Forget Gatorland! Did you know there is a free, yes, I said FREE outdoor attraction that’s little known about in Central Florida? About 15 miles northwest of Orlando is an 11-mile driving trail along the 20,000 acres of Lake Apopka. 

During this drive, you will find over 362 different bird species, wild alligators, otters, bobcats, snakes and many other species of wildlife. If you’re a photographer, nature enthusiast or looking for a fun weekend with the family, this is the perfect way to spend 2-4 hours of your day. 

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Trails

Lake Apopka Trail Map

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is part of the Lake Apopka North Shore Recreation Area. This is an area with miles of trails for equestrians, hiking, and biking. Recently, St. Johns River Management District opened this one-way, hard-packed dirt road for vehicles. The speed limit is 10 miles-per-hour, strictly enforced and has many pullouts for vehicles to stop, get out and view the wildlife. 

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an improved dirt road. You do not need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to drive, any vehicle under 25 feet will be fine. Your car may get dirty, especially if you go after a rainstorm, however, there is no risk of getting stuck. 

Driving in Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

The drive itself is smooth and most wildlife can easily be seen from the road. We will often sit in the back of the pickup truck for a better all-around view. If you do not have a pickup truck, you will still be able to see the wildlife from the comfort of your vehicle. 

The drive itself can take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how many stops you make. The speed limit is 10 miles-per-hour and there is no way to pass other vehicles on most of the drive. Being one-way, be sure to allow yourself ample amount of time to leave the trail, without speeding. 

See Real Florida Wildlife

On the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive there are no fences, cages, enclosures or any other barrier keeping you from the natural Florida wildlife. This free wildlife drive brings you up close and personal with the real Florida. 

See Florida Alligators

One of my favorite parts about Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is the number of wild alligators you will see. I can guarantee you will see at least 2 alligators on your wildlife drive. It is not uncommon to stop your car and let an alligator walk across the road.  We have seen upwards of 60 alligators in one drive. Don’t be afraid, alligators are not aggressive as long as you leave them in peace. 

See Birds, Birds and More Birds

With over 362 species of birds that call Lake Apopka North Shore home, there is no shortage of birds to watch. If you are into birding or into bird photography, this is one of the best spots in Central Florida for birds. 

This can be fun for the entire family. Take a camera out and take as many photos of birds as you can. When you get home, try to identify as many birds as possible. Visit the Lake Apopka Wildlife Birding website to view the different types of species and help in identifying the many different birds.

See Other Florida Wildlife

In addition to the many alligators and birds you will find on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive at Lake Apopka North Shore, you will also find other wildlife as well. This includes bobcats, otters and raccoons. Keep an eye out for these mammals as they do move fast and catching a photo of one of them can be difficult. 

Location & Hours

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive begins on Lust Road and ends up on Jones Road. The address of the entrance to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is 2850 Lust Road, Apopka, Florida, 32703. 

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open from sunrise to sunset Friday, Saturday, Sundays, and most federal holidays. The federal holidays the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open are:

  • New Year’s Day — Jan. 1
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Third Monday in January
  • Presidents’ Day — Third Monday in February
  • Memorial Day — Last Monday in May
  • Independence Day — July 4
  • Labor Day — First Monday in September
  • Columbus Day — Second Monday in October
  • Veterans Day — Nov. 11
  • Thanksgiving Day — Fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas — Dec. 25

Great for Photography

Are you a photographer? Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is the perfect place for professional and amateur photographers alike. Between the wildlife, wetlands and beautiful Lake Apopka shore, you are guaranteed that perfect shot. 

For the best wildlife shots, visit between November and March to catch the most birds that have migrated south. Early mornings and dusk are the best time for wildlife shots. 

Free Thing To Do Near Disney

Are you looking for free things to do near Disney, Universal Studios, or Sea World? The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a great free addition to your trip. This wildlife drive is only 25-30 miles from Disney and can make a great half-day trip.

You can see wildlife up close and personal from the comfort of your vehicle. Feel free to get out and walk around, or, you can also remain in your vehicle, up to you. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a nice break from the “Disney Bubble” and will allow you to experience the “real Florida”. No animatronics, trained animals or cages here, only true wildlife in their natural habitat.

Note: You will need a vehicle to experience the Wildlife Drive. Taking a taxi, Uber or Lyft to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is not going to work.

Respect the Wildlife

Your safety and the safety of the wildlife on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is extremely important. These are wild animals in a natural habitat. This makes them unpredictable.

  • Keep your distance.
  • Do not touch or pet the wildlife.
  • Do not touch or mess with any nests.
  • No drones. (This is a bird sanctuary)
  • Drive the speed limit (10mph).
  • Watch for wildlife crossing the road.
  • Stay on the path. Do not make new trails.
  • Do not litter.

The St. Johns River Management District has opened up the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive for everyone to enjoy. Please respect the wildlife and the drive so that it can remain open for others to experience the “real Florida”.

Posted by Chris Edwards

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