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In Disney/ Off-the-Beaten-Path

Thursdays Off the Beaten Path: Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Welcome to my latest series – Thursdays off-the-beaten path – a collection of ideas for day trips from Walt Disney World when you need a bit of down time or otherwise want to explore more of what Central Florida has to offer.

First up: the incredible Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive – a beautiful and absolutely free drive through Lake Apopka's North Shore, about 30 minutes by car north of Disney's Magic Kingdom. Great for nature lovers, wildlife photographers, bird lovers, and anyone just wanting a few hours of peace.

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Information on all of these activities will be accurate as of the time of posting, but I encourage you to verify independently that they are open and available when you plan to visit, as well as double checking any rules that might affect your time spent there.

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Location: Driving trail along the north shores of Lake Apopka, about 30 minutes (by car) north of Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Cost: Free

The 20,000 acres that make up the Lake Apopka North Shore were once part of the lake itself. These valuable wetlands were separated from the lake in 1941 by a large levee, decreasing the size of Lake Apopka (still the state’s fourth-largest lake) from more than 50,000 acres to just over 30,000. 

The lake is surrounded by trails suitable for hiking and biking – but for a quick day (or partial day) trip, you can explore the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive from the comfort of your own car. The drive is a one-way, 11-mile drive meandering through the eastern portion of the property, beginning at Lust Road and ending on Jones Avenue in Orange County. The drive takes 1–3 hours, depending on your pace (the speed limit is a relaxed 10 mph) and how many stops you choose to make along the way. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times.

Alligators trapped throughout the area are often re-homed to this beautiful wildlife area.

To say the least, Lake Apopka's North Shore offers extraordinary bird-watching opportunities, being one of the top three birding areas for the entire state and one of the most renowned birding destinations in Florida. A 1998 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) ― a one-day count performed annually during the holiday season ― identified 174 species of birds here, the highest species total for an inland count in the 115-year history of the CBC. The list of birds found here continues to grow, with more than 362 species seen on the property. They include Anhingas, Bald Eagles, Black Vultures, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Glossy Ibises, Little Blue Herons, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red Winged Blackbirds, Swallow-tailed Kites, Tricolored Herons, Turkey Vultures and White Ibises.

Other wildlife routinely seen include countless American alligators, bobcats, otters, bears, raccoons, armadillos and coyotes.

The drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. The entrance gate is open during daylight hours and will close approximately one hour prior to sunset to allow visitors to complete the drive and exit the property prior to sunset.

You can find an audio tour to accompany your drive right HERE.

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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE. And while those are on hold, you can find my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.

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Please join me on Instagram for my day-to-day adventures living a mile from the magic. And join the conversation over in our community on Facebook!

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If you’re planning a trip to Disney and want a fun way to rock a mask, check out my designs at TeePublic right HERE!! If you cannot or choose not to visit now and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.

 

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