Florida's beaches are pretty stellar, but if you're spending your vacation away from the coast, there are still plenty of ways to cool off. Central Florida is home to dozens of freshwater springs, thanks to the state's heavy rainfall and porous limestone bedrock. They're not geothermal hot springs, so the water in them is never too hot, and since the water is filtered through the limestone, it's always clean and crystal clear. Dive into some of our favorite springs across the state!
Madison Blue Springs is tucked away in a shady forest, along the banks of the Withlacoochee River, and the park itself has picnic tables, bathrooms and even a shower that swimmers can use to hose off after a nice dip in the spring. They've even got a dock that you can jump off of, and it also makes for amazing scuba diving, if you're certified. The limestone basin that houses the swimming hole is 82 feet long, 25 feet deep, and totally filled with refreshing, crystal clear spring water. The water comes from a first-magnitude spring, which means it discharges at least 2800 liters of fresh H2O every second.
Lafayette Blue Springs flows into the Suwanee River, making it the perfect place for tubing. The spring itself is deep and wide, and shaded by Spanish moss and oak trees. It's also great for scuba diving and swimming, and features a dock to jump off as well. The state park also features some pretty awesome cabins that you can rent out... they're built on stilts, offering amazing views of the treetops, and even have screened-in porches with swings.
If you're looking for a spring that will take your breath away with its beauty, head to Ichetucknee Springs. The headwater spring of the river is a National Natural Landmark, so you know it's going to impress. The park's Blue Hole is prime for scuba diving, but otherwise, tubing is a popular past time. Remember sunblock and a drink! And, if you're visiting in winter, you'll be able to take advantage of the excellent wildlife spotting here... keep your eyes peeled for adorable river otters, herons, turtles, and more.
Bring a snorkel to Ginnie Springs, because there's so much to see below the surface of the lush spring pool: caved in grottos, colorful fish, and more. You can canoe, kayak, and tube here, but they also offer scuba and PADI lessons and certification, so if you're aching to explore the underwater caves here, they make it easy. Plus, there are 7 different springs to explore here, each more stunning than the last! Bring your camping gear, because you'll want to spend as much time exploring as possible.
Devil's Den Springs is probably one of the most unique springs... it's located in a dry cave filled with ancient fossils. You can only snorkel or scuba dive here, but the snorkeling requires no experience or certification, and lets you see the underwater beauty of this gorgeous spring. It's a little pricier than other springs in the state, but it's a more secluded experience.
Rainbow Spring is Florida's fourth largest spring, and so you'll want to rent a canoe or kayak or bring a tube so you can fully experience all of the natural beauty here. Waterfalls, bubbling rivers, and lush plant life make this a stunning setting for some relaxing time in nature. Rainbow Spring tends to get pretty crowded, especially on weekends and during the summer, and frequently reaches capacity, so if you're planning on visiting, get here early!
You'll find something totally special at Homosassa Springs... manatees! You can spot the sea cows pretty much any day of the year, but they really come out in the winter. They have an underwater observatory, a visitor center, and daily manatee programs that provide tons of info on this adorable endangered species. It's a one-of-a-kind educational experience that you don't want to miss out on!
Another popular spring is Silver Springs State Park. You can appreciate the glassy spring waters from a canoe, from the boardwalks, or from the glass-bottomed boat that offers tours. The facilities here are super nice, thanks to the park's history as a privately-run tourist attraction, dating all the way back to the 19th century. It remains as beautiful and as wild as ever, though!
Salt Springs is also located in the semi-tropical Ocala National Forest. The water here has more minerals in it, making it slightly saline, hence the name "Salt Springs". They offer swimming, canoeing, fishing, and camping, plus the hiking opportunities throughout the rest of the National Forest are endless. The spring is pretty good sized, but it's popular, especially with campers. Oh, and you might want water shoes here!
So De Leon Springs State Park might not be home to the real life fountain of youth, it does have a lovely natural spring and some other really great attractions. You can swim, scuba, paddle, fish, and snorkel in the water, take the Fountain of Youth Eco/Heritage Boat Tour, and go for a hike along the trails. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to the park's Sugar Mill Restaurant, which is in a recreation of the 1830s mill and serves up cook-your-own pancakes and home-baked treats!
Kelly Park Rock Springs is the perfect refuge for those looking for an escape for the hustle and bustle of Orlando. Rent a tube and enjoy the gorgeous water here, or just dip your toes in. There's plenty of space to enjoy the spring here. They also have a small, quiet campground with some really outstanding amenities... just make sure to book a spot well in advance, as it fills up quickly!
If you're looking for a another place to soak, try Wekiwa Springs State Park. Turtles and birds like to hang out here and enjoy the fresh, cool water, as do tourists. If you're lucky, you might even spy a bear. If you're feeling adventurous, you can actually paddle from here to Rock Springs, which is totally fun. Wekiwa also has a nice campground, but unlike Rock Springs, Wekiwa's picnic area has a bar!
And, of course, there's Blue Spring State Park. Swimming is off-limits during the winter, but it's still worth a visit during the colder months, because the spring closes so that manatees can come warm up here. Some days, you might even be able to see hundreds at once! During the summer, you can canoe and tube in the water as well.
Banner Photo Credit: Wikipedia