Lakeside Inn Review: Historic Hotel in Mount Dora, Florida

Kathleen Walls Avatar

Historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida - Original Lakeside Hotel building.
Original Lakeside Hotel building. Photo credit: Kathleen Walls

The writer was hosted.

As central Florida became a major tourist destination, many of its historic hotels were sacrificed to make way for theme parks and cookie-cutter chain hotels. Sure, these hotels offer comfort, but if you want to savor old Florida, you need to step back in time and stay at a Florida original that existed before theme parks. Long before interstates. When Florida was still filled with orange groves and stately moss-draped oaks. You can find that vibe in Mount Dora at the Lakeside Inn. It’s the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida and played host to President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge.

Historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida - Donnally House, home of the original owner of the hotel
Donnally House, home of the original owner of the hotel. Photo credit: Kathleen Walls

Hotel History

Lakeside Inn began in 1883 when John Donnally, who later became Mount Dora’s first mayor, and several partners opened it as Alexander House. The historic hotel was a Victorian two-story building with a veranda facing Lake Dora. Donnally’s home is still standing. It’s an ornate yellow with white trim steamboat Gothic house just a few blocks away from the hotel.

America was recovering from the devastating Civil War and wealthy northerners wanting to avoid the harsh northern winters, came by steamboat from Jacksonville through the Harris chain of lakes and then the Dora Canal into Lake Dora. The average trip from New York took about a week.

It wasn’t until several years later that Henry Flagler brought railroads to Florida. The Sanford and Lake Eustis Railroad arrived in Mount Dora in 1887. You can take a boat trip on the Dora Canal today and understand why the beauty of the region drew visitors then and now. The old railroad depot, just across Alexander Street from the Lakeside Inn, is home to the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce and offers a venue for weddings and other events.

Historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida - The Terrace and Sunset buildings.
The Terrace and Sunset buildings. Photo credit Kathleen Walls

Hotel today

In 1903, the original owners sold the hotel to then-manager, Emma Boone, and her husband, George Thaylor. The Thaylors renamed it the Lakeside Inn. Over the years, Lakeside Inn grew and prospered. Today the original 10-room building has grown to 90 guest rooms and suites in four historic buildings, the main Lakeside Inn building, Gables, Terrace, and the Sunset Cottage. A fifth building, Gatehouse, is a gift shop, with the second floor providing an event space named the Donnelly Room.

The lobby has a true Victorian feel. There is a fireplace and cozy upholstered chairs and settees. making it a lovely place to sit and look out onto the lake on cool days. A graceful piano sits near the front windows facing the lake. The floors are heart of pine and the ceiling has recessed panels with chandeliers reminiscent of the early 1900s.

Historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida - Terrace Building facing the lake.
Terrace Building facing the lake. Photo credit: Kathleen Walls

The newer buildings form a U shape facing Lake Dora. As you stroll towards the lake, there is a pool with a pool bar. On the lake, you have a white sand beach for sunning and swimming. There are two boathouses on the lake where you can book Premier Boat Tours for a pontoon boat trip around Lake Dora and through the Dora Canal.

Historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida - My room.
My room. Photo credit: Kathleen Walls


When you check in at Lakeside Inn’s front desk, you know it’s different. These rooms are not the all-alike rooms found in chain hotels. Many things are the same. You can use a credit card to pay, rooms all have free wifi and air conditioning, there are non-smoking rooms, and there are standard rooms and suites.

What is different is that instead of uniform art, each room has photos of early days at the inn. You will have a key, not a card, to access your room. The rooms have beautiful glass door knobs. A big plus for me is free parking and plenty of it. I stayed in the Sunset Building and was able to park just steps away from the front door.

On the downside, the doors are not as snug as the newer hotels and the rooms are not as soundproof. There are no elevators as they do not fit the historic hotel image. But only one building is three stories; others are just two. The rooms are not equipped with a refrigerator and coffeemaker. The suites have a refrigerator and rooms can order one for $5 per day. It’s a small downside compared to the feel of a Victorian-style room.

Features and Amenities

The basic rooms range from an Inn Queen Room in the original building that is slightly smaller and has a single queen-sized bed, or a Florida Room with either a king or two queen beds. You can opt for a suite that has a traditional room with either a single king bed or two double beds, plus an attached parlor room with a sofa bed and armchairs. Suites come with a second television and a small refrigerator. Some rooms have a view of the lakefront or the courtyard. All the rooms have standard amenities like a television, an iron and ironing board, a hair dryer, toiletries, and room service.

I stayed in a traditional room on the second floor of the Sunset Building. It was cozy, with two queen beds which had a Victorian look. I had great wifi and the ceiling fan and light were operated easily with a remote and I really loved the big walk-in closet. The traditional deep round tub where I could get a relaxing hot soak was great. And I also loved that I had three full-sized windows.


The hotel has several dining options. The Beauclaire Dining Room is an elegant Victorian dining experience. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had breakfast there and ordered the traditional two eggs, bacon, grits, and a buttermilk biscuit. It was delicious. There are lots of other choices as well. On Sundays, there is a brunch from 11 am to 2:30 pm.

On beautiful sunny days, The Verandah, with its view of Lake Dora is a relaxing place to dine or even sit in a rocking chair and enjoy a drink while watching seaplanes on Lake Dora.

Tremain’s Tavern has the feel of a gentlemen’s club during the Victorian era with its dark wood and etched glass panels. It’s the place for a cocktail or casual meal in the evening. The drink menu is extensive and you can order salads, wings, burgers, or other bar-style dishes.

Lakeside Pool Bar is open at the outdoor swimming pool on weekends when the weather is nice.

The hotel offers free coffee in the morning in the lobby. Unfortunately, no tea. Just a few tea bags and a pot with hot water would make the approximately 22% of people who drink tea instead of coffee very happy.

Things to Do Nearby

At the Lakeside Inn, you are within walking distance of the historic downtown with countless restaurants, the Modernism MuseumVillage Antique Mall, and many boutique stores and galleries. Lakeside Inn is just about a half hour away from Orlando’s theme parks but it offers a different kind of stay. One filled with lake views, strolls under oak trees, swimming in quiet lake waters, boating on Lake Dora and Dora Canal known as “The Most Beautiful Mile of Water in the World.” This is a different view of Florida. Lakeside Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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