America’s Seaplane City?

This Central Florida town is bucking the trend and embracing light aviation.

Tavares Seaplane Base

Tavares Seaplane Base

** Seaplanes float along the shoreline of
Tavares.** (Photo courtesy of City of Tavares)

Chances are good that you’ve never heard of Tavares Seaplane Base in Central Florida, but city officials there are hoping that changes soon. The base hosted a seaplane splash-in last weekend that attracted 34 floatplanes and amphibians from around the state to enjoy the airplane friendly confines of Lake Dora and enjoy the charms of a small town downtown airport.

At a time when many U.S. cities are turning their back on the many economic and social benefits of downtown airports—you listening Santa Monica city council?--a small Central Florida town has actively embraced it. Tavares, Florida, located about 40 miles Northwest of Orlando, Florida, a few years ago completed a seaplane base (FA1) on Lake Dora at a cost of several million dollars. Unlike many towns, Tavares is actively supporting its airport/seaplane base, by seeking the business and tourist dollars that aviation brings. Operated by the city, the base offers plentiful docking, 100LL fuel (with jet-A available with prior arrangements), a beautiful pilot shop and easy access to Tavares’ friendly shopping and entertainment district. There are seaplane rides available to tourists, and there’s a great seaplane-themed water park nearby, as well.

The seaplane base had its grand opening in April of 2010, and since that time it’s hosted thousands of seaplanes a year, many of which come to Tavares just because of the base. While every body of water in Florida is a potential gator haven, Lake Dora for some reason doesn’t attract many of the aquatic reptiles. Joyce Ross, Tavares’ public communications director told us that the reason seems clear: “Wooton Park, which surrounds the Seaplane Base, is a very busy and active park,” she told us, “which is not attractive to most wildlife; they quickly move out of the way when disturbed. Over the last two years we have had over 3,600 planes visit with not one report of problems with gators.” You can, however, get a great lunch and top off with 100LL, at FA1, which is something the town expects visitors do on an ever increasing basis.