ABOVE: Brian (B.J.) and Brandy Herron, owners of the Dora Queen.
It’s been two dedicated years in the making: The Dora Queen, a new 149-passenger replica of a paddlewheel riverboat, is inching closer to its maiden voyage.
This week, the City of Tavares approved the lease agreement for the 80-foot, pontoon paddleboat to be based at its Wooton Park docks. The double-decker attraction will temporarily be docked next to the Tavares Pavillion and then relocate near Kalua Hale Beach Club when the City’s docks are complete.
The New Orleans-styled boat with its gray shiplap exterior and red ornamental iron details features 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 New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day, the 4th of July and other events.
The Herrons hope the Dora Queen will begin cruises this fall, but the actual timing will depend on the U.S. Coast Guard’s inspection 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.”
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.
ABOVE: Rendering of the Dora Queen to be based out of Tavares.
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 the State.
The Herrons had tentatively planned to base the Dora Queen in Mount Dora, however, Tavares Economic Development Director Bob Tweedie worked with them to secure favorable accommodations for the large boat at the Tavares downtown waterfront. The new pleasure cruises will now complement the vintage excursion train, seaplane rides, restaurants and other businesses based in the City’s entertainment district.
"We look forward to this locally owned business starting operations at the Wooton Park waterfront in Tavares over the next few months. The Dora Queen and America’s Seaplane City partnership demonstrates Tavares is open for business,” said Tweedie.
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.