Looking to get away into nature for a few hours in Central Florida? Located about 30 minutes from downtown Orlando, you’ll find the Apopka Wildlife Drive. The Apopka Wildlife Drive is a portion of the Lake Apopka North Shore that has been turned into a scenic drive. It’s perfect for families with kids, those with mobility restrictions, and anyone who loves animals or taking photos.
Wondering how the Apopka Wildlife Drive came about? In the 1940’s, the wetlands were separated from Lake Apopka via a large levee. Then, the area was used as farmland, which polluted Lake Apopka – Florida’s fourth largest lake. Through Florida legislature, the area was restored to swamp and marsh and is now used as a recreation area for the public.
The Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11-mile drive on meandering roads through and around the wetlands. The best part about the Apopka Wildlife Drive? You can experience it from the comfort of your own car, and it’s entirely free!
5 Things to Know About Apopka Wildlife Drive
- You never know what kinds of animals you’ll see. A lot of animal species call the drive their home. Keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready! As one of the most renowned birding destinations in Central Florida, you may see Great Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Double-Crested Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Little Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, and Osprey. In addition to over 300 different species of birds, you could also see alligators of all sizes, raccoons, possums, river otters, and turtles.
- The hours and rules. The Apopka Wildlife Drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and most Federal holidays from 7am to 3 pm. There is a 10 mph speed limit throughout the drive. We recommend allowing at least 3 hours to experience the drive. Unfortunately, if you are near the end of the drive after 3pm, a ranger will follow behind you to make sure you keep going, don’t stop, and exit the drive before the 5pm closing time.
- It’s a great place for a picnic. Bring a lunch and stop to eat it at the historic pump house. There is a large parking lot and plenty of picnic tables, along with a few portable toilets. Make sure you keep your food to yourself, and never feed any of the wild animals. Even if we don’t bring a lunch, I always make it a point to let the kids out of the car to stretch their legs at the pumphouse.
- Take advantage of the audio tour. A few years ago, Apopka Wildlife Drive added an audio tour. You can play the tour on your phone as your drive through. The audio tour has 11 stops throughout the scenic drive. Each stop tells you information about about restoration efforts, the bird population, the alligator population, future plants, and more. If you’d like to listen to a section or two before you get to the drive, find the audio tour online.
- Donate to keep it around. Had a great time on the drive? Don’t forget to donate to the St. Johns River Water Management District, which controls the Apopka Wildlife Drive.
Prefer to get out of your car for biking, hiking, or even horseback riding? The Lake Apopka North Shore is also home to several trails. Find out more about the trails, trailheads, and observation towers on this map.
You can find the Apopka Wildlife Drive at 2850 Lust Road, Apopka, FL 32703.