ABOVE: The Dora Queen is transported through downtown Tavares on its way to its Wooton Park base. (Photo by Trident Boats of Tavares)
It’s been over two dedicated years in the making: The Dora Queen, a new 149-passenger replica of a paddlewheel riverboat, was painstakingly transported in pieces today to its new home at the downtown Tavares waterfront.
The custom 80-foot, pontoon paddleboat, based out of the Wooton Park docks, will now have its top deck, paddlewheel and other elements reassembled on site, as the vessel inches closer to its maiden voyage.
The impressive New Orleans-styled boat with its gray shiplap exterior and red ornamental iron details will feature two bars, comfortable lounge-style seating and music for passengers to enjoy or dance to during their approximately 90-minute to two-hour Lake Dora voyage. Unlike the other commercial passenger boats currently on Lake Dora, the Dora Queen will be offering pleasure cruises that remain on Lake Dora, rather than narrated boat tours into the Dora Canal. Passengers will be able to board the boat at the Tavares docks and in Mount Dora.
B.J. and Brandy Herron, long-time Mount Dora residents and owners of Steamboat Tours Inc., which will operate The Dora Queen, are planning to offer three scenic cruises a day on Lake Dora, including a sunset cruise. The shaded boat will also be available for private parties with its galley available for caterers. In addition to its daily operations, The Dora Queen will also have special cruises for Mother’s Day, the 4th of July and other seasonal events.
ABOVE PHOTOS: It took approximately two and half hours to carefully transport the very wide load of the Dora Queen's lower deck to Wooton Park from just a few miles away. (Photos by Nancy Ball, Jonni Vermuelen and Lauren Cunningham).
The timing of the Dora Queen’s maiden voyage will depend on its finishing details and the U.S. Coast Guard’s inspections schedule.
“We wanted a way for locals and tourists to enjoy the beauty of Lake Dora, while offering a unique experience,” said Brandy Herron. “Our goal is to add to the charm of our community with a fun and enjoyable new attraction.”
Over two years ago, the couple purchased the Dora Contessa riverboat replica that was docked on the Dead River for several years. Fortuitously, it was the same boat that served as the location of their wedding rehearsal dinner in 2001.
Robbie Cunningham, of Trident Pontoon Boats in Tavares, was contracted to build The Dora Queen and incorporate The Dora Contessa’s paddle wheel and other elements into the new and larger vessel. Cunningham and his crew have a solid track record of building impressive commercial pontoon boats for businesses throughout Florida.
ABOVE: Brian and Brandy Herron, owners of the Dora Queen and Mount Dora residents
The Dora Queen’s pleasure cruises will complement the vintage excursion train, seaplane rides, restaurants and other businesses based in the City’s entertainment district.
Stay tuned to Mount Dora Buzz on Facebook for updates on The Dora Queen’s maiden voyage, pricing, schedules and other details as they become available. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app.
UPDATE 12/17/2019: The development passed at its final public hearing on December 17 with a 5-2 vote by Mount Dora City Council. UPDATE 12/3/2019: Mount Dora City Council passed the rezoning application at the December 3 public hearing with the inclusion of the caveats added by the city's Planning and Zoning Board. A required second public meeting will be held at an upcoming city council meeting.
It’s the only tract of land of its kind within Mount Dora’s city limits. On Tuesday evening, December 3 (see updates above), Mount Dora City Council will hold a public hearing for rezoning of a proposed new development titled “Cottages on 11th," which would have a maximum of 27 luxury, single-family homes.
The hilltop 10.9-acre property with a view of Lake Dora is between 11th Avenue and Old U.S. Highway 441 near Helen Street, just west of downtown. The land can be identified by its old orange groves perched on the hill a short distance past the van Gogh House.
The application seeks approval to allow for narrower lots, but remain within the 2.5 acre density currently allowed.The applicant for the Planned Unit Development (PUD) rezoning is Florida Realty and Development, Inc.
The developer’s stated vision includes:
Prices ranging from $650,000 to over $1 million.
Two points of access on 11th Avenue. (One will be full access, while the other will only be an entrance)
Smaller lots for ease of maintenance.
Homes designed in the character and appeal of historic Mount Dora.
Varied lot sizes to provide a varied streetscape.
A park and recreational amenities for its residents.
Emphasis on landscaping
The area just north of Old Highway 441 will be used as open space and retention.
The 1.05-acre lakefront “parcel” located to the south of Old Highway 441 will be donated to the CIty and remain natural vegetation and serve as open space for the community.
A staggered contribution to the City’s Public Arts Fund totaling $54,000 once the development is completed and all lots are sold.
The development and its rezoning is not without public opposition. Several neighbors have voiced their concerns at public meetings throughout the rezoning application process.
The public hearing will be during the Mount Dora City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 3 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Comments from the public are allowed.
ABOVE: Cottages on 11th site plan submitted by developer in August.
After five successful years at its current downtown Mount Dora location, the city’s popular pub, Magical Meat Boutique, is relocating just a stone’s-throw away. The expansive new location, across from the Chamber of Commerce on Alexander Street, has been home to several restaurants over the last decade, most recently, the short-lived Jamaica Gardens.
The new 4,500 square-foot space will triple the pub’s size and provide plentiful covered, outdoor dining.
Over the years, the British pub’s client base has grown, not just with local residents, but also with visits from some of the 400,000 British expats who reside in Florida, according to Phil Barnard, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Kate. Over the years, the Barnards discovered that throughout the summer months, the pub could not accommodate many of their patrons, who found it too hot or wet to sit outside, according to Phil.
Magical Meat Boutique, named after Phil’s father’s famous 1960’s London butcher shop, currently sits alongside downtown’s railroad tracks. The current uncertainty about the railroad’s future posed potential issues for the restaurant since a portion of the eatery’s large deck and entertainment space was located adjacent to the tracks. Additionally, the vintage railcar they leased could also be affected.
As a result of the uncertainty that the weather and the railroad posed, the Barnards decided to make the leap across the street while the 170-seat space was still available.
ABOVE: Pub owners Phil & Kate Barnard outside the current, smaller location. (Photo provided by Magical Meat Boutique)
The larger kitchen and bar in the new space will enable Magical Meat Boutique to expand its menu and its draught beer offerings. The eatery currently offers authentic British pub fare, plus American favorites like juicy burgers and fries. The full bar serves cocktails, and of course, British beers on tap.
In keeping with its existing friendly ambiance, the interior of the sprawling space will be transformed into a traditional British pub and feature a large new bar in the center section of the space. Most of the pub’s popular live music events will be inside, but a separate dining room will be available for patrons who want to enjoy quieter meals. The Barnards plan to work closely with their friends that own the neighboring Olive Branch Mediterranean Grille to share outside entertainment to avoid any potential sound conflicts.
Magical Meat Boutique is currently located at 112 W. 3rd Avenue downtown. Sometime in December, the pub is expected to open in its new location at 322 N. Alexander Street.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
In the spring of 2017, it was announced that Wawa, a national convenience store and gas station chain, was slated to replace the small Shell station on the corner of U.S. 441 and Morningside Drive near Lake Gertrude. The chain of large gas stations has gained popularity in regions of the U.S. for its variety of take-out food options. Although the Wawa project was approved early on by the City of Mount Dora, Wawa has revised its construction schedule for the location. The Pennsylvania-based company presently has scheduled construction to begin in the third quarter of 2020 with a potential opening in the firstquarter of 2021.
“Wawa is continuing its exciting growth and expansion throughout the state of Florida. Right now, we have a number of stores already under construction and in our development pipeline throughout the state. Our construction timelines and grand opening dates are based on many factors, including timing of permits and approvals throughout the state,” Lori Bruce, Wawa Public Relations Manager, told Mount Dora Buzz.
In 2017, the city of Mount Dora acted promptly to annex the approximately 1.25 acre property and rezone it as necessary for Wawa. There are presently no issues or delays with the City of Mount Dora.
In 2020, Wawa will open 20 new stores throughout Florida and start construction on a number of others. The company’s goal is to reach 400 stores in Florida by 2028.
Wawa opened its first store in Florida in 2012 and had over 100 locations in the Sunshine State when it first announced its Mount Dora location.
Emergency healthcare for kids just got better in Lake County. AdventHealth Waterman is celebrating the grand opening of the new pediatric Emergency Room (ER). The opening marks the completion of the second phase of a 111,000-square-foot, $85 million expansion at the Tavares hospital. This construction project doubled the footprint of the emergency department and grew capacity from 35 to 58 beds, making it the largest ER facility in Lake County. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Read more