Monday, June 30, 2008

Paddling, Pancakes & Ponce De Leon

So, what do these three things have in common you might ask? Well, as it turns out, the fountain of youth does really exist! And, just like I imagined heaven to be, breakfast is served all day and you can eat a lifetime's worth of gourmet pancakes. It's all at De Leon Springs of course!

Just 35 miles outside of Mount Dora, Ponce De leon discovered the fountain of youth ... or so the legend says. The springs bubble up 19 million gallons of clear cold H20 daily. And in the hot and humid Florida summer a dip in this 72 degree natural pool is a refreshing shock to the system and enough to make anyone think they've been jolted back to life.

Long after Ponce De Leon made it to Florida's waters, settlers had built a sugar mill and plantation around the springs that later became a popular winter resort. Ironically, this winter retreat at one time featured a water skiing elephant, Sunshine Sally. Mount Dora had it's own water skiing elephant during the filming of the movie Honky Tonk Freeway. Might they have been the same elephant? Hmm? But I digress. Let's talk about breakfast some more.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill has now become a novelty restaurant where the experience is hands-on with frying up your own eggs and pancakes on a griddle in the center of your table. Now why on earth, you ask, would I want to wait in line to cook my own breakfast? Because it's fun. Because the food is just darn good. Because the pancakes are delish and they offer a myriad of toppings including fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, pecans, peanut butter, chocolate chips and of course maple syrup & honey.

To burn off your sugar high and carb-loaded calories, there are an array of activities to keep you occupied all day including canoeing, kayaking, historical boat tours, swimming and scuba diving. If water sports don't float your boat, then you could take a 4 mile hike through a Wild Persimmon trail or spend some time in the Visitor's Center learning about the park's interesting history and watch a eco-educational presentation on Florida's waterways.

Admission to the State Park is $5 per vehicle. Arrive early or bring a book, blanket and a bathing suit to bide your time as the wait for the Sugar Mill Restaurant is about an hour on a slow day. But well worth every minute ... and calorie! A great day trip from Mount Dora.


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