101

This historic hotel has been in business since 1883. It is on the east shore of Lake Dora in the heart of downtown Mount Dora with all of its shops, restaurants and other attractions. 

Read More About Lakeside Inn


Magnolia Plantation
309 S.E. 7th Street
Gainesville, Florida 32601
352-375-6653

This renovated bed and breakfast inn includes several rooms along with secluded cottages.  It is in the heart of Gainesville and close to many shops and restaurants and the University of Florida.

Read More About Magnolia Plantation


River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp
2325 NE Indian River Drive
Jensen Beach, FL 34957
772‑334‑0401

River Palm is in Jensen Beach, a small community on the west bank of the Indian River Lagoon.  This is salt water country, and a great location for one of the most unusual Florida fish camps.

Read More About River Palm Cottages and Fish Camp


1111 Riverside Drive SE
P.O. Box 828
Steinhatchee, Florida 32359
352-498-4049

This inn is an all suites motel in the heart of a small fishing village.  Although the inn is an older place, it is super clean and well maintained.  

Read More About Steinhatchee River Inn


Tuckaway Shores Oceanfront Resort
1441 S. Miramar Avenue (State Road A1A)
Indialantic, Florida 32903
321‑723‑3355

Tuckaway Shores is directly on the beach, one of the best beaches in Florida. The white sand stretches for miles north and south of the resort.  Tuckway Shores has 29 units.

Read More About Tuckaway Shores Oceanfront Resort


Villa Victor Hotel
42 San Marco Avenue
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
904-829-2292

This modernized hotel is close to everything in downtown St. Augustine and also offers onsite parking.  They offer a variety of Queen and King Suites and also have a swimming pool and onsite cafe.

Read More About Villa Victor Hotel


Welaka Lodge & Resort
1001 Front Street
Welaka, FL 32193
386‑467‑7171

As fish camps go, this fish camp, lodge and RV park is a Ritz Carlton. Welaka is about 40 miles southwest of St Augustine, and about the same distance northwest of Daytona Beach. 

Read More About Welaka Lodge


Whippoorwill Sportsmanʹs Lodge
3129 Cookʹs Landing Road
Quincy, Florida
850‑875‑2605

This secluded camp is on the north shore of Lake Talquin, a large lake managed by the State of Florida and known for its fine fishing. Speckled perch and bass are favorite catches in this lake.  

Read More About Whippoorwill Sportsman’s Lodge


Florida timeshares provide an affordable way to vacation in the Sunshine State every year while enjoying luxury resort properties, spacious accommodations, and a wealth of fun and diverse amenities.

Read More About Florida Timeshares



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Nov 18, Camping in Florida: Thousands of Great Places You Can Camp

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Florida has a temperate climate that allows camping all year round.  We only get snow every decade or so, and even then it’s very light.

The weather in summer, however, is so hot and humid only hardy souls and people lucky enough to have air conditioned RVs take advantage of the many campgrounds.

Even when it’s not super hot, air conditioning is a great way to stay inside and escape the mosquitoes and gnats.


OUR GOAL IS TO INFORM YOU OF EVERY FLORIDA CAMPING LOCATION WE KNOW ABOUT


FLORIDA STATE PARKS

Our first choice for camping in Florida is one of the wonderful state parks.  Of these 175 parks, about 50 of them have campgrounds.  The campsites are usually carved out of the natural pine and palmetto and give you a lot more privacy than you get in most private campgrounds.

Camper and Family in Florida State ParkA Florida State Park

These sites usually have electricity, water, a picnic table, and a fire ring.  Some parks have full service RV sites.

Learn more about Florida State Parks.


LOCAL AND COUNTY PARKS

Florida has 67 counties and more than 400 towns and cities.  Some of these communities have campgrounds.  Some are very basic and provide nothing more than a site with no service;  others are full service.

Campsite at Trimble Park in Orange County, Florida near TangerineTrimble Park in Orange County

Quite a few of these local and county parks are just as nice and clean as a Florida state park.

Learn more about Local and County Parks.


NATIONAL PARKS

There are 11 National Parks in Florida, but we know of only three that have campgrounds:  

  • Dry Tortugas National Park – Key West
  • Everglades National Park – Miami, Naples, and Homestead
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore – Gulf Breeze
Flamingo Campground in Everglades National ParkEverglades National Park Flamingo Campground

Two of these parks are on the Florida mainland and allow camping:  Everglades National Park and Gulf Islands National SeashoreDry Tortugas National Park also allows camping but is on a remote island west of Key West accessible only by boat or private plane.

Another place that allows camping is Big Cypress National Preserve west of Everglades National Park.

Learn about Big Cypress National Preserve Camping.

Learn about Dry Tortugas National Park Camping.

Learn about Everglades National Park Camping.

Learn about Gulf Islands National Seashore Camping.



FLORIDA STATE FORESTS

There are 37 state forests covering 1.1 million acres.  Camping opportunities are plentiful throughout the state with more than 80 campgrounds offering primitive to improved campsite experiences. From camping along waterways to hiking meandering trails through the forest, there is something for everyone at Florida state forests.   

Campsite at Blackwater River State ForestBlackwater River State Forest

Reserve America has a List of 92 Campgrounds in Florida State Forests.


PRIVATE CAMPGROUNDS

Who knows how many private campgrounds there are in Florida.  These include RV parks, some mobile home parks, fish camps, and just about any variety of ownership and level of comfort and amenities that you can imagine.

Many of these campgrounds become permanent homes for people who buy park models.  A park model is designed to be permanently affixed to the property.  These campgrounds over time become trailer parks with a percentage of sites reserved for transient campers.

RV Site at Holiday Travel Resort near Leesburg, Florida.Holiday Travel Resort, Leesburg

Some full time RV residents prefer private campgrounds because some of them have a larger amenity package.  This might include a general store, mailbox facilities, and a swimming pool.  They typically cost more than their publicly owned counterparts.

Learn more about Florida Private Campgrounds


U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUNDS

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the navigable waterways of the United States, including those in Florida.  The Corp has developed and maintained many campgrounds along these routes.

The Florida campgrounds are along the Okeechobee Waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean near Stuart to the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers.  The campgrounds are located with one near the east end, one near the west end, and one close to the center.

Ortona Lock Campsite on the Okeechobee WaterwayOrtona Lock Campground near Moore Haven on Okeechobee Waterway

The three that we know about are:

St. Lucie South Campground in Stuart (772-287-1382)
Ortona South Campground near Moore Haven (863-675-8400)
W.P. Franklin Campground North in Alva (239-694-8770)

Learn more about Army Corps of Engineer Campgrounds in Florida


SOME OTHER FLORIDA CAMPING IDEAS

Farms, Vineyards.  There are a few farms and vineyards in Florida that will let you camp on their property.  Here is a membership site that will tell you about them:  Harvest Hosts.

Elk and Moose Lodges, American Legion, and Others.  These fraternal organizations sometimes allow members and non-members alike to camp on their properties.  Here’s one site that tells you about that: Snowbird RV Trails. 

U.S. Military Campgrounds.  Some military bases in Florida have campgrounds or areas where camping is allowed.  These campgrounds are typically reserved for active duty or retired members of the United States armed forces.  Here is a source of info: U.S. Military Campgrounds and RV Site


Couple relaxing by fire ring with their Airstream travel trailer in backgroundCamping in Style With an Airstream




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Nov 18, Cortez, Florida is a Landmark of Gulf Coast Fishing Heritage

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Cortez is a living remnant of Old Florida.

It is a small working fishing village located on a peninsula in Sarasota Bay on Cortez Road (State Highway 684) that connects Bradenton and Bradenton Beach.

Cortez is not a trendy place, but a living community of weathered old houses and fish companies, fish nets, crab traps, floats and all kinds of boats, old and new.

It is fitting that several good seafood restaurants can be found in Cortez including Starfish Company, Cortez Kitchen, Swordfish Grill and Seafood Shack. These restaurants are able to serve fresh fish every day of the week, year round.

Cortez was founded about 1890 by several families from the waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina. These families are still represented in modern day Cortez. Some of the names are Guthrie, Bell, Taylor and Fulford.

Cortez, Florida Fisherman Statue

This maritime heritage is showcased in The Florida Maritime Museum located in the restored 1912 school house at the Cortez Nature Preserve. Cortez is also home to FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage), a non-profit group set up in 1991 to help preserve the heritage of Florida Gulf Coast fishing communities.

Cortez, Florida at Starfish Company

Among events that also help preserve this heritage are the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, first held in 1981, and the recently initiated Ben Gullet Mullet Invitational. The mullet event is a cast net only tournament that helps raise money for FISH and the Cortez Historical Society. It is named after the late Ben Gullet of Bradenton, who was well known as a cast net fisherman and mullet smoker (a man who cooks mullet in a smoker).

Recommended Restaurant

12306 46th Ave W
Cortez, Florida 34215
Tel:  941-794-1243

Starfish Company Dockside Restaurant is on the waterfront in Cortez, one of Florida’s last remaining genuine fishing villages. 

Starfish Company Cortez Florida

It was founded way back in the early 1920’s as a wholesale seafood market. Over the years it evolved into a retail seafood market and finally included a kitchen and small outside dining area.

It is a great place to eat, especially if you like fresh fish, usually fried. Most of the fish is caught in local waters along this beautiful stretch of west coast Florida.

Among their offerings are grouper, scallops, shrimp, calamari, conch fritters, clams, oysters, mullet, crab, pompano, salmon, mahi mahi, stone crab claws.

You can also get chicken and even a hamburger although I’ve never tried it. They also serve hot dogs. Beer and wine is also served.

One of their specialties is shrimp and grits, and my personal favorite is their blackened grouper. They also have a great combination plate of shrimp and scallops. They have a good seafood chowder and a nice fresh seafood salad.

You place your order at an inside counter and give them your name, go outside and sit at one of the picnic tables and wait until they call your name. Your meal will soon be ready in cardboard boxes which you eat outside.

Sometimes you will see local fishermen feeding the pelicans. Don’t try to do this yourself, however, as a pelican can be very agressive and inflict pain on you with his big beak.

The view from the dock dining area is great. You look west over the water to Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key. Most days you can also take a sunset boat trip from Starfish aboard Captain Kathe’s boat.

Starfish Company Has Mullet

It’s also nice to know that mullet is still abundant around Cortez and at Starfish Company.  They have smoked mullet, blackened mullet, fried mullet and mullet just about any other way you can think of.

Starfish can be very crowded on weekends and during the winter season when the snowbirds are in town. Just resolve to be patient and enjoy your surroundings. Old Florida as it used to be: shrimp boats, tangy salt air, pelicans, herons, dolphins….you will not be alone.

In summer months it’s best to put on some insect spray before going to Starfish. Mosquitoes have also discovered the place and like to dine on the diners.

More information at Starfish Company.




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Nov 17, Florida Backroads Travel Site Map

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This Florida Backroads Travel site map shows all of the pages on the website and allows easy navigation to the areas of your interest.

Florida Backroads Travel

You can also use the Google custom search box on the top of the right hand column to search for specific things on this website.

FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL HOME PAGE

FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL UPDATE BLOG

SOLO BUILD IT! SYSTEM FOR ONLINE SUCCESS

FLORIDA DAY TRIPS AND ONE TANK TRIPS

Florida Historic Hotels

FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Honest John’s Fish Camp

BEST BEACHES IN FLORIDA

FLORIDA RESTAURANTS                               

FLORIDA STATE PARKS

FLORIDA TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

LOST ATTRACTIONS

Pirates World
Marco Polo Park
Rainbow Springs
Six Gun Territory
Zellwood Corn Festival
Mystery Fun House
Floridaland

FLORIDA LIGHTHOUSES

Amelia Island Lighthouse
Cape Florida Lighthouse
Gasparilla Island Light
Hillsboro Lighthouse
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse
Mount Dora Lighthouse
Pensacola Lighthouse
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
St Augustine Lighthouse
St Johns River Lighthouse

FLORIDA HISTORIC HOMES

FLORIDA END OF ROAD TOWNS

FLORIDA HISTORY

Northwest
North Central
North East
Central East
Central
Central West
Southwest
Southeast

FLORIDA MURAL TOWNS

FLORIDA COUNTY MAPSFLORIDA EVERGLADES TRAVEL GUIDE

FLORIDA ROAD MAP

FLORIDA FESTIVALS

FLORIDA CULTURE

FLORIDA TALES

A Land Remembered
Alas Babylon
Naked Came the Manatee
The Day I Chased Away the Highwaymen
Travis McGee and His Novels
What is a Florida Cracker?
Galvanized Yankee from Florida
Florida Universities

FLORIDA WINERIES

CONTACT US

MY FAVORITE FLORIDA LINKS AND BLOGS

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Nov 17, Best North South Road Trips on the Historic Florida Highways

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Florida-Backroads-Travel.com is your one stop source for day trips, attractions, historic towns, and off the beaten path adventures.

Here are several road trips for you to enjoy that will take you through dozens of historic Old Florida towns and keep you on the lesser traveled north-south federal highways that existed in the days before the Interstates.



Much of the information in our website is available in a series of books for each of Florida’s 8 geographical regions, along with a separate book covering all 8 regions titled Florida Backroads Travel. All books are available both in Kindle and paper back.

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Nov 17, Road Trips on the North-South Highways Through Old & New Florida

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In the old days before the interstates, federal, state and county highways were the only way to get into Florida from the northern states. 

Once in Florida, motorists would drive down the peninsula to the beaches on either coast and the central regions. 

There was no I-75, I-95 or Florida Turnpike just a couple of generations ago.  I have a 1959 road map that shows the way it used to be.

Many of these north-south highways are still very well maintained and are lesser traveled than the interstates.

These routes take you through the places that are still authentic Old Florida.

Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, FloridaBiltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida

The routes described in these web pages begin in north Florida and continue south starting with US-1 and State Road A1A on the east coast and US-301 on the west.

Remember that most of these routes get combined with other federal and state highways so the signage can be confusing.

Just keep heading for the towns I’ve listed and you won’t get lost.

The routes we cover here are, in ascending order:

  • US-1 and SR-A1A from Georgia Border to Miami and Key West
  • US-17 from the Georgia border north of Jacksonville to Punta Gorda
  • SR-17 from Haines City south to south of Frostproof
  • US-19 Georgia Border to North of Bradenton
  • US-27 from the Georgia border north of Tallahassee to Miami
  • US-41 from the Georgia border north of Jennings to Tampa
  • US-98 from Alabama border west of Pensacola border to Palm Beach
  • US-301 from the Georgia border north of Jacksonville to Sarasota
  • US-441 from the Georgia border north of Lake City to Miami

For no particular reason, I always start with the north end of the trip and proceed south.  Needless to say, you can do it the other way around and have just as much fun.



US-17 Georgia Border to Punta Gorda: 317 Miles

Florida's original North South Highways keep you away from the InterstateUS-17 in Florida

In the old days, this was one way to travel from the interior of Florida up north to Savannah, Hilton Head Island and all the way up to Winchester Virginia.  It hugs the coast as it winds through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and was known as the Seaboard Air Highway in olden times.

In Florida, it enters the state north of Jacksonville at the St. Mary’s River and winds through some very interesting scenery, including some major cities.  The route is largely rural however, but those major cities do slow you down somewhat.  But I still like to go that way and see signs of Old Florida even in the big metropolitan places.

Yulee – Jacksonville – Orange Park – Green Cove SpringsPalatka – East Palatka – San Mateo – Satsuma – Crescent City – Seville – Barberville – DeLeon Springs – DeLand – Orange City – DeBary – Sanford – Lake Mary – Winter Springs – Casselberry – Altamonte Springs – Maitland – Winter ParkOrlando – Kissimmee – Campbell – Loughman – Davenport – Haines City – Lake Alfred – Winter Haven – Bartow – Fort Meade – Bowling Green – Wauchula – Zolfo Springs – Arcadia – Fort Ogden – Punta Gorda

This link will show you 6 of these cities on a single web page:

  Old Florida Towns On US-17 South of I-4


SR-17 Haines City to Frostproof: 38.7 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesScenic 17

State Road 17 is also known as Scenic 17 or the Ridge Scenic Highway.  It is in Polk County and is just east of the busier US-27.  It meanders through rolling citrus groves studded with hundreds of lakes.

Some of the towns along the way are Haines City, Lake Wales, Lake Hamilton, Dundee, Highland Park, Babson Park and Frostproof.

Some of these towns are described here:

Old Florida Towns On Scenic 17 


US-19 Georgia Border to North of Bradenton: 270 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesUS-19 in Florida

This route is mainly authentic Old Florida as you enter from the Georgia border and head south through Monticello and other quiet towns.  When you get further south it becomes more and more congested from south of Weeki Wachee on into the urban metropolis of Pinellas County with Clearwater and St. Petersburg.  You won’t mind this congestion so much when you emerge onto the beautiful Sunshine Skyway bridge across Tampa bay and on down into Memphis and Palmetto.

Some towns along the way are:

Monticello – Perry – Cross City – Fanning Springs – Chiefland – Yankeetown and Inglis – Crystal River – Homosassa Springs – Weeki Wachee – New Port Richey – Tarpon Springs – Dunedin – Clearwater – St. Petersburg – Memphis



US-27 Georgia Border to Miami: 496 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesUS-27 in Florida

This is a historic north-south route that follows the high ridge of central Florida all the way down to Miami.  It starts in the North at the Georgia border just north of the old tobacco town of Havana, Florida. It was one of Florida’s first “super highways” in the days before the Interstates.

It is four-laned for much of its route, with congestion only now and then in the urban areas near Tallahassee, Ocala, The Villages, Haines City, Hialeah and Miami. I have driven the entire route in both directions, both in the days before the interstates and recently.

I’ve seen the groves get frozen out in Central Florida and move to the areas south of Lake Wales and down to Lake Placid.  You go through some Everglades farm towns and have plenty of opportunities along the way to enjoy small towns and quiet sights.  You cross the interstates and the turnpike a couple of times, but in general, you will be in the country.

HavanaTallahassee – Capps – Perry – Mayo – Branford – Fort White – High Springs – Newberry – Archer – Ocala – Belleview – The VillagesFruitland Park – Leesburg – Minneola – ClermontHaines CityLake WalesFrostproofAvon ParkSebringLake PlacidPalmdaleMoore Haven – Clewiston – South Bay – Andytown – Weston – Hialeah – Miami


US-41 Georgia Border to Tampa: 212 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesUS-41 in Florida

US-41 is a major federal highway on the west side of Florida that parallels I-75 for most of its route.  In the pre-interstate days this highway funneled people from the Midwestern states into Florida. This is why the west coast of Florida still has a somewhat Midwestern flavor.  US-1 on the east coast of Florida brought down people from New York, New Jersey and the New England states.

We have included only a portion of US-41, the section from the Georgia border down to Tampa.  South of Tampa it is so congested it’s no fun to drive any more.

Some of the towns you will go through include:

Jennings – Jasper – White Springs – Lake CityHigh Springs – Newberry – Williston – Morriston – Dunnellon – InvernessBrooksville – Land O Lakes – Lutz – Tampa




US-301 Georgia Border to Sarasota: 269 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesUS-301 in Florida

This historic route was also one of Florida’s first “super highways” and is four-laned in many sections.  It starts at the St. Marys River on the Georgia border and goes through many old Florida towns that the interstates have bypassed. Some of these little towns are pretty drab;  others are good places to stop and eat or sleep and look at the sights.

Island Grove isn’t far from Cross Creek and is the site of Antioch Cemetery where the famous writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is buried.  Traffic is usually pretty light along the mostly rural route.  It does get congested now and then as you get into the Tampa metro area and on into Sarasota.  But you will see a lot of Old Florida along the way.

Hilliard – Callahan – Baldwin – Lawtey – Starke – Waldo – Hawthorne – Island Grove – Citra – Ocala – Belleview – The Villages – Wildwood – Coleman – Sumterville – Bushnell – Dade City – Zephyrhills – Temple TerraceTampa – Riverview – Sun City Center – Parrish – Ellenton – Palmetto – BradentonSarasota


US-441 Georgia Border to Miami: 433 Miles

Florida's older north south highways keep you off the interstatesUS-441 in Florida

This highway comes into Florida at the Georgia border about 25 miles north of Lake City.  The highway shares signage with many other highways on its way down to Miami.  Sometimes it is combined with US-301, US-27, SR-80 and several other multi-signed segments.  Just keep track of the towns we list and you won’t get lost.

When the road enters into the urban areas of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties it is often known by locals as State Road 7. It ends at Tamiami Trail in Miami. 

The northern reaches of this highway are rural pineywoods Florida until you get to the urban and university center of Gainesville.  Between Gainesville and Ocala you cross a natural marshy preserve called Payne’s Prairie and can drop in on the quaint little villages of Micanopy and McIntosh.

Once you get to Leesburg, traffic is pretty heavy on into Orlando and through that city to Kissimmee and St. Cloud.  In Orlando the route is known as Orange Blossom Trail.  Once you get through St. Cloud you are are in cattle country again and when you turn south at Holopaw you will have many miles of wilderness until you get to Okeechobee.  Then you head east into the urban centers along the coast.

As in other areas, I’ve driven all segments of this highway even in the urban areas.  It is still more like the Old Florida I remember than the Interstate routes.  For most people, however, driving in the urban segments is optional.

Lake CityHigh Springs – Alachua – Gainesville – Micanopy – McIntosh – Orange Lake – Ocala – Belleview – The Villages – Lady Lake – Fruitland Park – Leesburg – TavaresEustisMount Dora – Tangerine – Zellwood – Apopka – Lockhart – Orlando – Kissimmee – St. Cloud – Holopaw – Yeehaw Junction – Okeechobee – Port Mayaca – Canal Point – Pahokee – Belle Glade – Wellington – Coral Springs – Coconut Creek – Margate – Lauderdale Lakes – Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood – Miami Gardens – Miami


Also See Jacksonville to Miami on US-1 and SR-A1A

Also See Florida Road Trips on East-West Highways


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Nov 11, Mount Dora Restaurants: Tasty Treasures in a Gem of a Town

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The Mount Dora restaurants on this page only include those that I’ve tried and liked.

If it’s not on the list, I either didn’t try it, didn’t like it or have not yet had time to write it up.

Mount Dora is one of the three towns that make up Central Florida’s “Golden Triangle”.

Mount Dora restaurants on this page also include those in the other two triangle towns:  Eustis and Tavares.

The list might be a bit Mount Dora centric because that’s where I live.


MOUNT DORA RESTAURANTS RECOMMENDED
BY FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL


1921
  • 1921.  142 East 4th Avenue, Mount Dora, Florida 32757.  Tel:  352-385-1921.  Extensive menu and wonderful bar scene.  Originally established by celebrity chef Norman Van Aken.  Upscale but worth the money. Popular happy hour 430 to 630.

  • Cafe Gianni.  425 North Alexander Street, Mount Dora, FL 32757.  This little restaurant had a nice following in Eustis and moved the entire operation to Mount Dora in 2014.  It has an upscale Italian menu in a two story building in downtown Mount Dora.  Dining upstairs or down;  wine and beer.  Chicken, pork, beef and seafood.  Home made pasta.

  • Chili’s Bar & Grill. 17419 Us Hwy 441, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-589-4002. Yep, this is the big national chain and I like it a lot. Good chili, fajitas, hamburgers, wide variety of menu items. Full liquor bar and great margaritas. One of the best of the chain Mount Dora restaurants.

Codys on 4th Mount DoraCody’s on 4th
  • Cody’s on 4th. 111 East 4th Avenue, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-735-8426. Nice little cafe decorated with old scenes of historic Mount Dora. They have a variety of coffee, homemade pastries, fresh salads, sandwiches, beer and wine.

Copacabana Mount DoraCopacabana Cuban Cafe
  • Copacabana Cuban Cafe. 320 Dora Drawdy Way, Mount Dora Florida 32757. Tel: 352-385-9000. This is a great place to eat. Simple yet comfortable decor and interior. Owner Alberto and his staff are very attentive and agreeable. Food is great and served promptly. I recently had picadillo – a lightly spiced ground beef dish – served with plantains and yellow rice. As an appetizer, I had sopa de polla – chicken soup- with lots of noodles, potatoes, carrots, and chicken. It was only $4.95 and could have been a meal unto itself. My picadillo was just right. This is a good place to eat and to discover that Mount Dora restaurants include a good Cuban place.

  • Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill. 421-B Baker Street, Mount Dora Florida 32757. Tel: 352-385-3540. This is a large, bright and cheerful downtown eatery that has a full liquor bar and a wide range of Mexican dishes. Very good food and colorful atmosphere. There are other Mount Dora restaurants that feature Mexican food, but this my favorite.
Goblin Market Mount DoraThe Goblin Market
  • Goblin Market. 330 Dora Drawdy Way, Mt Dora FL 32757. Tel: 352-735-0059. This fine restaurant is entered from a charming alley between Donnelly and Alexander in the heart of downtown Mount Dora. The atmosphere is charming, reminiscent of a private club with book lined walls and comfortable lighting. The food and service are as good as anyplace in Florida. Try the upstairs bar for great service from a bartender who remembers everybody’s name and drink. This is the top of “must visit” Mount Dora restaurants.
  • Golden Corral Buffet & Restaurant.  15810 Us Highway 441, Eustis, FL 32726. Tel: 352-589-1831. This restaurant features a big buffet that is sure to have something on it you will like. The salad bar is great with plenty of lettuce, carrots, green peppers, black olives, croutons, cole slaw and a host of other goodies like garbanzos and cheeses. The hot meal bar is loaded with a lot of fried delights like fish, chicken, okra and other southern staples like green beans and carrots. They also have a excellent rotisserie chicken. They also have great desserts. Prices reasonable, service great.
  • Highland Street Cafe. 185 South Highland Street, Mount Dora Florida 32757. Tel: 352-383-1446. This is one of the Mount Dora restaurants favored by locals, especially as a breakfast place, although they also have a regular American lunch menu. It is similar to a diner in menu and layout. Breakfast is available all day long. Service is great and food is good, especially breakfast.
  • Jeremiah’s. 947 East 5th Avenue, Mount Dora Florida 32757. Tel: 352-383-7444. This corner restaurant is a good place for dinner. They have just about everything, and their fajitas are better than any of the chain restaurants on the outskirts of town. Jeremiah’s has a full liquor bar, and outside dining is available too.
  • Kiku Japanese Steakhouse. 15211 US Highway 441, Eustis, FL 32726. 352-483-8288. This large and roomy restaurant is in the Publix shopping center at David Walker Boulevard. It features great hibachi, cooked at your table while you watch in amazement. It is one of two Mount Dora restaurants that feature hibachi cooking. Full liquor bar, reasonable prices.
  • Lake House Bar & Grill (formerly Side Lines Sports Eatery). 315 North Highland Street, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-735-7433. This is a typical sports bar with a few TV screens and a good menu standard fare like hamburgers, fries and pizzas. They will make your pizza the way you like it. A local hangout for good old boys and their wives and families. Good service, plenty of parking.

The Lakeside Inn
  • Lakeside Inn.  100 Alexander Street, Mount Dora, Florida 32757.  Tel: 352-383-4101.  This inn goes back to 1883 and is Florida’s oldest continuously operating hotel.  As if that weren’t enough, the inn also has some of the best food and drink in town.  It not only has a large main dining room, but you can also dine and drink in historic Tremain’s Lounge.  This cozy room has a fireplace and music almost every night from laid back piano to acoustic to old time jazz.  The wide veranda overlooking beautiful Lake Dora is a favorite spot to watch the sunsets from a comfortable rocking chair.  Read more about Lakeside Inn.

  • Lampu Japanese Steakhouse. US Highway 441 # 2, Mount Dora Florida 32757. Tel: 352-383-6119. This large restaurant is at the north end of Donnelly Street where it meets US Highway 441 on the north side of town. Lampu features great hibachi, cooked at your table in entertaining fashion. It is one of two Mount Dora restaurants that feature hibachi cooking. Full liquor bar, reasonable prices.

Maggies Attic Mount DoraMaggie’s Attic
  • Maggie’s Attic. 237 West 4th Avenue, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-383-5451. I have decided that wine and beer are food for purposes of listing Mount Dora restaurants. I stopped by here recently for one of their “Wine Down Wednesday” events. Probably a hundred jovial people were enjoying beer, wine and music. There was a table set up with snacks, although this is more of a wine, beer and gift shop than a restaurant.

Magical Meat Boutique
112 West 3rd Avenue
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
Tel: 352-729-6911
www.magicalmeatboutique.com

Magical Meat Boutique has a funny name but once you’ve finished snickering you will enjoy its British charm and eclectic menu. MMB, as locals call it, is a British Carvery that specializes in freshly carved beef, pork, turkey, and lamb.

Magical Meat Boutique, Mount DoraMagical Meat Boutique, Mount Dora

They also make British sausages on the premises every day. The name derives from the Magical Meat Boutique in Camden Town, London, that is part of owner Phil Barnard’s family heritage, Barnard Butchers. The family business goes back to the 1500s, and the boutique in London opened in 1967 and closed in 2003 when Phil’s dad retired. The gastro-pub serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. This neat little place is only a few hundred feet from the historic Lakeside Inn and is adjacent to the railroad tracks that still take visitors on daily jaunts to Tavares and points beyond.

Magical Meat Boutique, Mount DoraMagical Meat Boutique, Mount Dora

The first thing you notice when you enter from the front door is a realistic wall mural of the “tube” or subway in Camden. It looks so realistic you feel like you could walk into it and take the subway. The other thing that immediately catches your eye is the bar with its dozens of beer taps. MMB carries almost all of the English, Irish and Scottish beers, lagers and ales. They even have mead and stout. All of their beer is served in Imperial glasses of 20 ounces unless you request something smaller. They also have domestic beer and wine and other beverages from countries not in the British Empire like Denmark and Germany. They also have cider.

Magical Meat Boutique, Mount DoraMagical Meat Boutique, Mount Dora

The entrees not surprisingly include many popular English standards. Breakfast is served all day and that’s good because it’s my favorite meal no matter the time. The Full Monty includes pork sausage, eggs, back bacon, black pudding, Heinz Beanz, grilled tomato, mushrroms, spuds, tatty scone and fried Yorkshire bread. There are many other breakast treats lke French toast, pancakes and pastry turnovers. You can dream up your own breakfast and they will make it.

Lunch and dinner treats include The Great British Burger, ribeye sandwich, English Fish n Chips, Ale Braised Lamb Shank, Bangers and Mash. Appetizers will get you started with Tandoori spiced chicken wings, sausage bites, chips, stuffed mushrooms and my personal favorite, Scotch Eggs. A Scotch egg is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage, covered with bread crumbs and deep fried.

They have several great salads including a roast duck and spring onion salad with Hoisin sauce and salad with British Stilton blue cheese, pears and candied walnuts. After all this great food they still offer several wonderful desserts including Spotted Dick and Custard. Spotted Dick is a pudding that Brits love that contains dried fruit.

There is a large outside patio with umbrellas and live music. Many days and evenings feature music on the patio. Owners Phil Barnard and Kate Bellamy Barnard are almost always on the job here and will make you feel like a member of their family. Magical Meat Boutique is open Monday-Friday from 700 am to Midnight, and Saturday and Sunday from 800 am to Midnight.



Mount Dora BrewingMount Dora Brewing Company
  • Mount Dora Brewing Company. 405 South Highland St. Mount Dora Florida 32757. Quaint little place with great homemade beer and good wine selection. Try their sliders; you will love them. The rambling building is made up of several unique spaces for drinking and dining– the Tap Room, Beer Garden, and Dining Room. Lunch is served 7 days a week, and a traditional breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. Open in the evenings Friday through Monday. Live music is featured in the Tap Room every Friday and Saturday night, and there’s an open jam session on Sundays around 5pm. 
  • Nalan-Sultan Mediterranean Grill, 1 N. Eustis St, Eustis, Florida. 32726. Tel:  352-357-4444.  Turkish cuisine prepared and served in a little corner restaurant in downtown Eustis.  Traditional dishes like falafel, kofte, and shish kabobs. 
  • Night Owl Caribbean Cuisine, 929 South Bay Street, Eustis, Florida 32726.  Tel: 352-589-0256.  Richard Wright had a popular food truck serving Jamaican food, and lovers of Caribbean Cuisine are glad he opened a permanent location in Eustis.  Great jerk chicken and pork, beef patties, and much more.  Tiny dining room and great takeout service.  
  • Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill. 2911 David Walker Blvd, Eustis, Florida 32726. The inside of this barbecue place reminds you of a gentlemen’s hunting club with stuffed deer, boar, bobcats, gator heads and mounted fish. Very good ribs, grilled and barbecued chicken, good slaw and vegetable side dishes. Beer and wine. A pleasant place with reasonably priced good food.
  • Olive Branch Grille & Bar.  115 West 3rd Ave., Mount Dora, Florida 32757. Tel: 352-729-6734.  This upscale restaurant features Italian and Mediterannean dishes.  It has a full service bar and a menu equally divided between seafood and land based offerings.  Good wine list and full service bar.

400 North Donnelly Street
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
Tel: 
407-758-9818

Charming One Flight Up has one of the best views of all downtown Mount Dora restaurants. 

One Flight Up Mount Dora, FloridaOne Flight Up, Mount Dora

It’s on the second floor with no elevator, so you have to be in good enough shape to walk up the stairs.

The outside dining balcony has a wonderful view of what’s going on downtown.

There are even one or two tables where you can see Lake Dora and at certain times of the year enjoy the sunset.

Owners Judy and Roger and their friendly staff make guests feel very welcome. In fact, if you go there more than once you begin to feel like you’re a member of the family.

The coffee, soups, salads, wraps and other light fare are among the best in Central Florida. I recommend their Chef Salad, one of my favorites.  They also have a wonderful variety of cakes and cookies for those with a sweet tooth.

One Flight Up also has several small intimate rooms with comfortable couches and chairs for group gatherings. A local group, Writers One Flight Up, meets in one of the rooms each week.  Other groups also make themselves home on a regular basis.

One Flight Up, Mount Dora

A good selection of wine and beer will complement your meal. Their coffee is great (and costs less than Starbucks) and they also have free wireless connectivity.

It’s a good place to spend some time and meet friendly people.


239 West 4th Avenue
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
Tel: 
352-385-2669

Pisces Rising is in Mount Dora, a lovely little town about 40 minutes northwest of Orlando. Its compact downtown area with art galleries, antique shops and restaurants is set against the blue backdrop of Lake Dora and meanders over rolling hills, a rarity in Florida. Many visitors say the town reminds them of someplace in New England.

Pisces Rising is in the heart of downtown Mount Dora. It’s outside bar and dining deck has an expansive view of Lake Dora, and locals and tourists alike enjoy watching the magnificent sunsets over the lake.

The happy hour drink prices are refreshingly low compared to some of the places in the larger Florida cities, and they also have a nice bar menu with shrimp offerings and other light fare.

The main restaurant building is a beautifully restored 1920’s vintage Florida cracker bungalow. The dining rooms are very comfortable and low key. The restaurant features seafood and certified Black Angus beef and lots of fresh vegetables. Sundays feature a sumptuous jazz brunch that is always well attended. Their Bloody Marys are a real treat that fits right in with the jazz theme.

The 239 West Lounge is located inside the restaurant and serves a full complement of wines and liquor. Its 25 foot long mahogany bar evokes the feeling of a private club; you can even order single malt Scotch. The restaurant serves delicious steaks and other beef dishes, and the seafood is always brought in fresh each day. Service is great, the staff is friendly and you get the feeling that they enjoy working in the place.

Pisces Rising is a fine dining experience that won’t break the pocket book and doesn’t require you to wear a tuxedo to enter their dining room. It’s an upscale good experience to have dinner either outside on the deck, in the 239 West Lounge or the adjacent dining room.


PizzAmore
  • PizzAmore. 722 East 5th Avenue, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-383-0092. This medium size restaurant with the catchy name is one of the most popular Mount Dora restaurants.  In a restored vintage house close to downtown, with great salads, pizzas, wine and beer. Order your pizza the way you like: cheesy or not, thin or not, crispy or not. They will make it your way. Also some outside dining.

Rockin Cafe on Donnelly
  • Rockin Cafe on Donnelly.  622 N. Donnelly St., Mount Dora, Florida 32757.  Tel:  352-720-5951.  One of the best little places in town with decorated with rock and roll memorabilia, some of it for sale.  You can dine inside or out.  Sandwiches, burgers, salads, and home made potato chips.

  • Sol De Mexico. 125 N. Bay Street, Eustis, Florida. Tel: 352-357-0259. Nice Mexican restaurant in the heart of revitalized downtown Eustis. Great standards like tacos, burritos and fajitas. Pleasant decor, sit down dining, good service. Parking lot on east side of restaurant.
  • Takis Pizza House II, 1600 S Bay St  Eustis, FL 32726.  Tel: 352-357-0022.  As the name implies, Takis has great pizza.  I value their Greek dishes, including a great gyro plate, wonderful Greek salads, and my all time favorite:  grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice.  Good selection of beer and wine.
  • Thai Jasmine & Sushi House.  1010 E Alfred St., Tavares, Florida 32778,  Tel: 352-742-0956.  Small place in a strip shopping center but big flavor in sushi and Thai favorites.  Friendly staff,  wine and beer while you wait.

The Frog and Monkey Mount DoraThe Frog and Monkey
  • The Frog and Monkey Restaurant & Pub. 411 North Donnelly St, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-383-1936. This basement bar and eatery is entered either from Donnelly Street or Dora Drawdy Way. It is in the Renaissance Building, the tallest structure in downtown Mt Dora. It is themed as an English Pub. It serves great food, beer and wine. A very good cottage pie, great burgers and soups.

  • The Great Pizza Company. 23 E. Magnolia Ave., Eustis, Florida 32726. Located in the historic downtown area of Eustis, this small place with high ceilings and family ambience has about 40 seats and serves fantastic New York style thin crust pizza and good salads. Owner Sandy Johnson says the pizza is so good because they use dough made with New York water. My pizza crust was nice and thin and crispy, just the way I like it.

Windsor Rose Tea Room Mount DoraThe Windsor Rose Tea Room
  • The Windsor Rose Tea Room & Restaurant. 142 West 4th Ave., Mount Dora, Florida 32757. Tel: 352-735-2551. This comfortable little restaurant is decorated with photos and memorabilia of the British Royal Family. Although they serve high tea in the traditional manner, they also have more conventional lunches like traditional hearty British favorites of pot pies and Cornish pasties, to a selection of tea sandwiches, scones and pastries for Afternoon Tea. Open 7 days a week from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Village Coffee Pot Mount DoraVillage Coffee Pot
  • Village Coffee Pot. 425 North Donnelly St, Mt Dora FL. Tel: 352-383-3334. This is the spot to go for great coffee, ice cream, gelato, soup and sandwiches. Not only that, owner Akhtar and his strong right hand woman, Carol, know what’s going on around town and will share the latest information. This small spot in the heart of downtown has become the “nerve central” of downtown Mount Dora. A good place to swap stories and meet old and new friends.

Third Avenue and Baker Street
  • Wave Asian Bistro & Sushi.  301 N. Baker St, #106, Mount Dora, Florida 32757.  Tel:  352-383-9283. Great Asian food including sushi, hibache, bento, and a large variety of soups.

2720 West Old Highway 441
Mount Dora, Florida 32757
Tel: 
352-385-1500

The Whale’s Tale is a favorite of year round locals and snowbirds who have been here before. It is in a quiet shopping center that many tourists seem to overlook on their way to someplace else. They are missing a great dining experience.

As the name implies, this restaurant specializes in seafood and they do a great job of it. Bonnie and Pat Duffy, the owners, are originally from Maryland and specialize in a lot of dishes they learned to prepare up in the Chesapeake area.

For example, they are famous locally for their Maryland crab soup with great seasonings and veggies.  They also have crab balls made with tasty crab meat rolled and seasoned the Chesapeake way.

Other specialties include tender clam strips with Whale’s Tale’s famous breading, fried oysters, and plenty of varieties of salads.

Seafood can be prepared any way you like it: lightly breaded in a secret recipe and fried in canola oil, broiled in lemon butter, blackened seasoned, or topped with their special crumb topping.

Seafood entries include belly clams, fish and chips, haddock, shrimp, catfish, oysters and clam strips.

Everything is always fresh. Their “signature dish” is Bonnie’s Maryland Lump Crab Cake, seasoned and broiled to perfection and served with two sides.

For people not inclined toward seafood, they also have chicken dishes.

Wednesday and Saturday nights they have an all you can eat fish special, and the big eaters come out to take advantage of the huge portions.  The last time I had the all you can eat special, the fish was swai, similar to catfish only milder.

Service is great. It’s family owned and operated, and they quickly learn what you like and how you like it prepared.

They have a nice wine and beer selection along with soft drinks.

It’s definitely a family restaurant all dolled up with a nice nautical interior.


More information about the area is at these links:

Mount Dora, Florida

History of Mount Dora, Florida

Eustis, Florida

Tavares, Florida

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Nov 11, Eustis, Florida Is Named For A Seminole War General

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Eustis Florida is a town of about 20,000 people about 30 miles northwest of Orlando.

Along with Tavares and Mount Dora, it is one apex of what is known as Florida’s “Golden Triangle”.

Eustis is on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis, and was first known as Highlands and later as Pendryville.

It became known as Lake Eustis after the lake which had been named in 1825 for Abraham Eustis, an American general in the Seminole Wars.

Steamboat AlligatorSteamboat Alligator

Before the railroad showed up in the 1880’s, Eustis was a busy port for steamers traveling on Lakes Harris, Eustis, Dora and Griffin. This chain of lakes had access to the world through the Oklawaha River to the St Johns River and the Atlantic ocean.

In 1883 the town dropped the “Lake” part of its name and became simply Eustis.

Citrus became an important crop in the area, but the great freeze of 1894 and 1895 nearly destroyed the industry. Over the years, the fruit trees once again became prominent in the economy of the area.  More freezes in 1983 and 1984 was the latest major setback to the citrus crops, destroying most of the trees in this part of Florida.

Eustis Florida Historical MuseumEustis Historical Museum

Eustis has many well preserved older homes and buildings. Its downtown area has been redeveloped and has many interesting shops and restaurants.

Guilford David Clifford was an early pioneer whose house at the corner of Bay Street and Bates Avenue is now home to the Eustis Historical Museum and Preservation Society.

Fountain Inn Eustis, FloridaFountain Inn Eustis, Florida

Frank Waterman was a fountain pen manufacturer from New York who built the Fountain Inn in Eustis in the 1920s.  It served later as the local hospital until it was demolished in recent years.  It is the direct ancestor of today’s modern Florida Hospital Waterman.

Eustis Florida Ferran ParkFerran Park Eustis Florida

The downtown area along Lake Eustis has been developed into a wonderful park for fishing, picnics and concerts. Ferran Park is a great place to watch the Central Florida sunsets.

Eustis Downtown Events

The renovated downtown area is the focal point for many community activities.  They named this area the Downtown Waterfront Entertainment District and among the events are a Cruise In of Classic Cars on the fourth Saturday of every month.

Another standing event is on the first Friday of every month called Eustis Live that features street vendors and live music.  It’s a large community block party.

The highlight of each year is GeorgeFest, one of the oldest festivals in the United States celebrating the birthday of George Washington.  It is reportedly the longest running festival of any kind in the entire state of Florida.  February, 2018 will mark the 116th consecutive celebration.

More information at Georgefest Facebook Page.

House on Hill, Eustis, FloridaHouse on Hill, Eustis, Florida

Recommended Restaurants


NIGHT OWL CARIBBEAN CUISINE

929 South Bay Street
Eustis, Florida 32726
352-589-0256

Night Owl is in a small yellow building on the right hand side of State Road 19 (Bay Street) as you drive north through Eustis.

The restaurant has small parking lots in front, back, and sides.  Most of its business is take out and it has become very popular with locals who know where the good food is.

Night Owl specializes in Jamaican food and has a full menu of appetizers, entrees, desserts and beverages.

Some of the entrees include curried chicken, brown stewed chicken, jerk chicken, jerk pork, oxtails, curried goat, and more. A giant smoker and grill accounts for the delicious flavor of these entrees.

You could also make a full meal from the appetizer menu if you decided to:  mac and cheese, collard greens, sweet cornbread, green beans, steamed vegetables, plantains, chicken and beef patties, coco bread and manish water soup.

Night Owl Caribbean Cuisine

The dining room is very small at Night Owl:  only four tables.  I choose to eat in rather than take out, and have never had trouble finding a table during lunch hour.

There is usually a steady flow of take out customers dropping in.  Many of them are regulars who call in their orders so they don’t have to wait.

Owner Richard Wright and Helper Brittany

The Wright family came to Eustis many years ago from Jamaica.  Richard Wright is the owner of Night Owl, and was well known in the area to Jamaican food lovers when he operated his own food truck.  People who enjoyed what he served from the food truck kept asking him to open a permanent place, and he finally did.

Lovers of Caribbean food are glad he decided to do it.

Night Owl is open every day except Monday.  Its hours are 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Tuesday through Thursday, and from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM Friday and Saturday.  They are open on Sunday from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. 


1 N. Eustis St
Eustis, Florida 32726
Tel:  352-357-4444

Nalan Sultan Mediterranean GrillNalan Sultan Mediterranean Grill

This cozy little restaurant is at the corner of Orange Avenue and Eustis Street in downtown Eustis.  It specializes in authentic Turkish cuisine.

I am very glad to see a Mediterranean restaurant in Lake County.  Elijah’s Cafe in Eustis was the only one I knew about, but he closed it two or three years ago.

My first experience with Mediterranean food was when I was in the U.S. Navy and we visited Antalya, Turkey.  I’ve been hooked on that food since then and am getting tired of having to drive to Orlando to get it.

Nalan Sultan Mediterranean GrillNalan Sultan Mediterranean Grill

The restaurant is owned by Nalan Ertane, who is also the chef.  She is assisted by her large family.  When I was there the server was her daughter, Gulcan Tiffany Ertane.  These are friendly people, and that makes the dining experience even better.

Nalan owned and recently sold a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Apopka.  Before that she was a chef at various Orlando area restaurants including Bosphorous.

The menu includes most of my Mediterranean favorites, and even more.  Featured cold appetizers are hummus, babagonoush, tabouli, grape leaves, and cacik.  Hot appetizers include cheese rolls, falafel, zucchini pancakes, and chicken nuggets or tenders.

Nalan Ertane and Gulcan Tiffany ErtaneNalan Ertane and Gulcan Tiffany Ertane

You can make a meal just from the salad menu.  Among their salads are the Sultan Salad which contains fresh tomatoes, fresh cucumber, parsley, walnuts, feta cheese, and pomegranate juice.  Their Sheppard Salad is delicious with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley.

If you want a sandwich, try either a chicken or lamb gyro with french fries, or a falafel special.  Falafel includes chickpeas, celery, green onions, sesame, and flour.

The platters make a large meal.  They come in two sizes:  small and large.  Take it from me:  large is very large.  Some of their popular platters are chicken or beef gyro, lamb kofte, lamb adana, beef shish, falafel, grilled salmon, and chicken or beef shish.  All platters come with rice and vegetables.

Turkish PizzaTurkish Pizza

If you are a fan of New York style thin crust pizza, you will probably love the Turkish pizza served here.  Its Turkish name is Lahmajoun, and is a round very thin flatbread topped with minced meat and minced peas.  The meat and peas are blended with herbs, onions, tomatoes, and parsley.  There is no cheese, and it can be eaten pizza style or rolled up like a burrito.

Dessert is also a special treat here.  You can choose from baklava, rice pudding, revani, and kunefe.

Drinks include water or its upscale cousin Pellegrino.  Turkish tea and coffee are also available, as well as a homemade yogurt drink called ayran.  Nalan will be adding a bar to the restaurant in the near future.

Nalan Sultan is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.


23 E Magnolia Ave
Eustis, Florida 32726
Tel:  352-357-7377

The Great Pizza Company, Eustis, FloridaThe Great Pizza Company, Eustis, Florida

The Great Pizza Company is located on Magnolia Avenue in historic downtown Eustis, Florida.  It is on the same block as two other popular restaurants:  1884 and Tillie’s.  The Bay Theater and Ferran Park are a block away, and the popular gift shop, Peddler’s Wagon, is next door.

Sandy Johnson, Owner of The Great Pizza CompanySandy Johnson, Owner of The Great Pizza Company

Sandy Johnson and her late partner, Ron Butler, opened the restaurant in 2008.  They had previously owned and operated China Lane in Eustis for 34 years, and wanted to try something different.

They researched the area pizza places and could not find what they really liked:  thin crust New York style pizza.  So the created their restaurant around that particular delicacy.

New York Style Thin Crust PizzaNew York Style Thin Crust Pizza

New York style pizza is typically made with a large hand tossed thin crust.  The crust is thick and crisp only around the edge.  Traditional toppings are like any other pizza, placed over light Mozarella cheese and tomato sauce.

Sandy believes one of the big secrets of her thin crust pizza is the dough made with New York City water that she has routinely shipped to her restaurant.

Peddler's Wagon Car Dressed for ChristmasPeddler’s Wagon Car Dressed for Christmas

Pizza is in the name of the restaurant, but there are many other items offered as well.

Appetizers include hot chicken wings, cheese sticks, fried green beans, onion rings, pork egg rolls, fried green tomatoes, garlic bread sticks, and French fries.

They have several salads starting with their house tossed salad, Caesar Salad, Chef Salad, and Greek Salad.

New York style subs are also featured including ham and cheese, salami and cheese, turkey and cheese, cheese steak, Italian combo, meatball, steak, and even a pizza sub.  There is also a wide variety of Paninis and spaghetti.

Desserts feature fried cheesecake, lemon Mascarpone torte, and a double dar chocolate brownie a la mode.

Beer and wine is available and in addition to booths for couples and families, there is a small bar with seating also.  You can also sit outside in front of the restaurant at one of several tables.

The Great Pizza Company is open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm except Sunday when they are open from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm.


More area restaurants are at Mount Dora Restaurants




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Nov 15, Florida Camping: Thousands of Great Places You Can Camp

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Florida has a temperate climate that allows camping all year round.  We only get snow every decade or so, and even then it’s very light.

The weather in summer, however, is so hot and humid only hardy souls and people lucky enough to have air conditioned RVs take advantage of the many campgrounds.

Even when it’s not super hot, air conditioning is a great way to stay inside and escape the mosquitoes and gnats.


OUR GOAL IS TO INFORM YOU OF EVERY FLORIDA CAMPING LOCATION WE KNOW ABOUT


FLORIDA STATE PARKS

Our first choice for camping in Florida is one of the wonderful state parks.  Of these 175 parks, about 50 of them have campgrounds.  The campsites are usually carved out of the natural pine and palmetto and give you a lot more privacy than you get in most private campgrounds.

Camper and Family in Florida State ParkA Florida State Park

These sites usually have electricity, water, a picnic table, and a fire ring.  Some parks have full service RV sites.

Learn more about Florida State Parks.


LOCAL AND COUNTY PARKS

Florida has 67 counties and more than 400 towns and cities.  Some of these communities have campgrounds.  Some are very basic and provide nothing more than a site with no service;  others are full service.

Campsite at Trimble Park in Orange County, Florida near TangerineTrimble Park in Orange County

Quite a few of these local and county parks are just as nice and clean as a Florida state park.

Learn more about Local and County Parks.


NATIONAL PARKS

There are 11 National Parks in Florida, but we know of only three that have campgrounds:  

  • Dry Tortugas National Park – Key West
  • Everglades National Park – Miami, Naples, and Homestead
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore – Gulf Breeze
Flamingo Campground in Everglades National ParkEverglades National Park Flamingo Campground

Two of these parks are on the Florida mainland and allow camping:  Everglades National Park and Gulf Islands National SeashoreDry Tortugas National Park also allows camping but is on a remote island west of Key West accessible only by boat or private plane.

Another place that allows camping is Big Cypress National Preserve west of Everglades National Park.

Learn about Big Cypress National Preserve Camping.

Learn about Dry Tortugas National Park Camping.

Learn about Everglades National Park Camping.

Learn about Gulf Islands National Seashore Camping.



FLORIDA STATE FORESTS

There are 37 state forests covering 1.1 million acres.  Camping opportunities are plentiful throughout the state with more than 80 campgrounds offering primitive to improved campsite experiences. From camping along waterways to hiking meandering trails through the forest, there is something for everyone at Florida state forests.   

Campsite at Blackwater River State ForestBlackwater River State Forest

Reserve America has a List of 92 Campgrounds in Florida State Forests.


PRIVATE CAMPGROUNDS

Who knows how many private campgrounds there are in Florida.  These include RV parks, some mobile home parks, fish camps, and just about any variety of ownership and level of comfort and amenities that you can imagine.

Many of these campgrounds become permanent homes for people who buy park models.  A park model is designed to be permanently affixed to the property.  These campgrounds over time become trailer parks with a percentage of sites reserved for transient campers.

RV Site at Holiday Travel Resort near Leesburg, Florida.Holiday Travel Resort, Leesburg

Some full time RV residents prefer private campgrounds because some of them have a larger amenity package.  This might include a general store, mailbox facilities, and a swimming pool.  They typically cost more than their publicly owned counterparts.

Learn more about Florida Private Campgrounds


U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUNDS

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the navigable waterways of the United States, including those in Florida.  The Corp has developed and maintained many campgrounds along these routes.

The Florida campgrounds are along the Okeechobee Waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean near Stuart to the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers.  The campgrounds are located with one near the east end, one near the west end, and one close to the center.

Ortona Lock Campsite on the Okeechobee WaterwayOrtona Lock Campground near Moore Haven on Okeechobee Waterway

The three that we know about are:

St. Lucie South Campground in Stuart (772-287-1382)
Ortona South Campground near Moore Haven (863-675-8400)
W.P. Franklin Campground North in Alva (239-694-8770)

Learn more about Army Corps of Engineer Campgrounds in Florida


SOME OTHER FLORIDA CAMPING IDEAS

Farms, Vineyards.  There are a few farms and vineyards in Florida that will let you camp on their property.  Here is a membership site that will tell you about them:  Harvest Hosts.

Elk and Moose Lodges, American Legion, and Others.  These fraternal organizations sometimes allow members and non-members alike to camp on their properties.  Here’s one site that tells you about that: Snowbird RV Trails. 

U.S. Military Campgrounds.  Some military bases in Florida have campgrounds or areas where camping is allowed.  These campgrounds are typically reserved for active duty or retired members of the United States armed forces.  Here is a source of info: U.S. Military Campgrounds and RV Site


Couple relaxing by fire ring with their Airstream travel trailer in backgroundCamping in Style With an Airstream




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Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0