13 Truly Charming Lakeside Towns in Florida

Skip the oceanfront and explore these lakeside towns in Florida for relaxing nature-infused fun.

freshwater fishing from pier
Updated May 28, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

For some, Florida is all about soaking up the sun on the beach or spending the day fishing on the Gulf. Yet, the beautiful weather makes it ideal for lakeside retreats, too. If you’re looking for relaxing, even stunning experiences, there are some towns in Florida you can't miss.

These are the most charming lakeside towns in Florida that are worth stepping up your travel game to explore. It’s hard to beat their allure and character.

Check out the top lakeside towns in Florida for your holiday trip.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive travel discounts and trip-planning resources

Over 50 and love traveling? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member, you could be missing out on huge travel perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on hotels and resorts, airfare, cruises, car rentals, and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

An AARP membership not only unlocks discounts that could save you hundreds on your next trip, but you’ll also have access to deals on vacation packages, guided tours, and exclusive content to help plan your next getaway.

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (do not skip this step!). Doing so will allow you to take up to 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

Winter Park

Creative Studio 79/Adobe winter park florida

Winter Park is only about a 30-minute drive from Orlando (but it seems worlds away). This community has several lakes, perfect for everything from largemouth bass fishing to boating.

It also has a lot of history and art, from the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, which are quite stunning.

Tavares

Jillian Cain/Adobe wooten park in tavares florida

A smaller town, Tavares, sits on the shore of Lake Dora. The historic courthouse sets the stage for the downtown area, but this is also a modern community. The more revitalized areas of the community have lots of eateries and smaller shops.

The city, which has become one of the most sought-after “seaplane cities,” makes it easy to sit and watch the planes as they come in. There's also a lot of nature nearby, including trails and fishing along the Dora Canal.

Mount Dora

Jillian Cain/Adobe mount dora lighthouse

Mount Dora is a fun, relaxing destination on a six-mile-long lake. It feels like a small town with a romantic, laid-back vibe.

There’s plenty to do, including visiting the Grantham Point Park lighthouse. You can also visit during the Mount Dora Arts Festival each February.

Earn a $250 travel bonus with this incredible card

There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and you can earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

You can earn additional points just by using this card for your everyday purchases — unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. The 25,000 bonus points can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel or dining purchases.

If you want to travel and dine out more, the Travel Rewards card can help you get where you want to go.

The best part? There's no annual fee.

Click here to apply now.

Eustis

SR Productions/Adobe lakeside benches at ferran park

Sitting on a lake of the same name, the community of Eustis has a beautiful historic downtown area to explore, but the lakefront area offers a dock for your boat and long walks along a clean, well-maintained lake.

Dozens of restaurants are present here, and the boardwalk allows you to check out the various street festivals, whether they are antique-inspired, car shows, or bike shows. Catch the breezes off the lake as you do.

Clermont

Kevin/Adobe sunset in clermont florida

About 22 miles west of Orlando is the lakeside community of Clermont. This community is very much focused on its waterfront area with trails and parks to explore. Boating, fishing, and water sports are common here.

Some spend their time sunbathing on the beach while others explore the historic downtown area and watch the sunset.

Howey-in-the-Hills

Grady Reese/peopleimages.com/Adobe happy couple on a boat

When you want to relax in a small town on the water, check out Howey-in-the-Hills. All of the nature here, from the herons to the fish, make it quaint and charming.

The marina and some of the area's higher-end restaurants are fabulous. If fishing, golf, and sunbathing sound good, this is the place to be.

Lake Placid

Margaret Burlingham/Adobe florida backyard on a lake

A smaller town in Highlands County, Lake Placid sits on Lake Istokpoga, which is a large, fabulous destination for fishing, boating, and hiking adventures.

Check out the murals throughout the city, visit some of the boutique shops, or bike around the region. The farmer’s market, art events, and car shows keep you busy most weekends, too.

Sebring

Creative Studio 79/Adobe downtown sebring florida

The Sebring Downtown Historic District is one of the numerous beautiful spots you’ll find in Sebring. Don’t stop there, though. You can explore the rivers and lakes throughout the area.

You can go for a hike in the nearby citrus groves or play some golf. Various small-town shops and restaurants are available throughout the city, too.

Lake Mary

Umieatworld/Wirestock Creators/Adobe lake mary in florida

Here’s another option when you want to be on the lake but close enough to Orlando for a day at the parks: Lake Mary. Numerous small lakes and ponds dot the city’s landscape.

There are some luxury hotels here and ample shopping. A more suburban-style getaway, this lakefront town is a good option for those looking for modern amenities close to the water.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!1

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

Lake City

Zoran Zeremski/Adobe Older women doing yoga

For outdoor adventure in a charming, older-feeling community, head to Lake City, an hour or so to the west of Jacksonville.

There’s plenty to do outdoors, from tubing down the Ichetucknee River, checking out the Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, or spending the day paddling along the Suwannee River.

North Lake

tarasov_vl/Adobe senior man standing on boat fishing

For those looking for a bit more of a luxury lakeside experience, head to North Lake. It’s a more exclusive area with some fabulous cottages (there’s an RV park here, too).

Once there, swim at the pool, head to one of the local casual dining restaurants for a hearty dinner, or walk the trails around the waterfront. You can also fish on Lake Okeechobee.

Leesburg

Pombai92/Wirestock Creators/Adobe water tower in leesburg florida

A bigger city than some on this list, Leesburg is a community right between Lake Harris and Lake Griffin. It provides direct access to the Ocklawaha River for boating, paddling, and ample relaxation on the waterfront.

Ask the locals about hidden fishing spots or explore the nature preserves before catching a meal at one of the locally owned restaurants.

DeFuniak Springs

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe lake defuniak florida

A trip to DeFuniak Springs brings with it lots of Victorian architecture in the historic downtown area. It’s not just a beautiful area, though (make sure you check out the Circle Dive Historic Center to learn more).

You can go for walks along the waterfront, hike in Lake Stanley Park, or take a boat tour to explore the entire area. A few spas and shops exist here, too.

Bottom line

djile/Adobe young woman and man using smartphone by the river

Lakeside towns in Florida, small or large, are everywhere. In a state with over 7,500 lakes, it’s possible to find something special in just about every corner here, from upscale living and modern amenities to simple, quiet days by the waterfront. 

Just make sure to bring your best travel credit cards to really maximize your trip.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
4.1
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

+

Why we like it

Author Details

Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.