Eustis—named after Colonel Abraham Eustis—was founded in 1883. Before railroads got to the new town, trade and travel depended on steamboats, thus many communities started on the water. When the St. Johns and Lake Eustis Railway finally began in central Florida, Eustis developed into a small city.
Eustis wasn’t quite known for its small-town newspaper or architectural specialties—but it did gain fame as the “Orange Capital of the World” for the extensive orange groves that called Eustis home. It even became a hotspot for plant hybridization studies when the US Department of Agriculture set up shop for a plant disease research lab.
The city that started by the water would grow to incorporate aquatics into its culture. To this day, boating on Lake Eustis is one of visitors’ and residents’ favorite pastimes.
While the makeup of the small town may have changed—Eustis has plans for an improved entertainment district and is home to a thriving downtown—its small-town charm has not. Still less than 20,000 people call the 11.4-square-mile city home, and every year on George Washington’s birthday weekend residents take part in GeorgeFest, a carnival and community festival over 100 years running.
Today, visitors can enjoy the Eustis Historical Museum or take a walk around the scenic Lake Eustis, go shopping or get plugged into the Lake Eustis Sailing Club. No matter what the occasion, this little town that could is the perfect destination for nearby ‘staycationers’ and new residents as well.