When people think of visiting Florida, most people imagine white sandy beaches and cities like Miami, or the theme parks of Central Florida, but Florida has so much more to offer, and one of those is natural springs! North and Central Florida are full of natural cold springs, filled by the aquifer that Florida sits on! All the springs sit around 72 degrees F year round and are the perfect way to cool off in the Florida heat! From snorkeling and diving, to floating down a natural lazy river, and seeing lots of Florida wildlife (including manatees and alligators!), there's a spring for everyone to enjoy! While there are countless numbers of springs around the state, here are the 10 best Florida natural springs that you need to visit on your next vacation!
Located 30 miles from both Orlando and Daytona, Blue Springs is one of the best natural springs to visit if you want a little bit of everything. The spring offers swimming, diving, floating, and a picnic area, and is a quick getaway from well populated areas in Florida. If you go during the right season, you may even see manatees swim up into the spring! You can swim with them, but make sure not to touch them!
If you go diving at Blue Springs, you will descend into the spring head to around 60 feet (if you're open water certified). Cave certified divers can descend all the way to the cave's depth of 120 feet. But even if you're not cave certified, this spring offers a beautiful dive with cavernous overhangs on either side, and fallen trees crossing the spring head. It's a gorgeous dive, but be warned - you do have to carry your equipment pretty far from the parking lot, up the river, to the spring head.
For snorkeling, swimming, and floating, the spring offers all three! Try your hand at snorkeling over the spring head while watching divers descend, or just enjoy swimming in the cool water. If you bring a tube, you can float down the river from the swimming area back towards the parking lot. This is a great spring to visit if you only have time to visit one, and want to experience a little bit of everything!
Just outside of Ocala, Rainbow Springs is one that has been on my list for a while, but one I haven't had a chance to make it to yet! With a large swimming and wading area, the spring does not allow tubes or kayaks in the swimming area. Further down the river, you'll see lots of tubes and people floating down the river. Rainbow Springs offers more than just the swimming and tubing areas though, it is one of the only natural springs to offer waterfalls! With 3 waterfalls on property, and an entrance fee of only a couple dollars, Rainbow Springs is definitely one you need to add to your list!
A prehistoric sinkhole led to the formation of this gorgeous underground spring, and is definitely a bucket list destination that should be added to your Florida Springs list! Devil's Den is a dive resort, so price of admission is a bit higher than some of the other springs on this list.
Now this spring isn't one that you can just drive up to on a whim, at the time of writing this (July 2021), you need a reservation and snorkel or dive gear. No recreational swimming is allowed. For a snorkel reservation, you are allotted 90 minutes to snorkel and enjoy the spring. When we visited, we stayed on property longer than the 90 minutes, but not by much. The water is pretty cold, and the snorkel area is pretty limited, so 90 minutes is a good amount of time to visit the spring! If you don't have your own snorkel equipment, there are rentals available on property!
If you are dive certified, Devil's Den also offers an open water dive, to a depth of 54 feet. Reservations are required, and after speaking to another diver, a guide is definitely recommended!
Three Sisters Springs
Located on the West coast of Florida, Three Sisters Springs is located just off of Crystal River, and is a great place to see manatees! Crystal River is known for having manatees, and these big "sea cows" love to hangout near the spring during the colder months.
If you follow your GPS to the park surrounding the spring, you may find yourself disappointed at the fact that you cannot actually swim in the spring. from the parking lot, there is only an observation boardwalk, but no way to actually get into the water. If you want to swim in the spring, you're going to have to access it by water. There are various tour boats that you can hop onto, or you can rent some kayaks and bring yourself to the spring! When I visited with friends, we rented from Captain Mike's Kayak Rentals, and I would definitely recommend them!
Once you make it to the spring, there's plenty of room to snorkel and swim around, I'd definitely recommend bringing your snorkel gear, especially if there are manatees! Make sure to respect the no swim manatee rest areas, and do not feed or touch them!
One of the first "floating springs" on this list, Ginnie Springs is one of Florida's natural springs that is actually located off of a brackish river. With three spring heads to visit, you'll usually start your float on Devil's Ear Spring, and make your way into the Santa Fe River. You'll notice a big temperature jump from the cold 72 degree water to the warm, brackish Santa Fe River water, as well as a drastic color change. As you float down the river, you'll then come to a second spring, this one is actually Ginnie Springs, and is the largest of the 3 on property. Spend time snorkeling around before floating down to spring number 3, Dogwood Spring. This one is covered with the overhanging tree canopy, and is a great shady spot for a snack!
While Ginnie offers three springs to enjoy, it is probably one of the most crowded, and unfortunately, can reflect on the quality of the surrounding nature. If you go, try and pick up any trash that you may see, and encourage others to do the same! It's not one to miss though, especially if you plan on camping - the campsites are popular and pretty well tucked into the woods, or even right next to the natural waterways!
Another floating spring on the list, and not too far from Ginnie Springs, Ichetucknee Springs may also be the hardest to pronounce! (Don't worry, it's pronounced itch-uh-tuck-knee). Located near Gainesville, the river is definitely a popular spot for college kids, locals, and visitors alike. Rent a tube from up the road or bring your own into the park. Do note that you are not allowed to bring anything that could be considered garbage to the rangers. They DO check your bags. Reusable bottles are okay! I would definitely recommend bringing a dry bag and a GoPro or waterproof camera for the river float!
There are two entrances to float on the river. The furthest North entrance will take you about 3.5 hours to float to the south entrance, while the midpoint entrance is only about an hour and a half. If you have all day, pack snacks and lots of water in your dry bag, otherwise the midpoint launch is definitely doable! You will have to hike back to the parking lot with all your gear, but from the midpoint, the hike was only about 20 minutes.
Another dive resort, Blue Grotto is an awesome spot for those that are dive certified. Unfortunately for those that are not, no snorkeling is allowed. Similar to Devil's Den and Blue Springs, this spring has a cavern underwater that you can dive, even if you are only open water certified! Cave divers can venture further into the lower cavern. This is a great spot for one of your earlier dives, as you get to dive into a "ballroom" sized cavern, with a pressurized air bell at the top of the cavern, so you can even take your regulator out and chat with your dive buddies! On property, you can find covered picnic tables, tent and cabin camping as well, so it's perfect for either a day trip, or a weekend getaway!
Silver Springs is a spring I visited often growing up as a kid. Unlike the other springs on the list, this spring is much more built up, with walls surrounding the spring head, and a bustling campground. At one point, there was even a small amusement park on property, which was actually Florida's first tourist attraction, built in the 1870s! The spring is "famous" for having glass bottom boat tours, but you can enjoy the river by kayak, paddle board, or even your own boat!
Further down the river, there are some rope swings you can enjoy to cool off under the warm Florida sun! Keep your eyes peeled in the trees for the wild macaque monkeys that have been living in the area since the 1930s. Brought to the area for a live action Tarzan film, the monkeys still reside in the area, even though they never made it into the film!
Not to be confused with Silver Springs, Silver Glen is located in the Ocala National forest and only an hour and 20 min from St. Augustine. The spring feeds into Lake George, Florida's second largest lake, and offers plenty of space for swimming and wading. The grounds offer lots of picnic tables, hiking trails, and big birds (buzzards, as we call them in the south, otherwise known as vultures) that like to steal your food. Make sure to pack your snacks away into a cooler or container that closes tight! The spring has plenty of space for swimming, although free diving is not allowed. The spring head has a really strong upward current, so swimming towards it is actually pretty difficult! There is a lifeguard on duty, so this is a great spot for families with children. Although the spring is large, it can get a bit crowded at times, so just be prepared to wait to get photos at some of the more popular photo spots.
One of the highlights of visiting Silver Glen, aside from the spring itself, is wandering on some of the trails offered. Some lead all the way to Lake George, while others bring you to the "Sand Boils." The hike to the sand boils is short, and definitely worth it to see how springs are formed over millions of years! Silver Glen has a little bit of something to offer for everyone, and is a great place to spend a day with friends and family!
Rock Springs Run
Florida's natural spring that has been on my bucket list for AGES is Rock Springs Run. Located just north of Orlando in Kelly Park, this spring is Florida's natural lazy river. As the name suggests, the spring is filled with large rocks, so a tough tube is definitely necessary! Don't bother bringing your own, rent one from up the road and drive into Kelly Park with one of the hard tubes the little restaurant offers.
I haven't gotten the chance to experience the spring yet, because the area is very small and can reach capacity early in the morning. When we arrived, they had cut off entrance about 40 minutes before we arrived. If at capacity, park rangers will block the entrance and prevent anyone from entering. If you want to experience this spring, definitely plan to be there early, or try and snag a return pass from the rangers, and hang out in the surrounding areas.
Also note, that your GPS may lead you the wrong way if you don't put in the correct spring. There is Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park (the correct one) and Rock Springs Run Preserve. The map below has the correct one, so learn from our mistakes of driving in circles trying to figure out how to make it to the preserve, and just head to Kelly Park. This spring is still on my list, and I'm hoping to make it there this summer!