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Lake Apopka | Things to do in Central Florida

Everything you should know before visiting Lake Apopka in Central Florida.

Central Florida is so much more than just theme parks and shopping. Just minutes away from Orlando you can find awesome activities to do that brings you closer to nature and exposes you to Florida's diverse fauna.

Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida, the north side alone covers two different counties and four cities. The lake is also home to a wide variety of birds and other wild animals.

If you want to connect with nature and escape the craziness of the city and adrenaline of theme parks, check out this list below with everything you must know before you visit Lake Apopka, it should help you decide whether it is a destination for you and your family/friends.

The list will also serve as a guide so you can plan your trip to Lake Apopka and take advantage of everything that it has to offer.

Lake Apopka and everything you should know before visiting

1 - Entrance

Entrance to the trails are entirely free regardless of your means of transportation.

2 - Different ways to explore

The trails at Lake Apopka can be explored by car, bike, walking and even horse. However, not all trails are available for all activities, continue reading to find out which entrance works best for your needs.

3 - Different entrances

There are a total of four different access to the lake trails:

  • Clay Island Trailhead — 22526 Carolyn Lane, Astatula FL 34705 - Horses welcome

  • Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead — 20700 County Road 455, Minneola, FL 34715 (Lake County park)

  • North Shore Trailhead — 24600 County Road 448-A, Mount Dora, FL 32757 - Horses welcome

  • Magnolia Park Trailhead — 2929 S. Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703 (Orange County park) Closed for construction.

  • Wildlife drive entrance — 2850 Lust Road, Apopka, FL 32703 - Motorized vehicle entrance to wildlife trail

4 - Wildlife Car Trail

The car trail is a great way to enjoy the trail with the entire family. The day we visited was a hot day in Central Florida and our newest member to the family was only 3 months old but we still wanted to do something that the older kids would enjoy and the car trail was the perfect idea.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for when you visit:

  • The trail is about 11 miles long one way so make sure you have gas.

  • Make sure you also have water and snacks at hand

  • Estimate to spend about 1 to 3 hours to complete the trail

  • Speed limit is 10 mph and recommended distance is 25 feet between cars

  • Trail opens at 7 am and closes at 3 pm allowing visitors to stay until 5 pm to complete the trail.

  • There are several pull over areas so you can stop along the ride for pictures, video.

  • Do not feed wild animals.

  • Trailers are not permitted.

  • Trail can be accessed by Wildlife drive entrance located at 2850 Lust Road, Apopka, FL 32703 - Motorized vehicle entrance to wildlife trail

Wildlife Drive schedule

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive entrance gate is open between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. All vehicles must exit the drive by 5 p.m.

  • New Year’s Day

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day

  • Presidents’ Day

  • Memorial Day

  • Independence Day

  • Labor Day

  • Columbus Day

  • Veterans Day

  • Thanksgiving Day

  • Christmas

5 - Walking Trails

The trails follow right along the lake's edge and provides a beautiful scenery to visitors. The entire property is right around 20 miles so planning ahead is a great idea. Here are a few tips:

  • Bring water and snacks

  • Download the map to your phone

  • Bring sunblock

  • Open 24/7

6 - Restrooms

There are a few restrooms available to use by the public. Check out the trail map to find a restroom that is nearest to where you at.

7 - Audio Tour

An audio tour is available right on the districts' website and is a great way to become informed about the property, the wildlife the inhabits it as well as restoration plans.

You will see signs along the way indicating a number that corresponds with the audio tour, just click on it and enjoy.

Audio tour is also available in writing right here.

8 - Pets

Pets are allowed and welcome but must be leashed at all times for their safety and of other guests.

9 - Bring Binoculars

I would recommend bringing binoculars if you want to get a close look at the animals and be able to better identify them.

10 - Continuous restoration

There are continuous restoration going on at Lake Apopka and sometimes certain entrances and trails would not be accessible.

Be sure to check out their website for announcements prior to visiting.

Things to do at Lake Apopka

Now that the important information with everything you need to know before visiting Lake Apopka is out of the way, let's talk about the many ways you can enjoy this beautiful 20 acre property that is just 29 minutes away from the city of Orlando.

1 - Picnic

There are several picnic tables throughout the property and you can enjoy them free of charge and without having to make any reservation. To locate the picnic tables, take a look at the property's map.

2 - Boat Launch

If you have a boat, kayak or canoe and wish to use it at Lake Apopka, the boat ramp is available over McDonald Canal Boat Ramp — 24600 County Road 448A, Mount Dora, FL 32757.

3 - Observe the Wildlife

Lake Apopka has an extensive eco system with a diverse group of wildlife.

There is a large of population of gators that inhabit the area as well as an abundance of mammals, amphibians and birds.

Here are some of animals you may find at Lake Apopka:

  • bobcats

  • coyotes

  • raccoons

  • armadillos

  • rats

  • mice

  • otters

  • hogs

  • bears

  • frogs

  • toads

  • salamanders

  • eel-looking amphiumas

  • turtles

  • lizards

  • snakes

Keep in mind that these are wild animals so be sure to keep your distance and never feed them. Keep pets on a leash at all times for their own safety.

4 - Bird watching

Lake Apopka is home to over 360 species of birds and it is considered a premier spot to bird watch.

Here are some of the birds you may encounter during your trip:

  • osprey

  • anhinga

  • Gallinule,

  • Great Blue Heron

  • Black-necked Stilt

  • Red-winged Blackbird

  • Red-shouldered Hawk

  • American bittern

  • sora rail

  • blackbellied

  • fulvous whistling duck

  • swamp sparrows

  • marsh wrens

  • painted buntings

Earlier in the article I recommended you bring binoculars and this is where it can become a great asset, especially if you are hoping to spy some of the more rare species such as the painted buntings.

For your convenience, here is a bird checklist that can be used to help you keep up with all the birds you spot during your visit.

5 - Butterfly scavenger hunt

If you are traveling with kids this is definitely a great way to keep them entertained. Kids love butterflies and a scavenger hunt is a great way to teach them about the different butterflies and also have fun at the same time.

Here is a list of butterflies observed during a survey conducted at Lake Apopka.

6 - Camping

Camping is available at the Magnolia Park located at 2929 South Binion Road, Apopka.

Here are a few things you should know about camping at Lake Apopka:

  • Free admission to park

  • Magnolia Park has 18 RV/tent sites.

  • All campsites have fire rings, grills, picnic tables, lantern hangers, water and electric.

  • A free 24-hour access boat ramp on Lake Apopka is available for public use.

  • Pets are allowed if properly registered.

For a map where you can camp, check out this map, information for this specific park will be on pages 14 and 15 of the document. Everything you need to know about camping on this property is also available on the same document.

To reserve a camping space, go here .

7 - Watch towers

There are four observation towers, including one overlooking the west shoreline of Lake Apopka.

All four towers can be spotted on the Lake Apopka North Shore map between the Green Mountain Trailhead and North Shore trailhead.

8 - Photo shoots

Whether you are a nature photographer or someone who wants an amazing background for their photos, Lake Apopka offers so many photo ops all throughout the property. From alligators, to awesome birds and a beautiful view overlooking one of the observation towers.

9 - Fishing

Fishing is allowed at Magnolia park.

10 - Free Movie in the park

At Magnolia Park on Saturday, December 11, 2021 for the FREE Movie in the Park: Dr. Dolittle! This fun movie (rated PG, 101 mins.) starts at 6 p.m., shortly after dark. Bring lawn chairs and snacks, or purchase from food trucks. No alcohol allowed in the park; no pets allowed in the viewing area.

If you are seeing this past the date above, check out this website to find out other activities going on at the park

11 - Geocatching

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants. In order to participate you must have a Geocatch account and the app on your device.

Next, search for the location you will be looking for the "treasure box", in this case Lake Apopka, and see if there are any geocatches available.



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