kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
A group kayaking Dora Canal under the lush jungly tree canopy (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

This guest post was written by Ed and Deb Higgins, authors of “Paddles In Paradise” and “More Paddles in Paradise,” who live in Punta Gorda and lead a kayak group within the Punta Gorda Boat Club. 

The Dora Canal is only a one mile canal linking Lake Dora and Lake Eustis, but may be one of the most beautiful miles you’ll ever experience.

The waterway connects Lake Dora and Lake Eustis in Tavares, just west of Mount Dora.

Ancient cypress trees while kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
Ancient cypress trees line the trail while kayaking Dora Canal. (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

This is a short paddle so do it very slowly. Wildlife is abundant if you take the time to look.

On our last trip to the Dora Canal we saw alligators, herons, red-shouldered hawks, brown water snakes, egrets, and an amazing array of “Old Florida” flora, including some giant cypress trees that are reported to be 2000 years old.

When you the enter the canal you are transported back in time and you need to take the time to experience the beauty of the Dora Canal.

When you reach Lake Eustis turn around and slowly paddle back, absorbing the grandeur of Mother Nature.

It is reported that some of the filming for the movie “African Queen” was shot here, and it’s easy to see why.

A snake peeks out of bird nesting box along the Dora Canal.kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
Paddling slowly, you are likely to see wildlife when kayaking the Dora Canal. (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

How to make the most of kayaking the Dora Canal

At times there can be a lot of boat traffic in the Dora Canal, which can take away from the experience. You’ll need to Ignore it best you can, or better yet, go early in the morning before the tour boats start or late afternoon when the traffic wanes. Concentrate on the beauty around you, and before you know it, you’ll forget they are there.

Since this is such a short paddle, consider this for the first afternoon of a multi-day trip to an area with many great paddles nearby. This area is well worth an overnight stay to do multiple paddles. Consider the Wekiva River, the Silver River and Rock Springs Run

Great Blue Heron while kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
Another advantage of taking it slowly when kayaking the Dora Canal: Sneaking up on magnificent birds. (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

Here’s my advice on how to do the Dora Canal: Drive up to Mount Dora and check in at your hotel (we prefer the Lakeside Inn and, no, they do not sponsor us.)  Paddle the Dora Canal, then go back to your hotel for a swim and cocktails by the pool while planning your next day’s paddle before dinner out in downtown Mount Dora. After all, that is what recreational paddling is all about!

This is one of our Punta Gorda paddling group’s favorite overnight trips and we regularly have 40 to 50 people attend when we do it.

A hawk spotted while kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
A hawk spotted while kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

Dora Canal boat launch site

Summerall Park
1001 Wells Ave, Tavares, FL 32778
(352) 742-6319

Dora canal map
Dora canal map

When you get to Summerall Park in Tavares do not take the main park entrance on Wells Avenue, but go to the corner of Rose Avenue and drive into the rear parking area (closest to the boat ramp). You can unload kayaks there and park nearby as well. Paddle out of the short canal, turn left into the main canal, and enjoy your journey back in time.

while Tree canopy kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)
A world of green kayaking Dora Canal (Photo: Ed and Deb Higgins)

FloridaRambler.com stories about visiting Mount Dora

Mount Dora: Eight big weekend festivals plus year-round charm Mount Dora is a historic town that has figured out how to keep people visiting: Maximize the natural beauty and develop big arts, crafts and antique festivals. 

Best camping near Mount Dora. Not everyone wants to stay in a B&B or hotel, so we reveal a few of our favorite places to camp within 25 miles.

Where to celebrate the holidays in Old Florida: Mount Dora and other places for lights and holiday charm.

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