Mount Dora Lighthouse

Mount Dora, Florida

Mount Dora is a small city situated in the eastern part of Lake County in the central portion of the US State of Florida. The city of Mount Dora sits on a 56m high plateau overlooking the eastern shores of Lake Dora, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Harris Chain of Lakes. Besides Lake Dora, the city also overlooks Lake Gertrude and Lake Beauclair. This popular tourist destination is also referred to as the “Festival City,” as it hosts several festivals and fairs that attract thousands of visitors to the city throughout the year.

Geography Of Mount Dora

Mount Dora Florida
Aerial view of Mount Dora, Florida.

The city of Mount Dora covers a total area of 23.8 sq. km, of which 3.0 sq. km is occupied by water and 20.8 sq. km is occupied by land. The city is bordered on the south by Orange County. The long U.S. Route 441 passes through Mount Dora and leads about 8km west to the city of Tavares and about 40km southeast to the city of Orlando. Often referred to as the “New England of the South,” the city of Mount Dora forms a part of the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Mount Dora
A green lawn overlooking Dora Lake and piers. Editorial credit: Marty-Mac /

The city of Mount Dora is well-known for its small-town “southern charm” and the hospitality of the lakefront community residing in this central part of Florida. The shops located in the city’s downtown area are full of valuable antique collections that attract a lot of antique enthusiasts to the city from all over the world. In addition to the antique shops, the downtown area also hosts many art galleries, gift shops, restaurants, etc. The city hosts many festivals, including the Mount Dora Art Festival, the Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts, the Mount Dora Blueberry Festival, Scottish Highland Festival, Mount Dora Seafood Festival, the Mount Dora Craft Fair, and many other special events that attract thousands of people to the city of Mount Dora.

Brief History Of Mount Dora

The history of the area, which eventually became the present city of Mount Dora, began in 1846 when an early government survey showed the Lake Dora area. In 1874, David M. Simpson, his wife, and two children initially settled in this lakefront town. In 1880, the town’s first official postmaster Ross C. Tremain settled in the area and named the town “Royellou” after his three children: Roy, Ella, and Louis. In the mid-1880s, Ms. Dora Ann Drawdy settled in the area and befriended many federal surveyors with her warm hospitality. In 1846, the surveyors named the lake “Lake Dora,” and the small, growing town on the shores of the lake was officially renamed “Mount Dora” in 1883. The town’s new name also reflected the fact that the town was situated on a 56m high plateau.

Mount Dora
The historic Lakeside Inn and verandah in Mount Dora, Florida. Editorial credit: Nigel Jarvis /

With the opening of the Alexander House, the town became a popular winter retreat for boaters, fishermen, and hunters. The Alexander House was later renamed “The Lake House” and the “Lakeside Inn” and is considered the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida. In 1887, a railroad came to the town that stimulated the local economy and the arrival of freights and visitors. This was followed by the establishment of an orange packing house, fertilizer factories, and a cannery. In 1910, the town of Mount Dora was granted a charter, and Capt. John Philip Donnelly became its first mayor. During this time, the town had a population of 371 residents and featured a town hall, two churches, a drugstore, a hardware store, and two general stores. In the early 1920s, the city saw a boost in business development and residential growth and gradually started transforming from a town to a city. During this period, the city’s public infrastructure, including streetlights, two public parks, paved roads, a water system, etc. were developed. The Mount Dora Community Building, built with the funds donated by the city’s residents, serves as the city’s performance and meeting venue.

Attractions In Mount Dora

A seaplane parked and ready to takeoff at Wooten Park in Tavares, minutes away from Mount Dora, Florida, USA.

The city of Mount Dora is home to many museums, including the Mount Dora History Museum, the Mount Dora Museum of Speed, and the Mount Dora Modernism Museum. The Mount Dora Historic District features several buildings from the early 20th century. Mount Dora has several historic sites, including Blandford, John P. Donnelly House, Old Mount Dora A.C.L. Railroad Station, Witherspoon Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, No. 11, and the Lakeside Inn, all of which have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The city is also home to many parks and nature preserves, including Gilbert Park, Annie Donnelly Park, Grantham Point Park, etc. Of these parks, the Grantham Point Park situated on Tremain Street is often referred to as “Lighthouse Park.” Located at the Port of Mount Dora in the Grantham Point Park, the 10.6m tall Mount Dora Lighthouse is one of the three freshwater lighthouses in the US State of Florida.

Population Of Mount Dora

As per the 2010 census, about 12,370 people live in the city of Mount Dora. The city’s population had increased from the 2000 census, which showed that the city was home to 9,418 people. The city has a population density of 739.1 inhabitants per sq. km. About 73.3% of the city’s population is considered White. The Hispanic group accounts for 7.7% of the city’s population, African Americans at 19.2%, Native Americans at 0.1%, Asians at 3.4%, Pacific Islander at 0.1%, other races at 1.3%, and two or more races at 2.6%. The census also revealed that there are about 9,039 households and 5,236 families residing in the city, with a median household income of $37,364 and a median family income of $46,394.

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