How do you define travel? The folks at the US Travel Association are asking that exact question in anticipation of National Travel and Tourism Week, which takes place May 2nd through May 10th. In honor of the occasion, we’re going to be taking a look at one of Central Florida’s best-kept travel secrets: the city of Umatilla.
While those new to the area may not be familiar with the small town, its natural charm and host of outdoor recreation have earned Umatilla the nickname of Nature’s Hometown… and for obvious reason! Just take a look around Umatilla to see why for yourself: the town is characterized by its abundant greenery and access to the lakes of Lake County. For those travelers and locals alike who enjoy a day in the sun or on the water, Umatilla’s the perfect spot, especially when other destinations are too crowded!
Are you planning a day or two in Umatilla? Here are a few specifics on key spots and activities to help you get you started!
Alexander Springs Recreation Area: This portion of the Ocala National Forest is conveniently located by Umatilla, and is one of the most intriguing but out-of-the-way spots you’ll find in Florida. Sit back and enjoy the sparkling spring view against a forest backdrop… or immerse yourself in the spring itself! This is the only spot in the Ocala National Forest where you can go scuba diving, so that’s worth a try. Afterward, you can relax on the sand, have a picnic, take a swim, hike, go camping… there’s plenty to do here!
North Lake Community Park: Is the traditional grass-and-playground park more appealing to you and your family? North Lake Community Park offers these and more. Take your pick from the various soccer, baseball, softball and multi-use fields, or try your hand at tennis, basketball or volleyball on one of the designated courts.
Incidentally, North Lake Community Park is located on what used to be an orange grove! You can still see citrus trees scattered around the edges of the park, making it a true Floridian spectacle.
Ocala National Forest: We’ve talked about Alexander Springs, but there’s so much more to Ocala National Forest… and you don’t have to go far from Umatilla to enjoy it! Umatilla is sometimes referred to as the Gateway to the Ocala National Forest, and from town you can embark on one of several hiking trips to get you on your way.
Places to stay: When your day of fun is over, you don’t need to look far for a place to sleep and refresh—there are two such spots nearby. Fox Den Country Inn is a small motel packed with cottage character, and is a walk’s away from Lake Umatilla. Located in nearby Tavares, Moss Gate Bed and Breakfast is a cozy, woodsy spot perfect for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city living. From the Moss Gate, guests can head out to enjoy one of the Umatilla’s outdoor attractions.