It’s summertime in Florida, which means temperatures that can reach well into the 90s and heat indexes that can spike even higher. While only some of Central Florida’s waterparks have reopened amid coronavirus shutdowns, families are likely wondering: What’s a safe way to cool off?
Florida’s natural springs, which number in the hundreds statewide, have always been a popular choice for beating the summer heat. But they seem like an especially appealing choice now when trying to seek outdoor escapes and still practice social distancing.
Many of the state’s natural water features are managed by state parks, while others are situated within national forests or are privately owned. Here are Florida springs worth visiting this summer.
Blue Spring State Park
Find a beautiful, spring-fed oasis just 45 minutes north of Orlando at Blue Spring State Park. Pack tubes or snorkeling gear and fight the current up to the spring head before floating lazily back down the spring run. Or free dive down toward the first-magnitude spring that discharges around 100 million gallons of 72-degree water daily.
Though Blue Spring is known for its manatee population in winter, it also makes for a great summer oasis for humans looking to cool off. Admission is $6 per vehicle. Be sure to show up early, especially on weekends, to ensure entry.
Just a stone’s throw from Orlando, Wekiwa Springs presents a big, clear natural swimming hole for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Set up blankets or chairs on a large hillside bordering one side of the spring, or find a spot right at the water. Then dive in and explore the second-magnitude spring pumping out 43 million gallons of water per day.
Admission is $6 per vehicle. Be sure to show up early, especially on weekends and holidays, to ensure entry to the park.
De Leon Springs is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, even though there are no known records linking him to the spring. It was once called “Acuera” by the Mayaca Indians, meaning “healing waters.”
The spring-fed swimming hole gives visitors a chance to cool off by splashing around in or diving down into 72-degree water. During your visit, you can also make your own pancakes at the Sugar Mill Restaurant. Admission is $6 per car.
Address: 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in De Leon Springs
Representing the fourth-largest spring in Florida, Rainbow Springs produces 490 million gallons of water daily, which spills out into the Rainbow River and Withlacoochee River. Swim in the cool head springs or relax on a tube while floating down the spring run.
Alternatively, enjoy the spring waters and sights of flora and fauna aboard a canoe or kayak. Admission is $2 per person.
Situated within the Ocala National Forest, Juniper Springs is a hidden oasis for swimming, picnicking and camping built up for recreation by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Visitors can also check out the old mill house, which used to provide electricity for the campground.
For those wishing to see more of the Juniper spring run than swimming can allow, take to the waters in a kayak or canoe for a 7-mile paddle. Admission is $5.50 per person.
Visitors to Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest can enjoy a first-magnitude spring with 72-degree waters for swimming and recreation. The broad, shallow spring basin makes the swimming area easily accessible for visitors of all ages.
Picnicking is another good way to enjoy Alexander Springs while not actively splashing around. Additionally, kayaking and canoeing are popular activities along the spring run. Hiking and biking are also available. Admission is $6 per person.
Long known for its glass-bottom boat tours, Silver Springs has been a popular recreation area for visitors from far and wide for more than a century. Gaze down and see fish and turtles swimming below the boat on the popular tours.
Swimming is not allowed in the park due to the springs’ alligator population, but glass-bottom boat tours and paddle craft rentals are operating. Admission is $8 per vehicle, which does not include ticket prices for the boat tours or rentals.
Ichetucknee Springs takes some effort to get to from Central Florida, as the drive takes more than two hours. But it’s worth the serenity visitors will find while floating down a three-hour tube run while potentially spotting beavers, otter, gar, turtles and limpkin.
The spring run can also be paddled on canoe or kayak, which is just as enjoyable. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Devil’s Den is a prehistoric spring about 30 minutes outside of Gainesville, known as a popular spot among scuba divers. It’s also appreciated among snorkelers, but those who first discovered the swimming hole watched the steam rising from the spring and assumed it was Satan’s lair.
Since we now know that isn’t true, visitors travel in droves to check out this spring, which is estimated to be at least 10,000 years old. Snorkeling is now available by reservation only. Admission is $15 per person on weekdays and $22 per person on weekends and holidays. Snorkeling equipment rental is extra.
Situated about 45 minutes northwest of Gainesville, privately-owned Ginnie Springs welcomes in recreationists for swimming, diving, tubing, paddling and more. The springs are a haven for college-aged revelers and families alike.
A campground is also available on the property. Daily adult admission costs $14.02 Sunday-Wednesday and $19.40 Thursday-Saturday but could increase during holidays and holiday weekends.