MOUNT DORA, FL — The Green Mountain Scenic Byway is the perfect Florida road trip to enjoy Florida’s “mountains.”
For the flattest state in the nation, Florida has an abundance of mountain towns. There’s Mount Dora, of course. Mount Plymouth. Montverde. Howey in the Hills. Clermont. Hillcrest Heights. Mount Pleasant. And then there’s Sugarloaf Mountain, the state’s tallest “mountain.” Only by Florida’s geographical standards are these truly mountain towns.
The Green Mountain Scenic Byway is a 45-mile drive that includes a taste of Florida history, scenic rolling hills and pastoral landscapes. It’s about an hour-and-a-half drive from Mount Dora in the north that follows the west shore of Lake Apopka to Winter Garden in the south. It’s world-famous as a cycling destination, and a popular route for antique car clubs.
Downtown Mt. Dora. One of Florida’s most charming historic towns, Mount Dora is the northern gateway to the Green Mountain Scenic Byway. If you start the drive in the morning, try Mary’s Kountry Kitchen for breakfast. If Mount Dora is where you end the drive, try Pisces Rising or the Olive Branch for delicious and distinctive dining.
Rolling Hills in Central Florida. Is this really Florida? You bet it is. The rolling hills of the Green Mountain Scenic Byway make this Sunday Drive a rare treat in the nation’s flattest state.
Green Mountain Scenic Overlook. The newly opened trails and observation platform of the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook on the west flank of Lake Apopka make a great nature hike or bird watching destination. Once the second largest lake in Florida and famous for its clear water and bass fishing, Lake Apopka is now undergoing a restoration project that aims to reverse the effects of pollution that has turned it into a mucky mess.
Ferndale Preserve – Ferndale, FL. At 162 feet above sea level, the Ferndale Preserve offers a rare, high-vantage-point view of Lake Apopka and the surrounding hills. On clear days, you can see the Orlando skyline in the distance. In addition to hiking trails and great birding opportunities, the preserve also includes a butterfly garden.
Green Mountain Pizza. About halfway through the drive, near the “summit” of Montverde, Green Mountain Pizza offers greek salads, pizza, deli subs and cheeseburgers. It’s a charming local favorite.
Downtown Winter Garden is an “charming city with a juicy past.” Once a hub of the citrus industry and a historic fishing hotspot, its now a delightful downtown and a perfect place to stretch your legs, shop, and enjoy a meal after a scenic Sunday Drive.
Central Florida Railroad Museum. The agricultural boom around Lake Apopka took off in the late 19th century with the construction of two railway lines. The museum is the perfect way to step back in time and explore Florida history. Back in the day, Lake Apopka was a tourist destination famous for its bass fishing and brought celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable to its shores.
The Winter Garden Heritage Foundation celebrates the town’s vibrant by operating three facilities in downtown, including the railroad museum, heritage museum and visitor’s center.
There’s plenty of dining variety in downtown Winter Garden. Local favorites include the Plant Street Market with its Crooked Can Brewing Company, Servando’s for Spanish Cuisine, The Tasting Room for tapas and the old-fashioned Harry & Larry’s Barbecue joint. For great tacos, try Taco Norteno. And if Winter Garden is your starting point on the Green Mountain Scenic Byway, try Axum for coffee and breakfast.
The charming downtown of historic Winter Garden makes a great daytrip in its own right. As the main hub of the West Orange Trail (a popular rails-to-trails bike route) it’s a favorite for cyclists, shoppers, and anyone interested in local history and dining.
This scenic highway winds around the west shore of Lake Apopka through pastures and pine forests. The high point is Sugarloaf Mountain, the tallest mountain in Florida and the highest point on the Florida peninsula, at 312 feet above sea level.
You can begin the road trip in Winter Garden or Mount Dora. But from the Florida Turnpike, take exit 272 and travel east on SR50 to Orange County Road 545. Turn north on CR545 to Oakland Avenue to connect to the Green Mountain Scenic Byway.
Side Trips & Other Adventures:
- Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
- Florida’s Tallest Mountain
- Ferndale Preserve
- Green Mountain Scenic Overlook
- Oakland Nature Preserve
- West Orange Trail
- More to Do . . .