5 Ways to Explore the Dora Canal

No trip to Lake County is complete without a journey into the heart of Old Florida down the Dora Canal. This mile-long waterway connecting Lakes Dora and Eustis features a beautiful canopy of bald cypress trees and hanging Spanish Moss; visitors frequently spot great blue heron, snowy egrets, alligators and a variety of other plants and wildlife along the way. 

The Dora Canal dates back to 1882, when crews dug out the former Elfin River in order to accommodate larger steamboats that could bring people and commerce across the Harris Chain of Lakes. Some 140 years later, this canal is now yours to enjoy. Here are some of the best ways to explore this classic Floridian waterway. 

Take a Guided Eco-tour

Lake Dora
Lake Dora

Learn all about the bald eagles, osprey, and 2,000 year old trees that call the Dora Canal home on Premier Boat Tours’ 2-hour long eco-tour of the Dora Canal. These expeditions that depart from the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora are a great way to discover the incredible variety of wildlife along this historic waterway. Pro-tip: book a sunset tour to see the canal and Lake Dora in a whole new light. 

Lunch on the Canal

Grab a bite as you sightsee on Rusty Anchor Boat Tour’s lunch cruise of the Dora Canal. This three-hour expedition through the canal that launches from Mount Dora also includes lunch at a waterfront restaurant along the way.

Explore on Your Own

Nearby outfitters offer kayak, standup paddleboard and hydro bike rentals for those who prefer an up-close and personal view of the Dora Canal. Rent your own personal watercraft at Adventure Outdoor Paddle in Tavares, then paddle your way down the half-mile stretch of Lake Dora to the canal’s entrance. Or bring your own kayak and set in at the launch at Summerall Park off of Route 19. 

Rent Your Own Catboat

Two cat boats float into the Dora Canal.
Cat boats in the Dora Canal. Photo by @backroadplanet on Instagram

Sit back, relax,  and enjoy an easygoing ride down the canal on a catboat tour. These two-person, low-rise motorized boats are a great way to see the canal with a companion; Catboat Adventures offers training before every ride, so no prior experience is necessary. 

Take a Private Tour

Looking to enjoy an afternoon along the canal with just your family and friends? Native Tours with Captain Ray may be your best option. This touring company books private expeditions for groups of two to six down the canal.

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5 Ways to Explore the Dora Canal