It’s summertime, school’s out, and the temperatures are rising. Instead of sweltering in the Florida heat, cool down with one of Lake and Sumter’s many water activities that’s guaranteed to ‘wet’ every aquatic appetite. So, come on in… the water’s fine.[divider_1px]
Explor-a the Dora
Considered one of “the most beautiful mile of water in the world,” the exquisite Dora Canal is a popular, historic locale that’s enjoyable to travel via boat, canoe, or kayak. Lined with majestic 2,000-year-old cypress trees dressed in Spanish moss, this Lake County waterway is home to a variety of natural flora and fauna, including several native Florida birds like ospreys, herons, ibises, and egrets. To enjoy a guided boat tour, contact the following companies:
- Heritage Lake Tours: 352.343.4337
- Premier Boat Tours: 352.434.8040
- Rusty Anchor: 352.383.3933
- Captain Dave’s Sea Venture II: 352.343.3889
Ride the waves
Just because it doesn’t snow in Florida doesn’t mean you can’t enjoying skiing in the Sunshine State — water skiing that is. Great for thrill chasers who love making waves, water skiing makes for a great day of fun on the water with friends and family. Luckily for those with a need for speed, two ski schools operate in Lake County, presenting avid water skiers opportunities for slaloming, jumping, trick skiing, barefooting, and wakeboarding.
Jack Travers Waterski School is a family-owned and –operated business on Sunset Lakes in Groveland. The 110-acre site consists of three artificial lakes with slalom and jump courses. Swiss Ski School, located in Clermont, sits on 450 acres and is home to four manmade lakes, one large natural lake, five slalom courses, and two jump ramps. Each school caters to skiers of all levels and offers a wide range of instruction packages that can be customized to fit a person’s specific skill set.
For more information:
- Swiss Ski School: 352.429.2178 or www.swissskischool.com
- Jack Travers Waterski School: 352.429.9027 or www.jacktravers.com
On a hot day, who can resist the crystalline blue waters of Alexander Springs? Situated in the northeast corner of Lake County in the Ocala National Forest, these peaceful spring waters stay an always-agreeable 72 degrees year-round, and the shallow depths and small caves are excellent for novice scuba divers and snorkelers.
“Our water is 35 feet at its deepest,” says Jennifer Larsen, an employee at Alexander Springs Recreation Area, “and the spring pumps about 70 million gallons of water each day.”
While visiting this popular recreation spot, guests can expect to see a number of marine wildlife including turtles, otters, fish, and alligators. “There are also artifacts along the spring’s sandy bottom, but they are not allowed to be removed from the water,” Larsen says.
In addition to exploring the springs under the surface, canoes are available to rent to paddle down Alexander Run into the Alexander Springs wilderness. “This is a very busy spring,” Larsen says. “Sometimes we have 600 to 700 people on a busy weekend.”
To scuba dive, you must bring valid proof of certification and your own equipment. The cost is $6.50 to scuba and $5.50 to snorkel. A small store near the springs sells snorkeling gear.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area is located at 49525 County Road 445 in Altoona.
For reservations or more information: 877.444.6777 or 352.669.3522
Hidden away from the eyes of man, there are still places of unspoiled natural wilderness that harken back to the days when Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew traversed the rough Florida terrain. Nevertheless, you can still uncover bits of Old Florida thanks to a modern-day vessel that flies like the wind and defies all gravity — the airboat.
Tom and Jerry’s Airboat Adventures in Lake Panasoffkee and Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours, which is just across the Sumter-Citrus border in Inverness, let you and your family get up close and personal with the wetlands, wildlife, and spring-fed creeks of the Withlacoochee River system. Make sure to bring a camera to capture all the sights that show Mother Nature at her finest.
For more information:
- Wild Bill’s 352.726.6060
- Tom and Jerry’s 321.689.8918
The third-largest lake in west Central Florida, Lake Panasoffkee connects to the Withlacoochee River via the Outlet River, which flows out to the Gulf of Mexico.
SOURCE: Sumter County Chamber of Commerce
Muck it up
When off-roading, it is all about getting down and dirty. Revolution Off Road in Clermont takes off-roading to the next level with vehicles that can transport you not only through tough, muddy terrain but also across a large lake with ease.
Known as “Mucky Ducky Revolution,” this brand new ultimate off road experience features amphibious, all-terrain vehicles affectionately known as Mucky Ducks. These floatable vehicles run both on land and in water. “The Mucky Ducks are a sealed unit, and the tires have a paddle-type tread that actually propel you through any kind of terrain and through the water,” says Ian Scienze, general manager at Revolution Off Road.
For 45 minutes, a tour guide leads adventure seekers through 235 acres of winding trails with amazing views of the beautiful Florida countryside. However, be prepared to chug across a 70-acre lake, where you can expect to see native Florida wildlife, including alligators, bass, soft-shell turtles, and various birds. “You never know what you’re going to see,” Scienze says.
You must be 18 or older with a drivers license to operate the Mucky Ducks. Younger passengers must be able to sit on a bench seat without support. The experience will begin with a safety briefing and a short land-based training course to ensure you can handle the vehicle before hitting the lake and trails. They also provide any necessary safety equipment, such as helmets and life vests.
To book a tour or for more information: 352.400.1322 or www.revolutionoffroad.com
If there’s two things Lake and Sumter residents love it’s water and food. So, next time you work up an appetite on the boat, dock and dine at these local eateries:
- Buzzard Beach 2050 W. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares, FL 32778 Phone: 352.552.8849
- Gator Bay Marina 10320 County Road 44, Leesburg, FL 34788 Phone: 352.365.2177
- Harbor Lights Restaurant & Lounge 907 County Rd. 439B, Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538 Phone: 352.793.7058
- Hurricane Dockside Grill 3351 W. Burleigh Blvd., Tavares, FL 32778 Phone: 352.508.5137
- JB Boondocks 704 S. Lakeshore Blvd., Howey-in-the-Hills, FL 34737 Phone: 352.324.3600
- Lake Harris Hideaway 11912 Lane Park Rd., Tavares, FL 32778 Phone: 352.343.3585
- Nelson’s Gator Hole 19400 S.E U.S. Highway 42, Umatilla, FL 32784 Phone: 352.821.3474
- Tiki Bar & Grill 508 S. Main Ave., Minneola, FL 34715 Phone: 352.394.2232
Streams of water gush from all directions to greet the laughs and smiling faces of children exploring this virtual water wonderland. Equipped with water cannons set to douse, a kid-friendly water slide, and a large rotating bucket that topples when full, Tavares Children’s Splash Park has made a big splash among local residents who love having a way for their children to cool off as the summer days heat up.
The park has been open for roughly three and a half years. “In that time, we have had over 70,000 people visit the park,” says Bill Neron, director of economic development for the City of Tavares. “It stays pretty busy, especially during the summer. It’s a great way to break the heat of the day.”
The park was originally part of the city council’s initiative to revitalize the downtown area. Part of that was branding Tavares as “America’s Seaplane City.” In keeping with the brand, the splash park is seaplane themed and features a big yellow seaplane that continuously rains water on wet children below. “We wanted to provide something for toddlers and elementary school children,” Neron says, “and so far, it’s been successful.”
Due to extreme popularity and limited space, entrance is on a first-come, first-served basis. Swim diapers are required for children under 4 years old. Anyone entering the Splash Park wet zone (to supervise a child or otherwise) must wear proper bathing suit attire.
The cost is $2 for anyone entering the Splash Pad fenced areas. The City of Tavares also offers a $15 seasonal pass for city residents with proof of residency. Seasonal passes are available for purchase at City Hall.
For more information: 352.742.6267 or www.tavares.org
Many of Lake County’s lakes are part of the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes, also known as the Harris Chain of Lakes. The chain includes Lake Apopka, Lake Beauclair, Lake Carlton, Lake Dora, Lake Eustis, Lake Griffin, Lake Harris, Little Lake Harris, and Lake Yale.
SOURCE: St. Johns River Water Management District
Ditch the fancy boat motor and pick up a couple of oars instead. The Lake County Rowing Association is offering classes to let people try their hand at the super athletic, super disciplined sport of rowing. On scenic Lake Minneola, adults and children over the age of 14 are urged to participate, whether you are rekindling a love for the sport or just wanting to learn. The only requirement is you must know how to swim. The cost for the class is $85 and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information: Call Debbie Kiely at 407.497.1035 or visit www.lakecountyrowing.org
Like with any exercise, the daily routine of seeing the same people at the same gym at the same time can grow boring and completely uninspiring. So why not switch it up this summer and trade your yoga mat and boring fitness room for a stand-up paddleboard and scenic lake views?
Mary Prescott, co-owner of Florida from a Kayak, conducts stand-up paddleboard yoga classes in a small cypress cove on Lake Minnehaha in Clermont. “The wind could be whipping, but we can tuck behind a windbreak and be fine,” she says. “We stay close to shore where the water is smooth.”
Each class begins with 10 to 15 minutes of paddling. “Then we drop our kayak anchors and do yoga poses for 45 minutes,” Prescott says. With only five boards available to rent for each class, it makes the workout sessions small and intimate, perfect for meditation and relaxation. “When we lie down on our board, we draw our hands through the water to the top of our boards, which feels so much nicer than doing it on carpet. Sometimes we lie on our boards and look at the clouds. It’s just so relaxing.”
But as tranquil as stand-up paddleboard yoga can be, Prescott warns to be prepared for the unexpected — like losing your balance and taking a sopping spill into the waters below. “You have to have a sense of humor. If someone falls off, we say that it must be time for the water aerobics part of the class,” she says. “But we’re only in two to three feet of water, so if you do fall off, you’re not going to drown. You can get back on your board and keep going.
Anyone from young children and expectant mothers to adults in their 60s and 70s can take this class, Prescott says. “There are no limitations. You have to just trust yourself.”
Individual classes cost $20, which includes the paddleboard. A package of four classes is $60. If you bring your own paddleboard, Prescott says the class is discounted.
For more information on the stand-up paddleboard yoga classes: 352.406.0904 or floridafromakayak.com
Style’s Top 10 Water Toys
Water alone can be fun, but add toys and you’re guaranteed a good time. No summer would be complete without getting soaked from head to toe, so here are the top 10 ways to make a splash with your children this summer.
- Nerf Super Soaker This nostalgic water toy has been around for years and remains a favorite for any child who is looking to drench suspecting (and unsuspecting) targets with a good stream of H2O.
- Aqua Lily Pad Have you ever wished you could walk on water? Well, you can with this tremendously buoyant foam pad that acts as your own portable island. It’s great for ski platforms, kayak staging, tanning, relaxing, or just having fun.
- Slip ‘N Slide The people at Wham-O had a good idea when they made something for the children who lacked access to a pool, lake, or ocean. All you need is your bathing suit, a hose, and a hot day to enjoy this classic water slide.
- Kid Wash If you are more of the do-it-yourself kind of person, this sprinkler water toy will be a joy to assemble. Google “kid wash” and a number of websites will be at your fingertips to construct this exciting way to beat the heat.
- Wacky Noodles You can float with them, splash people with them, knock people in the head with them, or ride them like a seahorse. Great for beginning swimmers and water aerobics, they are both durable and inexpensive.
- Beach Ball There’s just something about seeing this classic red, white, blue, and yellow ball that makes you think of summer. Plus, they are perfect for a variety of games sans liquid.
- Water Trampoline This toy allows you to take the excitement of a land trampoline and bring it to the water. RAVE Sports, the originator of the water trampoline, offers two types of trampolines and a number of attachments (rope swing, water slide, etc.) that can turn them into a gigantic floating playground.
- Dive Rings or Dive Sticks For competitive children (and adults), these common pool toys are great for diving games or a relay race across an Olympic-size pool.
- Water Sprinkler For a quick cool down, water sprinklers always hit the spot. Several toy companies make a number of sprinkler attachments that latch on to most universal garden hoses to create a drenching cascade of water that’s perfect for running, jumping, and tumbling through.
- Water Balloons A timeless water toy that will never go out of style, the water balloon will forever be the weapon of choice during times of water warfare in the backyard, on the lakeshore, or at the beach.
The scenic Dora Canal connects the six-mile-long Lake Dora with other lakes leading to the St. John’s River and Jacksonville and allows passage all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
SOURCE: Lake County Board of County Commission
Written by Shemir Wiles | Photos by Fred Lopez