If you've ever found yourself in Clermont you've probably discovered what Clermont residents already know: Historic Downtown Clermont is a delightfully charming city not to be overlooked. With a $22 million master plan to reach completion this year, two craft breweries now open, lakefront trails, monthly wine walks and a walkable downtown (with loads of free parking spaces and a parking structure underway), it’s a city on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in Central Florida. And it’s a worthy addition to your summer day trip bucket list.
Updated June 2022, by Sarah Bradley
Stop 1: Florida Citrus Tower
Built in 1956, the now 60+-year-old Citrus Tower is the ideal place to begin your day trip. From atop the 226-foot observation tower (which is now air conditioned!), glass windows offer you an unobstructed 360-degree view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can spot the downtown Orlando skyline and Disney Springs in the distance, with a closer view of the area’s scenic chain of lakes and landscape. The view is worth every penny of the nominal $10 admission price. Keep up with the tower’s Facebook page for special events like rocket launch viewings and holiday ticketed events.
New life has also been breathed into the base of the tower, with the addition of a welcoming coffee shop. The observation deck has also been renovated to include air conditioning and plenty of seating. The tower is currently open to visitors Monday-Saturday from 7am-5pm.
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Stop 2: Caffeinate
Take your pick of six inviting coffee shops, each with their own signature flare. Located outside of the downtown area, Citrus Coffee Co. is located at the base of the Florida Citrus Tower. Sip on a latte paired with a pastry before heading up to the 15th floor observation deck.
Flag Coffee Corner is a cozy nook to grab a cup of brew in the heart of the Downtown Clermont Arts District. This spot is so convenient if you’re taking a stroll down the charming and historic Montrose Street. They offer a classic selection of espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, and even tasty Argentinian-inspired empanadas and pastries.
If you do find yourself on Montrose Street, you can also slip into the Montrose Street Market and seek out Golden Hills Coffee Roasters. This full-service espresso and cold brew bar is family-owned and operated, and famous for their classic method of roasting their coffee by hand. Fun fact: this shop is actually the wholesale coffee provider for a handful of major coffee shops in Central Florida that we know and love.
Another cup of Clermont’s best coffee can be found inside of Epic Cycles, a bike shop and recovery lounge hybrid with a peek-a-boo view of Lake Minneola. The Energy Lab Café offers everything from single origin coffee to creative signature sips, kombucha, teas and smoothies. For coffee aficionados, your cup is made to order (and only served black) with the café’s unique Steampunk coffee brewer. Bakery items from Olde Hearth Bread Co. are available alongside the drink menu.
On the outskirts of historic downtown, Just Love Coffee Roasters is a franchised coffee shop and cafe with a mission to help local communities. The Clermont location was opened by previous NFL player and Orlando native Chris Johnson in 2021. If you’re in need of fundraising, the Just Love Coffee Roasters restaurants provide a fundraising program to help families fund their causes.
Of course, you also can always rely on our old faithful, Foxtail Coffee, at their Clermont location–one of the many locations of the beloved coffee shop in Central Florida.
Stop 3: Hit the Trails
Part of Clermont’s appeal is its lakefront setting. From downtown, you’re just mere steps away from the shore of Lake Minneola, framed by Waterfront Park and a paved walking trail. From here, you can set out to explore the South Lake Trail (Lake Apopka Trail), which stretches for 25 miles before linking up with the West Orange Trail. Bring your own bikes to cruise the trail, or arrange a drop-off bike rental from The Ride Xperience. Beware: this trail is full of hills, just like Clermont!
If you'd rather take a walk, check out the trails at the Clermont Arts & Recreation Center. Choose from a shady 0.5-mile trail and a longer 1-mile grassy trail. Parking is free and you can bring your leashed pup along for the fun.
On the water, paddle the Palatlakaha Run, a scenic waterway trail that is part of Lake County’s Blueways Program. The trail winds through six of the 17 lakes comprising the Clermont Chain of Lakes, as well as the Palatlakaha River. FYI: The Florida Angler in downtown Clermont has an awesome Chain of Lakes map for reference.
Stop 4: Waterfront Park Picnic
Here’s a fun fact: Clermont has a special entertainment district that’s open container. As long as you’re within the boundaries (the area between Lake Ave and West Avenue from the shore of Lake Minneola back to W Desoto Street) and have your beer or wine in a clear plastic cup, you’re free to stroll and sip.
For a romantic lunch, pick up bites along with wine, champagne or beer from a local eatery and head to Waterfront Park for a peaceful lakefront picnic. There are several benches, plenty of shaded green space, and even a few picnic tables scattered throughout the entertainment district. Bacchus Vino Etcetera has an excellent craft beer selection along with wine and wine coolers, as does Corelli’s Pantry. The latter also has some delectable to-go desserts, plus calzones, stromboli, pizzas, salads, apps and more.
Stop 5: Shop + Brewery Hop
After your lakefront lunch, dedicate some time to the heart of Downtown Clermont. You’ll find boutiques and shops specializing in everything from outdoor and fishing gear to home goods, clothing, art, wine and more alongside eateries, sweet shops and two craft breweries.
Peruse The Downtown Exchange for a variety of vendors all located under one roof. On a hot day, or any day really, step into Corelli’s Dolceria for authentic gelatos from Italy (I can vouch for the salted caramel) and sweets, plus cute selfie spots around the store depicting idyllic Italian scenes.
Continue on to Clermont’s two craft breweries: Suncreek Brewery and Clermont Brewing Company. Suncreek Brewery has a market-style vibe, like a mini Plant Street Market, sharing space with two eateries: Michael’s Ali Coal Fired Pizza and MAC’d Out. Order a beer flight to sample a bit of everything (IPA lovers will be at home here). Sit inside to watch the bustling brewery below or outdoors to play lawn games on the outdoor patio space.
Clermont Brewing Company is located just a few blocks away, serving up signature brews along with a full food menu and craft cocktails. There are currently 10 beers available at the brewery, which is helmed by brewmaster Eric Brown. Besides the tasty pizzas and bar bites, the brewery also serves sushi.
Lastly, you can’t miss the new Montrose Street Market–a shared community space that hosts eight different vendors. This local gathering spot is so diverse, offering a food hall with unique flavors and cuisines, live music, retail, coffee, and a bar. The merchants you’ll find here include: Golden Hills Coffee Roasters, PokeKai, Design Sushi, Box Grill & Smoked BBQ, The Brave Burger, The Tasty Crepes, Pico Bistro, and Sir Benji’s Donuts.
The upbeat and vibrant energy in this market breathes so much life into historic downtown Clermont and truly has something for everyone.
Stop 6: Lake Louisa State Park
Clermont’s scenic rolling hills and lush citrus groves are the first sign you aren’t in Orlando anymore. If you’ve got time to spare, it’s worth the drive to nearby Lake Louisa State Park. The park features miles of winding hiking trails, a beach along Lake Louisa, kayaking tours, guided horseback trail rides, camping, and glamping in luxe tents.
For an easy hike, enter the park and take the first right turn (not far past the cabins on your left). Park your car at the first or second trailhead, following the trail from marker 28 or 25 (depending on where you begin) to the shore at Lake Louisa. The hike takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace and is mostly shaded. You’ll end at the boardwalk to the beach at Lake Louisa. Here’s a handy map to save, or ask for one when entering the park.
Stop 7: Dinner for Two
End your epic day trip with a romantic dinner for two. Root & Branch is Clermont’s go-to date night restaurant featuring an upscale vibe and farm-to-table menu. The restaurant typically hosts wine dinners once a month during the fall season, perfect for a special date night. Other notable offerings include ½ off wine bottles every Wednesday and a farm-to-table brunch with unlimited mimosas (featuring fresh-squeezed OJ) on Saturdays and Sundays.
For a more casual date, head to The Crooked Spoon gastropub to indulge in ridiculously good burgers and cocktails. Try the gigantic Blueberry & Brie Burger made with Florida Angus beef, Brie cheese, mushroom ragout, blueberry compote and arugula served on a brioche bun.
If you’ve got a taste for Southern flavors, The Southern on 8th is a newly-opened Southern contemporary kitchen and bourbon bar that is a must-try. Their comfort dishes are prepared in a scratch kitchen with fresh ingredients (the wait for your food may take a bit longer due to their scratch method, but it’s always worth it.) Don’t forget to stop by for brunch-exclusive cocktails on the weekends and their New Orleans-inspired menu on Fat Tuesdays (every Tuesday).
More Date-Worthy Activities
CLERMONT WINE WALKS + WINE STROLLS
Bacchus Vino Etcetera and Corelli’s work together on the city’s well-loved wine walks and wine strolls, trading off who hosts from month to month. Bacchus Vino Etcetera hosts wine walks on the 3rd Friday every other month from 6:30-9pm. For just $15 you’ll receive your sampling glass and map plus an entry for door prizes.
Corelli’s Wine Strolls take place on the 3rd Saturday of the month from 6-9pm. The cost is $15. Check Facebook for the latest information regarding wine walks.
This article really only scratches the surface of Clermont’s eateries. Other notable options include Amish Pretzel Shop (so good!), Ay Jalisco Mexican Restaurant (great margaritas), and Papa’s Diner (known for their classic breakfasts). Also check out the weekly Downtown Clermont Farmer's Market on Sundays beginning at 9am.
A 20-minute drive from Historic Downtown Clermont (a brief stint of which is on a clay road), Southern Hill Farms is the place to be during blueberry season in April and May. The farm features a huge pavilion selling delicious food and blueberry beverages plus rolling hills dotted with multiple varieties of blueberries ripe for picking.
The Master Plan for Clermont is currently scheduled for its third phase of completion. This phase places its focus on the beloved Downtown Clermont and includes improvements on the streetscape, landscaping, light fixtures, and overall beautification of the town.
The next thing to keep an eye out for is the upcoming downtown parking structure. While there’s already a slew of free parking spaces, the demand for space is always growing. The city is currently in the process of evaluating sites and costs for the structure, and will pick a preferred site soon.
All images by Stephanie Patterson unless otherwise noted