Florida is known for its beautiful beaches, but did you know that the state is also home to over 700 natural springs? These springs are fed by underground aquifers and are some of the purest water in the world. They offer a variety of activities for visitors, from swimming and snorkeling to hiking and kayaking. Here are my top 5 natural springs to visit in Central Florida:
1. Wekiva Springs State Park
Wekiva Springs State Park is located just a short drive from Orlando and is a great place to cool off on a hot day. The spring is open for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and picnicking from 8am to sundown, 365 days a year. The lawn around the spring is huge, so pack a blanket to spread out. The water is crystal clear and a chilly 72 degrees, so be prepared. The underwater terrain has a sandy bottom with rocky outcrops. The lush vegetation is filled with fish and turtles to see. Make sure you swim down and check out the cave where the water flows in. There are also hiking trails and canoeing and kayaking rentals available. I highly recommend a second day trip just to kayak the river.
2. Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs State Park is located in Dunnellon, Florida and is home to the Rainbow River, which is one of the most popular springs in the state. The river is crystal clear and perfect for swimming, tubing, and kayaking. I highly recommend tubing the springs at this park. It’s prohibited at the headsprings, but you can park at the tubing entrance on SW 180th Ave and rent a tube. The shuttle will take you two miles upstream and you can enjoy the afternoon relaxing on the two-hour float back. There are also hiking trails and a campground available at the park.
3. Rock Springs at Kelly Park
Rock Springs at Kelly Park is located in Apopka, Florida and is another great place to experience a relaxing day tubing. Just outside the park there are a couple of places to rent a tube if needed and shuttle service is not needed. This is a short run with a boardwalk walking path to get back to the beginning. The water is crystal clear and mostly sandy, but wear water shoes for the best experience. I’ve found the rocks getting in can be slippery. At Rock Springs, you’re going to love this true lazy river experience.
4. Juniper Springs Recreation Area
Juniper Springs Recreation Area is located in Ocala National Forest about 30 minutes from the city of Ocala and is home to the Juniper River, which is one of the most pristine rivers in Florida. I’ve had the pleasure of camping here many times and it’s one of my favorites. The springs are much like Wekiva with a large grass area to picnic and sunbathe. Snorkeling is epic with abundant fish and turtles. The highlight of this spring is the option to kayak or canoe the Juniper Run. This is some world-class kayaking and can get pretty technical at times, but well worth the six-hour trip. Bucket list in my opinion. There are also hiking trails and a campground available at the park.
5. Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park is located in Orange City, Florida and is home to the largest spring in the state. Swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are perfect for the spring. The big attraction at this park is the winter migration of manatees. On any given day, hundreds will gather in the springs and while it’s closed for swimming, you can hang out on an observation deck and see them. There are also hiking trails and a campground available at the park.