Florida Travel: Getting Wild on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lush greener, clear water and Florida's mountains (the clouds) at Lake Apopka North Shore, Fla., May 31, 2015
Lush greener, clear water and Florida's mountains (the clouds) at Lake Apopka, Fla., May 31, 2015
Lush greenery, clear water and Florida’s mountains (the clouds) at Lake Apopka, Fla., May 31, 2015

Apopka is one of those Florida cities I’ve seen the exit for countless times on the interstate, say the name out loud (because it’s fun to say!) and keep on driving. I never really gave it much thought as to what’s there. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a natural Florida paradise with lush greenery, haven for birds, delicate blooming flowers and clear water. And, it’s an easy drive from Orlando.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015

Recently, I visited Lake Apopka North Shore and enjoyed some of the new, 11-mile Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. As Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer explained, this important drive opened May 1, 2015, by the St. Johns River Water Management District and provides bird enthusiasts and nature lovers an opportunity to enjoy Florida wildlife. As I walked some of the drive with members of the Orange Audubon Society, I heard the calls of redwing blackbirds and grunts of pig frogs. I spotted an osprey, red bellied woodpecker, flycatchers, redwing blackbirds and blue heron.

An osprey spotted along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, May 31, 2015.
An osprey spotted along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, May 31, 2015.

What Exactly is the Lake Apopka North Shore?
Once Florida’s second largest lake at 50,000 acres, thousands of acres of Lake Apopka were drained under government programs in the early 1940s and converted to farmland. Under the Lake Apopka Restoration Act of 1985 and Florida’s Surface Water Improvement Act in 1987, Lake Apopka is in the process of being restored to its natural glory. Today, Lake Apopka is the state’s fourth-largest lake. Lake Apopka North Shore is the former farmland and the Wildlife Drive is along some of the former farmland.

Mayor Joe Kilsheimer Welcomes the IPW Group to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015
Mayor Joe Kilsheimer Welcomes the IPW Group to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and Getting Wild
Only open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays during daylight hours, word has already gotten out about the wildlife drive because there was a steady flow of nature enthusiasts driving through. Some pedaled along on bicycles. During the days the area is closed to the public, restoration work is being done.

Can you spot the dragonfly? Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015
Can you spot the dragonfly? Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015

Bird watching Lake Apopka North Shore would probably be ideal during the winter season when birds migrate from the north (and it’s cooler for humans!), but as a member of the Audubon society pointed out, there isn’t a bad time to bird here. Why? That area has the highest number of bird species of any inland U.S. area with more than 362 birds having been identified.

A visitor views an osprey along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015
A visitor views an osprey along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015

I also saw several alligators and was treated to an airboat ride by Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, which typically don’t operate there. This provided an opportunity to view the pristine lake. Other wildlife living in the area include bobcat, river otters, coyote and raccoons.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours arranged for a special tour of Lake Apopka on May 31, 2015.
Boggy Creek Airboat Tours arranged for a special tour of Lake Apopka on May 31, 2015.

Visiting Lake Apopka North Shore
Lake Apopka North Shore is about a 45-minute drive, northwest of Orlando and makes a great morning trip to experience natural Florida. When planning your visit, be sure to dress for the climate and especially bring along water, sunscreen, insect repellent and a hat. Plan to grab lunch or dinner (or both) at Porkie’s Original BBQ and save room for the homemade banana pudding. Yumola!

Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015
Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive, Fla., May 31, 2015

Learn more about Lake Apopka North Shore by visiting www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/announcements.

View additional images from the day on my Flickr stream.

Disclosure: I visited Lake Apopka North Shore as an attendee of IPW. This post contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit, this blog, and my special-needs dog.

Advertisements

Jenn

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

"Caloosahatchee Manuscripts" at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers, Fla., June 2022.
Destinations Featured Florida Fun Games

Fort Myers Discovery Challenge is a Passport to Fun in 2022

The Fort Myers Discovery Challenge is a new digital passport to help you discover fun things to do in Fort Myers and Lee County, Fla. The more places you visit and check-in, the more you’ll be rewarded.

Continue Reading
Daniel Lind-Ramos, sculptures made with debris caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Sept. 2017
Budget Travel Featured Florida Fun

6 Ways to Visit Florida Museums and Parks Free in Summer 2022

With rising gas prices and inflation, you’re probably wondering if you can enjoy a summer vacation. Here are six ways to visit Florida museums and parks free in Summer 2022.

Continue Reading
View of the Myakka River from Snook Haven Restaurant in Venice, Fla.
Featured Florida Fun Nature Travel

Florida Travel: Ten Ways to Love Venice’s Outdoorsy Side

Shark tooth collecting, bicycling, and walking an urban forest are some of the ways you can connect with Mother Nature while visiting Southwest Florida. Here are 10 outdoorsy things to do in and around Venice.

Continue Reading