Located in central Florida’s Lake County just northwest of Orlando, Eustis is a city of about 25,000 residents that’s known for its plentiful lakes, historic sites, and small-town charm.
Eustis is located on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis, which was a significant transportation hub for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries – although it’s more noted as a recreational attraction than a commercial one now.
Eustis lies equidistant between the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and day-trips to both are easy for those with access to a set of wheels who are dying to spend a day on the beach.
Below are 14 things to do in and around Eustis, Florida.
1. Ferran Park
Located just a few blocks from downtown Eustis on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis, Ferran Park is the perfect place for new visitors to immerse themselves in Florida’s incredible natural beauty.
The park features a paved walkway that follows the lake’s contours, and there are plenty of covered seating areas along the way.
Stunning views of the lake and city abound, and previous guests have noted that the Alice McClelland Bandshell’s stunning architecture was pretty amazing as well.
Adjacent to the park are the Community Center and the Eustis Aquatic Center, which feature a variety of indoor activity options for when the weather isn’t conducive to being outside.
2. The Clifford House
A few decades after the Civil War ended, a New York man named Guilford Davis Clifford moved to central Florida to stake his claim and makes his fortune in the citrus business.
At that time, the area was rugged, dangerous, and largely undeveloped. Clifford built a stunning antebellum home near Bates and Bay Streets that’s one of the area’s most well-preserved homesteads of its kind.
Clifford’s fortunes rose and fell over the years, mainly in step with the booms and busts in the citrus crop. Now, the home and grounds are open to visitors and are inexpensive to visit.
The house is only open on Friday and Saturday in the afternoon, so plan your trip accordingly.
3. Trout Lake Nature Center
Located on East County Road 44 in Eustis, Trout Lake Nature Center is dedicated to preserving Florida’s unique environments. They also educate the public on the wonders and importance of protecting them for future generations.
The center’s grounds and facilities are open to exploration, but the nature center is most well-known for the variety of educational and instructional programs it offers throughout the year.
They’ve even got a free program for two to five-year-olds called Nature Sprouts; held once a month, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce little ones to the great outdoors.
Many visitors choose to bring their own food and have an onsite picnic.
4. Lake County Museum of Art
Located on West Ruby Street in nearby Tavares Florida, the Lake County Museum of Art dates back to 1995 when it was founded by a group of local artists and art aficionados.
Since then, the museum’s collection has expanded; it now features one of the area’s most impressive collections of modern and contemporary art, much of which is from distant corners of the globe.
The museum is free to visit, and many guests find the paintings of Aboriginal Australians to be the most poignant of its collection.
The museum has limited hours from noon to 4 PM on Thursdays to Saturdays.
5. Hidden Waters Preserve Hiking Trail
Though Florida’s weather can be oppressive during the summer months, for much of the year, it’s absolutely perfect. Many hikers and outdoor lovers choose to hit the trails to get their fill of exercise and fresh air.
Hidden Waters Preserve Hiking Trail in Eustis winds its way through a variety of unique landscapes, including sinkholes, ponds, and scrub areas. Unlike many of the state’s trails, it has dramatic changes in elevation too.
The Hidden Waters Preserve is actually comprised of multiple trails that range from easy to difficult. The Alfred Trail falls into the latter category and is often less crowded than other easier trails.
6. Ocala National Forest
At nearly 400,000 acres, Ocala National Forest is big by any standards and contains the world’s largest tract of sand pine forest.
The national forest is just north of Eustis, and there are several entry points. With such a large variety of outdoor recreation options, you could spend days in the forest without running out of new things to see and do.
Fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking are popular activities. For those who’d like to spend a night or two on-site, there are some campsites and cabin rentals available.
Remember, if you plan on fishing, you’ll need a license, and campsites tend to disappear quickly – especially during the peak vacation season.
7. Seminole State Forest
Central Florida’s Seminole State Forest lies along the state’s famous Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and is comprised of more than 25,000 acres.
From wading and predatory birds to waterfowl and wading species, Seminole State Forest is a hotspot for bird watchers. There are a number of stocked ponds that offer anglers some excellent fishing opportunities, especially for largemouth bass, which grow to epic proportions in the Sunshine State.
Parts of the state forest are open to self-exploration, but for those who’d rather see it as part of a guided tour, some biking and kayaking tour options are available nearby.
8. King’s Landing
Located on Baptist Camp Road in Apopka, King’s Landing offers canoe rentals along the Wekiva River, which boasts some of the state’s most pristine stretches of undisturbed natural habitat.
Though much of the area was destroyed by hurricanes more than a decade ago, it’s once again open to visitors. Canoe rentals are relatively inexpensive and are good all day – as long they’re returned by 5 PM.
For those who’d rather not venture out into the wild on their own, there are many other options, including swimming, sunbathing, and overnight camping.
Keep in mind that campsite reservations are in addition to the standard admission fee.
9. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is one of the area’s most popular destinations and often reaches maximum capacity, which means that when that happens, no additional guests are let in.
This typically happens during peak times, so for those with flexible schedules who’d like to avoid this heartbreaking situation, it’s best to arrive early or plan on a visiting on a weekday during the less touristy months.
Swimming, kayaking, and horseback riding are popular – as are lounging in the park’s refreshing pools that are filled with cool water from subterranean springs year-round.
Many guests choose to wear shoes while swimming to protect their feet from sharp rocks.
10. Avian Reconditioning Center
The Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka has been open since 2001 and is dedicated to rehabilitating the state’s injured or orphaned birds of prey.
The center aims to release most of the animals back into the wild; they do that by providing professional care and near-natural living conditions while onsite.
The center has hours that vary by season and day, so it’s best to check their website before heading out.
During public visiting days, guests will get up close to some raptors and may even see them being fed and cared for as well.
11. The Wheel At ICON Park Orlando
The Wheel At ICON Park Orlando towers hundreds of feet over central Florida and is one of the area’s most notable non-theme park attractions.
Despite its height, it features a remarkably smooth ride. Climate controlled gondolas allow guests unobstructed views; according to previous guests, on clear days it’s even possible to see to Cape Canaveral.
The Wheel complex is just west of St. John Young Parkway and includes a variety of shopping and dining options that make it the perfect place to spend a few late afternoon hours. It’s one of the most scenic spots in central Florida to capture an amazing sunset.
12. Orlando House of Blues
Though most travelers associate Memphis and New Orleans with the blues more than they do Orlando, Orlando House of Blues is one of the Southeast’s biggest blues attractions and has hosted a number of world-class blues musicians over the years.
House of Blues not only features national talent but local and regional performers as well. Many guests are thrilled to discover that the locals are just as good as the more famous names.
House of Blues is located in an area that’s often likened to Beale Street; in addition to live performances, they’re known for their tasty food and great drinks.
13. Harry P. Leu Gardens
Located on 50 scenic acres on North Forest Avenue in Orlando, the Harry P. Leu Gardens are an often overlooked gem. They provide a bit of natural harmony in a sprawling city that attracts crowds of tourists year-round.
The attraction is particularly beautiful and features several distinct gardens that bloom at different times of the year.
There’s also a popular butterfly garden that’s home to a variety of colorful butterflies that are big hits with little ones.
Located on Lake Ivanhoe near downtown, the gardens feature a camellia collection of more than 2,000 plants that’s one of the most impressive anywhere in the country.
14. The Kennedy Space Center
Visiting the Kennedy Space Center is one of those iconic Florida items that most visitors make room for on their already full itineraries.
Many Kennedy Space Center tours begin and end in Orlando and include round-trip transportation and admission fees.
Guided tours lead guests past massive spacecraft and through control rooms and other sensitive areas. Guests will see interactive displays and static exhibits that give a unique insight into the country’s rich space exploration past.
Space center tours make for long days, but many includes stops for dining and shopping at nearby outlet centers.