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The Real Florida – Mount Dora and Blue Springs

By Tony Maniscalco

Mention the word Florida to most people and it will conjure up visions of either a family holiday to Disneyworld, or a fun-filled beach getaway to glitzy Miami. But there is another, more secret side to the Sunshine State that you will discover if you take a USA walking holiday to Florida. A place filled with fascinating bird-life and wonderful wilderness trails; a place to explore diverse wetlands and native wildlife; and a place that will transport you away from the everyday to a magical natural world that will both surprise and delight you.

This is the real Florida - close to the bustling tourist hubs and crowded beaches, and yet seemingly a whole world away. Florida is the perfect escape for some winter sun, and the best way to uncover her hidden charms is by walking. The USA has many well- travelled routes for walking and hiking holidays, but Florida is a less visited secret that is just begging to be explored.

Mount Dora

One of the first spots to visit on your USA walking holiday in Florida should definitely be the quaint town of Mount Dora. It is only a short drive from Orlando, nestled on the oak lined banks of Lake Dora. Around the region there are many easy walking and cycling trails, and from Mount Dora you can explore much of the area around the lake. The area is teeming with wildlife and this region is known as one of the best places in the USA for bird-watching.

One of the most rewarding things you can do in Mount Dora is to take a scenic boat tour along one of the canals or natural waterways which network the area. You can glide peacefully through the channels and spot an incredible array of river-life including Otters, Blue Herons, Alligators, Bald Eagles and many other fascinating species. The Dora Canal which flows off the lake has been called “the most beautiful mile of water in the world”, and the banks are well worth exploring further if you don’t mind a bit of walking. USA Southern states have many areas that contain complex eco-systems unique to this part of the world, and the opportunity to explore them up close should not be missed.

Blue Springs

Just a short distance from Mount Dora is the stunning natural attraction of Blue Springs. Set in a State Park, it is a ‘first magnitude’ spring, pumping out hundreds of thousands of gallons into St John’s River. It is almost a fairytale sight to explore the entrance to the spring, which is actually a large underground cave – some of the braver visitors use scuba equipment to dive in this cave.

Embraced by lush, dense forest, the crystal clear waters of the spring stay at a constant year-round temperature of 73 degrees farenheit. They make a perfect natural swimming pool and are a popular place to stop off after a stroll along one of the many trails. There is also a boardwalk built over the spring, which snakes along for a quarter of a mile before leading out to the river beyond and is perfect for some gentle walking. USA wildlife in this area is particularly diverse, and one of the main attractions of Blue Springs is the arrival (during the winter months) of a growing community of Manatees. The springs are a designated Manatee refuge, and to see these wonderful endangered creatures at such close quarters, with their gentle faces poking from the water, is a real treat. Although visitors are prohibited from approaching the Manatees, it is not uncommon for an inquisitive one to approach a swimmer and give them a gentle nudge!

On your USA walking holiday to Florida you will experience a natural beauty that is both awesome and unexpected, and you will be inspired to return to the area again and again.

About the Author: Tony Maniscalco is the Sales and Marketing for Ramblers Countrywide Holidays. Ramblers Worldwide have been operating since 1946 and now offer over 250 holidays in more than 70 different countries. They are dedicated to providing the very finest walking USA holidays at the best value prices.