THE VILLAGES FLORIDA
DAY TRIPS

The Villages Florida day trips and one tank trips described here on Florida Backroads Travel are all within 100 miles of  the popular central Florida community.  

The Villages is located in the central part of the state, not far south of Ocala.

We calculate that most cars can go at least 250 miles on one tank of gas, and smaller compact cars can do even better than that.

These round trips can be made from The Villages with gallons to spare for wandering around a bit on the back roads.

Unfortunately, however, most of these trips are not within golf cart range:)

These day trips and things to do are all within 100 miles of The Villages.  The map below shows you some of the major towns and places within this radius.

Places to see within 100 miles of The Villages, Florida.Places to see within 100 miles of The Villages, Florida.

The Villages Florida Day Trips

Bronson is a small town northeast of Gainesville that is notable for the gravesite of the great rock and roll icon, Bo Diddley.

Cassadaga is a spiritualist community near DeLand where you can get your fortune told by one of the resident mediums or spiritualists.

Citrus Tower is an old Florida attraction in Clermont where you can take an elevator to the top and see where all the citrus groves used to be.

Cross Creek is between Gainesville and Ocala and was the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, Cross Creek, South Moon Under and other classics.  Her home is now a state park that you can visit.

Crystal River attracts manatees in the colder weather.  There are numerous business set up to allow people to see the manatees and even swim with them.

Daytona Beach has hard sand beaches that you can drive your car on, the International Speedway, and many other attractions.

DeLand is the home of Stetson University and has a fine downtown with many murals, good shopping and dining places.

Eustis is on the lake of the same name and has a nice downtown with parks, shopping and restaurants.

Evinston is near Cross Creek south of Gainesville and is home to the old Wood & Swink general store on the National Register of Historic Places.

Flagler Beachfront Winery is in Flagler Beach, north of Daytona.  Watch wine being made and enjoy tasting it while soaking up the ocean breeze.

Fort Gates Ferry is a historic ride across the St Johns River between the Ocala National Forest and Fruitland.

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida and its many art galleries, museums, a vibrant downtown area with good shopping and dining.  This can be one of the best of The Villages Florida day trips.

Gatorland is one of the oldest Florida tourist attractions.  It is between Orlando and Kissimmee and has some of the neatest alligators in Florida.

Ginnie Springs is a park with great opportunities for swimming, camping, canoeing and enjoying nature.

Hutchinson Farm Winery is a small family owned vineyard and winery south of Apopka.  Nice selection of red, white and blended wines.  Tastings, tours.

High Springs is a typical little Florida town with a fixed up downtown that has several neat antique shops and at least one very good restaurant.

Lakeland has a beautiful downtown and Florida Southern College has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in the world.

Lakeridge Winery near Clermont is one of Florida's largest wineries.  You will enjoy watching the wine making process and sampling their wares.

Leu Gardens in Orlando is one of the country's foremost botanical gardens.  If it grows in Florida, it is probably here.  Self guided tours or formal tours.

Marineland is on Highway A1A just south of St. Augustine.  Founded in 1938, it was once the most popular tourist attraction in Florida.

Micanopy is a small Old Florida place with some nice antique shops and restaurants.

McIntosh is near Micanopy and is a fine example of Old Florida homes.  It's just fun to wander around the quiet streets.

Mill Creek Farm is a retirement home for horses.  Admission is a couple of carrots.

Mount Dora has a New England look.  It is on the east end of Lake Dora and has many fine shopping, dining and lodging opportunities.  Only 45 minutes from Orlando.  It is one of the favorites of the Villages Florida day trips.  Here is a list of restaurants in the Mount Dora area.

New Smyrna Beach has some of the nicest sandy beaches in Florida and a bit of history that influenced St. Augustine.

Ocala is in the heart of Florida's thoroughbred horse raising and training country with plenty of rolling hills and lush oak forests.

Orlando is where the big tourist attractions are like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, but it also has plenty of other quieter places to visit.

Orlando Tree Tour is a self guided tour of some of the oldest and largest trees in Florida.  You will see many magnificent oaks.

Princess Place Preserve is an old hunting lodge near Palm Coast.  It is open to the public and is a nice glimpse into the Old Florida of yesteryear.  Free.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States.  Much to do and even more to see.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm has more than just the famous reptile it is named for.  Crocodiles, birds and a host of other animals.  It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tangled Oaks Vineyard is a family owned winery between Palatka and Gainesville on State Road 100.  Tours and tastings, nice wines.

Tavares is known as the seaplane city.  People fly in for events and weekends;  it is on the west end of Lake Dora not far from Mount Dora and Eustis.

Webster flea markets are the biggest in Florida, but only open on Mondays.

Weeki Wachee Springs is one of the oldest Florida tourist attractions;  you will enjoy the shows with the beautiful young mermaids performing in the clear spring waters.

Whispering Oaks Winery offers tours and entertainment;  they specialize in blueberry wine and are only a few miles west of The Villages.

Winter Park is just north of Orlando.  In addition to a wonderful boat tour of the chain of lakes, it has some of the finest shopping and dining in the state.

There are interesting back road maps you can use to explore this part of Florida from your base in The Villages.  Here they are:

You can either click on the links above or stay on this page to see the scenic drives and maps for Central Florida.

Central Florida Scenic Drives


Maitland to Orlando through Winter Park

Central Florida Day Trips Winter ParkOrlando - Winter Park Scenic Drive

Park Avenue from US-17/US-92 in Maitland south through Winter Park to the beautiful campus of Rollins College on the shore of Lake Virginia. Then meander along the residential streets on the lake shores south into Orlando. Beautiful old homes, sparkling blue lakes and green tree canopies. Great shopping and dining on brick paved Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park. One of my favorite central Florida day trips.About 12 miles.

Rollins College, Winter Park

Lake Buena Vista to Windermere on SR-535

Central Florida Day Trip Lake Buena Vista to WindermereLake Buena Vista to Windermere

State Road 535 from Lake Buena Vista north to Chase Road, then east to Windermere. Old Florida houses, well maintained orange groves, crystal clear lakes and the pretty little tree shaded town of Windermere to enjoy lunch and strolling.  Surrounded by gated communities that are home to the rich and famous.  About 12 miles.

Historic Windermere School

Orlando to Winter Haven on US-17

Central Florida Day Trips Orlando to Winter HavenOrlando to Winter Haven

US-17 from Orlando to Winter Haven and Legoland through Kissimmee and Haines City. Orange groves, small towns, big oak trees as you enjoy your Central Florida day trips.  Visit Legoland while you are in Winter Haven.   About 47 miles.

Polk Hotel, Haines City

Orlando to Mount Dora on US-441

Central Florida Day Trips Orlando to Mount DoraOrlando to Mount Dora

US-441 from Orlando to Mount Dora through Apopka. Rolling country, great art galleries and shows in Mount Dora, and a large antique center at Renningers.  Make sure to visit Mount Dora on at least one of your Central Florida day trips.  About 27 miles.

Mount Dora Lighthouse

Clermont to Lake Wales on US-27

Central Florida Day Trip Clermont to Lake WalesClermont to Lake Wales

US-27 from Clermont to Lake Wales through Haines City. Some congestion in the area where you cross I-4, but beautiful groves and rolling hills as you get south of the interstate.  Southern central florida day trips are much less congested than the areas further north. About 50 miles.

Downtown Lake Wales & Walesbilt Hotel


Lake Wales to Lake Placid on US-27

Central Florida Day Trip Lake Wales to Lake PlacidLake Wales to Lake Placid

US-27 from Lake Wales to Lake Placid through Avon Park and Sebring. Interesting small towns, a large observation tower in Lake Placid (closed as of September 2010), and dozens of colorful murals on the commercial buildings in downtown Lake Placid. About 50 miles.

Lake Placid Mural

Mount Dora to Groveland on US-19

Central Florida Day Trip Mount Dora to GrovelandMount Dora to Groveland

SR-19 from Groveland to Mount Dora through Howey In The Hills, Tavares and Oakland Park. Take Old 441 from Tavares oninto Mount Dora. Rolling hills, old groves, little towns, art, antiques. Stop at Boondockers on Little Lake Harris in Howey In The Hills for a beer and good food. One of the nicest central Florida day trips. About 26 miles.

Howey Mansion, Howey In The Hills

Winter Haven to Wauchula on US-17

Central Florida Day Trip Winter Haven to WauchulaWinter Haven to Wauchula

US-17 from Winter Haven to Wauchula through Bartow, Fort Meade and Bowling Green. Old Florida again, small towns, healthy little downtowns, many of them in the Florida Main Street program. About 36 miles.

Fort Meade Historical Society

Lake Wales to Frostproof on Scenic Highway 17

Central Florida Day Trip Lake Wales to FrostproofLake Wales to Frostproof on Scenic 17

Old Scenic Highway 17 from Lake Wales south to Frostproof through Highland Park and Babson Park . Rolling groveland, heart of citrus country. The smell of orange blossoms in the spring will make you want to live in Florida forever. At least that's what happened to me more than a half century ago.  This is one of the central Florida day trips that convinced me to move to Florida many years ago.  About 14 miles.

More about the towns on Old Scenic Highway 17

Casa Josephina, Highland Park

Polk City to Auburndale on CR557 and CR559

Polk City to Auburndale

SR-557 from Polk City to SR-559 at I-4 to Auburndale. Rolling groveland and pretty little towns. Drive around the big lake in the heart of Auburndale and enjoy the old houses and the crystal clear waters. About 10 miles.

Downtown Auburndale

Mount Dora to Altoona to Villages and Return

Central Florida Day Trip Mount Dora to The VillagesMount Dora - Ocala National Forest - Villages Scenic Loop

This trip starts from Mount Dora going west on Old US441 until it meets State Road 19. Take 19 through Eustis and Umatilla to Altoona, where you will turn west on State Road 42. Beautiful wooded rolling terrain along the south side of the Ocala National Forest. Take 42 all the way to US-27/441, then go south to The Villages. Stop in the main square for lunch, a drink, a concert, or all of those. Leave The Villages and continue south on US-441 all the way back to Mount Dora. About 60 miles.

Altoona Church

Lake Griffin Scenic Loop via Lady Lake & Weirsdale

Weirsdale - Lady Lake - Lake Griffin Scenic Loop

Leave US-441 at Lady Lake, go east and meander left until you reach Lake Griffin Road.  Follow it all the way to where it ends at the Harbor Hills development.  Turn left on dead end Matthews Rd and take a peek at an old Florida fish camp.  Then go back to Lake Griffin Road and turn right on Marion County Road.  Go north to tee intersection, then turn left.  Go to SE 155th Ave and turn right (north).  Go to State Road 42, then left to Weirsdale, south on State Road 25 back to Lady Lake.  Rolling fields and hills, sparse development, neat old houses, one of the quietest central Florida day trips yet so close to a rapidly urbanizing area.  The way Florida used to be and still is here.  Next door to The Villages Florida.


Yalaha Scenic Loop from Howey in the Hills

Howey in the Hills - Yalaha Scenic Loop

Start in downtown Howey-In-The-Hills.  Go west on Number 2 Rd to Bloomfield Ave, then north across State Road 48 to Lakeshore Drive.  Follow Lakeshore along shore of Lake Harris.  Turn left at old church built in 1875, then continue to Lime Ave and back to State Road 48.  Follow State Road 48 back to Howey or take State Road 19 across the lake to Tavares.  Rolling farmland, old houses, beautiful lake shore, old houses.


Mount Dora to Melrose via Ocala National Forest

Mount Dora to Melrose thru Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest Drive from Mount Dora to Melrose.  Start in downtown Mount Dora and take Donnelly St north past US-441 until it becomes SR-44.  Turn west at stoplight and turn right (north) in one block on Estes Road (CR44A).  Stay on CR44A into Umatilla, then north on SR-19.  Follow SR-19 north to past Salt Springs, then west on CR316 to Fort McCoy.  Then north on CR315 to Orange Springs.  Then north on CR21 to SR-20.  Then west on SR-20 to SR-21.  Then north to Melrose.  No other central Florida day trips can match the quiet grandeur of the Ocala National Forest. About 90 miles one way.

Trinity Episcopal Church, Melrose

Mount Dora to Cross Creek, Micanopy, McIntosh

Mount Dora to Cross Creek, Micanopy, Evinston and McIntosh via the Ocala National Forest.  Take SR-44 north from Mount Dora.  Turn west (left) at stoplight and turn right (north) in one block on Estes Road (CR44A).  Stay on CR44A into Umatilla, then north on SR-19.  Follow SR-19 north to past Salt Springs, then west on CR316 to Fort McCoy.  Turn right about 5 miles west of Fort McCoy on NE 175th Street Road.  Follow this road to US-301.  Turn right on US-301 to Citra.  At Citra, turn left on County Road 325 to Cross Creek.  Stay on CR-325 through Cross Creek and turn left on CR-346 to Micanopy.  From Micanopy, turn right on US-441 then turn left on NW 230th St to CR-225.  Turn left and visit Wood and Swink Store and U.S. Post Office.  Go south on CR-225 to US-441 and McIntosh.  Go south on US-441 from McIntosh through Orange Lake to County Road 318.  Turn left on CR-318 back to Citra.  About 80 miles one way.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home

Mount Dora to St Leo through Dade City

Mount Dora to Dade City and St. Leo.  Take Old 441 from Mount Dora through Tavares to SR-19.  Turn left on SR-19 and go south through Howey In The Hills to SR-50 in Groveland.  Turn right on SR-50 and go west to U.S.-301/U.S.-98.  Turn left and go south to Dade City.  In Dade City turn right on SR-52 and follow it to St. Leo University and Abbey.  About 65 miles.

St Leo Benedictine Abbey

Lake Apopka Loop: Apopka, Montverde, Howey

This is the Lake Apopka Loop.  The drive starts in Mount Dora and is a round trip on the toll free back roads.  Take Clayton south from Mount Dora and follow it when it turns sharp right to Dora Drive.  Stay on Dora Drive to Sadler Road.  Turn left on Sadler to US-441.  Turn right on US-441 and go under the 429 toll road bridge in Plymouth.  Turn right immediately after the bridge and follow the road for several miles until it reaches SR-437A.  Turn right and follow this road through Ocoee and past State Road 50 and all the way into Windermere.  Go through Windermere and stay on Main St until it bends right and becomes Chase Road.  Take Chase to Winter Garden-Vineland Road.  Turn right and go north on that road to  downtown Winter Garden.  Plant Street is SR-438.  Turn left on SR-438 and go through Oakland until the road becomes Old County Road 50  Stay on that until you can turn right on CR-455.  Stay on CR-455 through Montverde and Ferndale until it hits CR-561.  Turn right on CR-561 until CR-48 in Astatula.  Stay on CR-48 until it becomes CR-448A.  Follow it a short distance to CR-448 (Sadler Drive) and turn right to Dora Drive.  Left on Dora Drive and follow the same path back into Mount Dora.  About 65 miles round trip.

Downtown Winter Garden

Emeralda Island Scenic Loop west of Eustis

This drive is known as the Emeralda Island Scenic Loop and begins west of Eustis.  From CR44, take Emerelda Avenue north to the fork in the road.  Turn left and continue north on Emeralda Island Road past the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area.  After an easterly run, the road intersects CR452.  Turn south and drive past Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center and then veer right on Felkins Road to Goose Prairie Road.  Turn right on Goose Prarie Road and follow it until you are back on Emeralda Avenue.  You will be in unspoiled Old Florida all the way with very few houses or other structures, and will enjoy many rolling hills and canopied roads along the way.  About 15 miles.

Permanent Parking on Emeralda Island Road

Haines Creek Lock between Lakes Griffin & Eustis

Haines Creek lock is located at about the midpoint of the six mile long canal and creek that connect Lake Eustis to Lake Griffin. Access to the lock by car is from CR44 by Lock Road which is next to Bonfire Mobile Home Park.  The lock is a quiet place to enjoy watching the pleasure and fishing boats that go through in both directions.  There is room for two or three cars to park near the lock operator's booth, and it's fun to watch the machinery at work.  The lock is usually in operation between 700 am to 700 pm with an hour off at noon when the operator takes off for lunch.

Lock on Haines Creek Between Lake Eustis and Lake Harris

Fort Gates Ferry Across the St Johns River

This is the Fort Gates Ferry drive.  Take SR-19 north through Eustis to Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest.  Look for sign and turn right (east) onto FR-29, a U.S. Forest Service road.  Go to the end and take the $10 ferry across the river.  Drive from the fish camp to the paved road and turn (right) south to CR-308.  Take it into Crescent City and explore.  Then take US-17 south to SR-40 and go through Astor back to SR-19 and south to the beginning. About 140 miles.

Fort Gates Ferry Looking East Across the St Johns River

Green Mountain Scenic Byway

This is an official Florida Scenic Highway that begins in Winter Garden and meanders along the south and west shores of Lake Apopka into Mount Dora.  It is a favorite route for cyclists because the rolling hills present a challenge unlike anything else in the state.

The trip is about 45 miles.


Sugarloaf Mountain Loop, Ferndale, Montverde

The Sugarloaf Mountain Loop.  Start on CR455 in Ferndale (north of Montverde) and turn west on CR561A.  Less than one mile later turn right on Sugarloaf Mountain Road. Follow it to CR561, then north to CR455 at the traffic circle and go east back to Ferndale.  Beautiful rolling countryside, views of Lake Apopka, and the second highest peak in the State of Florida.  About 9.5 miles.

Green Mountain Scenic Overlook, Lake County

From On Top of the World take SR-200 northeast into Ocala to US-301.  Stay on US-301until SR-20.  Take SR-20 to SR-21. Take SR-21 north into Melrose.

Trinity Episcopal Church, Melrose, Florida


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