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 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 rain storm, 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. 

The Florida Wildlife

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. 


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. 

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.

Other Wildlife

In addition to the many alligators and birds you will find 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. 

Posted by Chris Edwards

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