Orange Blossom Tour: Experiencing Hidden Gems and Blissful Back Roads

Most people don’t believe us at first when we say that Florida has beautiful country roads with curves and hills that can compete with those in any other state.

That’s part of the reason why we created the Orange Blossom Tour: to show the skeptics what our home state has to offer, both in terms of driving roads and non-Disney attractions.

And while our 2020 Orange Blossom Tour primarily welcomed return guests, we managed to convert a few new friends into fans of Florida’s fine features.

This year’s Orange Blossom Tour was a hub-style tour based in Howey-In-The Hills, Florida, at the beautiful Mission Inn Resort. Guests arrived Sunday, March 1, and got comfortable in their rooms without worrying about packing up again until Friday morning.

Chris Tropea and Nicole Suddard photos

Our first day’s route took us through rolling hills, orange groves and quaint old towns toward a mind-blowing car collection so private that we had to sign an NDA just to be allowed in. 

From there, we headed to old downtown Lakeland for lunch and walked in awe among the large collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at nearby Florida Southern College.

The next day we awoke with visions of mermaids in our heads and followed a winding road through mangroves and salt marshes to a delicious seafood lunch in the Crystal River area and a visit to the famous Weeki Wachee Springs. There, we watched from the underwater theater as mermaids and synchronized swimmers frolicked and sang in the spring. 

That night, we ventured out to charming Mount Dora for dinner at Pisces Rising, a restaurant built around a historic home with stunning sunset views.

Wednesday, we set our sights on DeLeon Springs, one of many locales in Florida once said to be the legendary Fountain of Youth, now a popular watering hole and breakfast destination for locals. 

For lunch, we headed into the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp for lunch at a century-old hotel and received a few spiritual readings from a local medium because, well, when in Rome….

After lunch, we headed for Blue Spring State Park, known for its large winter population of manatees. There, we had time to walk through the historic Thursby House and along the manatee viewing boardwalks (or just enjoy some ice cream in the picnic area) before boarding our nature cruise to see American alligators, white ibises, great blue herons, sandhill cranes and turtles galore.

On the final day of the tour, we wove through Ocala National Forest, one of the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forests, toward Cross Creek to tour the historic home of “The Yearling” author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and enjoy lunch at the Yearling restaurant. 

From Cross Creek, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to old downtown Micanopy, the home of another famous Marjorie (Marjorie Harris Carr) who led the fight against the Cross Florida Barge Canal in the 1950s and 1960s. After a brief walk through ice cream shops and antique stores, we began our final timed rally stage back to the hotel for our farewell dinner.

It was hard to say goodbye after so much fun, but we look forward to seeing many of our Orange Blossom Tour guests again on our other tours this year and in 2021.

The Orange Blossom Tour, part of the Hagerty Touring Series, is presented by Porsche Classic while receiving support from Battery Saver and Reliable Carriers

Want to get in on the adventure? Our Smoky Mountain Tour starts May 31, and our new Golden State Tour begins October 4. Tentative dates for the 2021 Orange Blossom Tour are February 28-March 4, with plans to visit the Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park, Classic Motorsports headquarters, downtown DeLand, and the Brumos Collection. Keep an eye on the Classic Motorspsorts Road Tours website for updates on all three tours.

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3/10/20 3:06 p.m.

Great Pictures, Great Experience--We Signed Up for Next Year!

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