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Orlando's Newest Free Attraction


A new attraction has opened in Orlando. But no, it is not a theme park. It is a road.

Surprised?

Few new roads get as much attention as the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

No, not a very sexy name.

Like Lake Shore Drive or Rodeo Drive or even Main Street.

But this 11-mile road has the most diverse array of birds found anywhere in the US. About 362 species.

Some birds here are seldom seen.

Bald Eagles and Black Vultures. Boat-tailed Grackles and Green Herons, among many others.

So you are not a bird lover, okay?

There’s no guarantee but there are also alligators, bobcats, otters and others.

And unlike a theme park, it’s free.

And you can see all this from the comfort of your car.

The road is recently opened to the public Friday through Sunday. It is closed other days because of ongoing improvements.

You will have to do your sightseeing slowly. The speed limit is 10 miles an hour. But there are places along the road to stop and savor the view.

The gate to the wildlife drive opens at sunrise and closes an hour before sunset.

Lake Apopka has long been famous as the state’s fourth largest freshwater lake (it’s north shore alone is 20,000 acres). Going way back to the 1920s, Central Florida’s Lake Apopka was famous for being the state’s fourth largest.

Famous Fishermen Lured Here

Gary Cooper and Babe Ruth fished here.

But man-made pollutants almost killed the lake.

Until the St. Johns River Water Management District spent $300,000 to improve the live-rock road, clean up the lake and even attract the migratory birds that are now its major attraction.

The trail begins at Lust Road and empties onto Jones Boulevard.

That does not define it very well, but here are directions:

Take US 441 north to Zellwood, go west on Jones Avenue, then south on State Road 448A to County Road (CR) 48. Then go west on Ranch Road. This will take you to the parking lot.

For more information and a nap, call the district’s Bureau of Land Management at (386) 329-4404. Or visit floridaswater.com/lakeapopka. ###