Many folks don’t know this but Florida has more scenic beauty to offer than just its beautiful Gulf beaches, historic cities and sultry nightlife. Even though all of those things yes I know - sound amazing - you might be surprised to know that we also has some of the purest springs in the country. If kayaking down a crystal clear spring, basking in the sunshine while listening to music completely surrounded by vegetation and wildlife sound like a good day to you - then you need to come to Florida. By the way, that is EXACTLY how some of my favorite summer afternoons play out!
Just please for the love of God DO NOT touch the manatees or pollute our waterways with trash. Many state parks prohibit plastic of any kind entering the springs because people tend to ruin things - please remember this when visiting. The Florida springs are a precious ecosystem for wildlife and we must always remember that we are only guests in their home. Appreciate these gentle giants from a distance and be a good human.
Blue Springs State Park: Orange City
Blue springs is the largest spring on the St. Johns River and it stays a cool 73 degrees year round. Like most of the florida springs, it is a designated Manatee Refuge and a winter home to the growing population of West Indian Manatees. There are so many ways to experience the state park. Enjoy seasonal swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, narrated river cruises, kayak tours, walking trails,picnic pavilions, outdoor grills and those are just a FEW activities to be had at Blue Springs. You can even spend the night at the park for those outdoor lovers -check their website for updates and applicable fees for your overnight stay.
Three Sister Springs: Crystal River:
Located in the heart of Crystal River, Florida - Three Sisters Springs is probably one of the BEST place to spot the manatees, especially during the winter months mid November to late March. Please be aware that harassing the wildlife is strictly prohibited. Many people think that it is ok to ‘swim with the manatees’ but you can get a hefty fine while disrupting nature so be a good human and do not touch. The manatee sanctuaries are marked with signs and swimming, paddling and other human activities are prohibited - but if your snorkeling you will have an amazing opportunity to see the manatees outside the roped off areas! They are the sea puppies of the springs and they are so interesting to watch and if you’re lucky enough you will spot a mama with her baby - awhh. I do advise getting to the springs early as kayak rentals are due at 4PM sharp!
Ginnie Springs: High Springs
There are several ways to enjoy Ginnie Springs - float, camp or dive into your next adventure! Perhaps the best cave systems ( and most infamous) known to the Florida are here at Ginnie. Certified divers can explore the Devils Spring System, the Ginnie Ballroom and the Santa Fe River.
The Devil’s Spring System consists of 3 different springs: Devil’s Eye, Devil’s Ear and Devil Spring (“Little Devil”). Devil Spring is a four-foot-wide fracture at the head of the spring system and it is 50 feet long and almost as deep. Divers brave enough to descend to the bottom of this crack will be rewarded with a breath-taking view as they look skyward - gasp! As beautiful as that sounds it sounds super intimidating don’t you think?
The chief attraction at the Ginnie Spring Basin is the Ginnie Cavern, whose wide entrance can be found at the bottom of the basin. Ginnie Cavern is among the handful of sites that experts consider sufficiently safe to allow exploration by divers who lack formal cavern or cave diver training. Are you brave enough to explore the basin?
During the dry summer months and peak season, the visibility in the Santa Fe River can reach 30 to 40 feet or more. Most divers enter the water at the Devil Spring system and drift dive the nearly 1,000 feet to Ginnie Spring for an interesting trip. Be on the lookout for some pretty interesting fossils from prehistoric mammals.
Silver Glenn Springs: Ocala
I cannot imagine a nicer place to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Ocala National Forest than Silver Glen Springs. The river is one of the most beautiful and peaceful rivers you will ever paddle as it is protected land within the National Park. With three launching points, you have the option to paddle the entire 5.4 mile river, or enjoy shorter sections at your leisure. There is also a glass bottom boat named the "Chief Coahajo" that gives a phenomenal tour of the springs without getting wet! A hiking trail has been added that takes you along a three-mile round trip to a bluff along Lake George. The trail begins near a historic village and follows the spring to one of Florida’s largest lakes. Although hiking in Florida does not offer any uphill mountainous trekking, it does offer amazing views - be on the lookout for alligators and other wildlife while on the trail.
Ichetucknee River: fort white
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. Although well-known for its warm weather tubing, the 2,669-acre Ichetucknee Springs State Park is also a wildlife haven, where beaver, otter, gar, softshell turtle, wild turkey, wood duck and limpkin all find a home. The main draw is the park’s eight major crystalline springs that join together to create the six-mile Ichetucknee River.
This spring is also home to the Blue Hole - an intricate cave system sought out by many! This complex cave system has been measured at nearly 600 feet of twisting passages, some large and cavernous, others with barely enough room to turn around. Intrigued or scare? Yup, thats a no for me! Whether you experience this fantastic spring at the surface, or far below it, Blue Hole is an experience not easily forgotten.
Rainbow Springs: Dunnellon
Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years. Rainbow Springs is also the fourth largest spring in the state. 5.7 miles long river that merges with the Withlacoochee River in Dunnellon, Florida. It’s also a designated National Natural Landmark, aquatic preserve, and Outstanding Florida Waterway. Rainbow Springs feels like an untouched piece of history that you just won’t find anywhere else. The gardens around the head spring are beautiful to walk through. In early spring, the azalea plants are in full bloom and the colors are just gorgeous! You can also find the waterfall - and trust me, there isn't many of those here in Florida. Rainbow Springs is one of my favorites!