Insider’s Guide to Tavares

Explore Tavares, Florida

Thinking about a trip to the Real Florida? Think about Tavares, a small, vibrant central Florida town that pairs the best of nature with unforgettably good times. From weekend stays to week-long vacations, this little city just 35 miles northwest of Orlando is packed with one-of-a-kind experiences that’ll have you planning your return trip in no time.


Take to the Skies

A seaplane sits on Lake Dora.
Photo by @jbseaplanes on Instagram.

Known as America’s Seaplane City, Tavares is home to something incredibly unique: a seaplane base with for-hire tours and excursions for every budget. Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures offers local flightseeing tours as well as paddle excursions, fly-in dinner dates and even bar hopping by sky. They also offer day trips and flight service to almost any city in Florida, including Key West, Clearwater, Cedar Key and more. Whatever your budget, this experience of a lifetime is only available here, and it truly is something special.


Step Aboard the Dora Queen

Photo of a table set with 4 glasses of champagne on the upper deck of the Dora Queen paddlewheel boat in the back of the boat. The American flag is seen flying on the boat.
Champagne on the Dora Queen paddlewheel boat. Photo by Dora Queen.

Arguably one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Real Florida, Lake Dora often features some of the best sunrise and sunset views you’ve ever seen. Make the experience even better with a trip aboard the Dora Queen, a restored paddlewheel boat that effortlessly glides across the lake. Whether you’re looking for a golden hour sunset cruise or something exciting during the daytime hours, you can expect the best while on board. Most cruises feature live entertainment, and concession-style food and drinks are available at the on-board bars on either deck. If you and yours love being on the water, this is a must-do for your trip to Tavares.


Dora Canal

Photo of the Dora Canal. The green trees reflect off the water making it appear green.
Dora Canal. Photo by Visit Lake.

One of the most beautiful miles of waterway in the word is right here in the Real Florida, and it connects Lakes Dora and Eustis. At just over a mile in length, this pristine spring-fed waterway of the Dora Canal is the perfect place for kayakers and boaters alike to see a variety of bird species as well as aquatic animals like fish and turtles. Launch your boat or kayak from public ramps on either Lake Dora or Lake Eustis and slow down as you enter the canal to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Looking for a little more adventure? Rent a two-person cat boat and explore the canal and lakes beside your favorite person.


Enjoy the Views of Lake Dora from Land

Tavares Pavilion on the Lake at dusk.
Tavares Pavilion on the Lake. Photo by Lake County, Florida.

From morning sunrises to crisp daytime views and romantic sunsets, Lake Dora just may have some steep competition for best views in the area. But where are the best spots to take advantage of these great views? Check out Wooton Park on the north side of the lake. It’s perfect for play time with little ones due to its playground and splash pad, but it also has benches to sit and enjoy the views. For a different perspective, step onto the pier at the Tavares Pavilion on the Lake and watch the seaplanes take off and land. This is an event space as well, so be mindful of events that may be happening during your visit.


Play in Nature

Tavares Ecological Park. A person rides a bike on the sidewalk beside a pond.
Tavares Ecological Park. Photo by Visit Lake.

Tavares has its fair share of parks, for both adults and little ones. In addition to Wooton Park mentioned above, also check out the Tavares Nature Park. Located on the western side of Lake Dora and accessible via Highway 19, this park showcases local flora and fauna. Visitors can use the picnic pavilions, too, or fish from the pier. For a quiet day out with the kiddos, visit Lake Idamere Park, nestled on the shaded shores of Lake Idamere. This park has it all – a nature trail, picnic pavilions, fishing pier and kayak launch, and an accessible playground where children of all abilities can play side-by-side. This park is also home to Miracle League Field, a custom-designed baseball diamond with related structures that all feature rubberized ground surfaces to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and other assistive devices.

Another nearby favorite is Hickory Point Park. The park’s grounds feature a day-use marina, lengthy fishing pier and 12 boat ramps that can accommodate deep-draft vessels. It also has a swimming beach, nature trail, picnic areas with barbeque grills, open-field play areas, a playground, and on on-site, two-story screened pavilion that can be rented for gatherings. This park is also home to the Hickory Point Beach volleyball facility, which is now the national training site for the USA Volleyball Beach ParaVolley program.


Where to Eat and Drink

Interior, Bru Tap House, Tavares. Three people are sitting at the bar.
Photo by Visit Lake.

Tavares has some amazing food options, with everything from traditional to more free spirited options. Located in downtown Tavares along Ruby Road, nicknamed the Ruby Brick Road for its red brick pavers, is Puddle Jumpers Lakeside Grill & Bar, perfect for a casual bite to eat before or after hitting the lake. Tiki West Raw Bar and Grill is another option with more of a sports bar vibe that features a raw bar and tons of seafood options. Further east down Ruby Road is O’Keefe’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, a cozy spot set in the old Tavares post office that’s always a great option for a delicious bite to eat. Another nearby option is The Deli Llama, which is known for its tasty coffee and sandwiches. Hurricane Dockside Grill is another option, located waterfront on the Dead River with indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy the view and beautiful Florida weather. BTW, which stands for burgers, tacos and waffles, is another great choice, and for drinks visit its sister establishment Bru Tap House for local brews and other beers.


Time to Turn In

In addition to several trusted Holiday Inn, Hilton and Marriott branded properties in the area, Tavares also includes the Key West Resort on Lake Dora as an option for your stay. The hotel is pet friendly, and may just have the best views in town.


When you’re ready to explore Tavares and the Real Florida, it’s here for you.

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Insider’s Guide to Tavares