Anyone who has ever spent time in Florida in the summer knows how brutal our summers are here. It’s not just the heat, but as most of us know, it’s the humidity. Temperatures can reach the upper 90’s with humidity levels reaching almost 100%. The feels like temperatures reaching 110 degrees or higher. Just abysmal to even to life long residents. If you are not fortunate enough to visit one of Florida’s world famous beaches then my suggestion would be to take a trip to any of our natural springs located throughout the state.
Long before the mouse moved to Orlando, Florida’s main tourist attractions were the natural springs that attracted people as far back as the 1870’s. There are over 1000 springs throughout the state but we are going to trim the list down to the best 10 the state has to offer.
Florida’s most famous spring is Silver Springs State Park on the Silver River in Ocala. Known for it’s famous glass-bottomed boats this is a true taste of what real Florida is like. The spring has attracted visitors as far back as the 1870’s and is known as Florida’s first theme park. Back in the 1960’s there were over 1 million people a year visiting the park. Today the numbers have dwindled some but they still see a little less that 500,000 annual visitors. The park became a backdrop for the movies “Creature from a Black Lagoon” and “Tarzan” which further increased it’s popularity. Although you can’t swim in the water there are canoes, paddle boards, and kayaks for rent as well as tours on the popular glass-bottom boats. Admission to the park is just $2.
This spring was found by accident by a former Navy sailor and entrepreneur, Newton Perry in 1946. At the time it was filled with old cars and refrigerators but Newton saw potential and decided to clean it up and make it into a tourist attraction. He hired beautiful women, dressed them in mermaid costumes, taught them how to use breathing tubes and they performed under water ballet and other routines to entertain the audience. 70 years later they are still performing for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. There is a small water park called Buccaneer bay and a swimming area as well.
Many consider Three Sisters Springs one of the most beautiful springs in the entire state. Located in Crystal River it is home to many manatees from mid-November to late March every year. Due to the constant 72 degree waters the manatees come here to stay warm during the cooler winter months. There is snorkeling, diving, kayak and paddle craft accessibility here but there is no motorized boat access
The name came from early settlers who saw steam rising from a sinkhole. The name has stuck ever since. The underground water also stays a constant 72 degrees. The maximum depth of the cave reaches 54 feet and a maximum width of 120 feet at the surface. There is snorkeling and diving allowed in the area but entrance to the spring is limited so it may be a good idea to call a head of time. Early animal remains have been found here including sloths, mastodons, camels, dire wolves, horses, saber-toothed cats as well as human remains dating back 9500 years.
The spring is located in north Florida close to the Alabama border. It pumps nearly 77 million gallons of water per day designating it a First Magnitude Spring. You can enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and you can also book a cave diving experience. There are hotels in the area as well as camping if you want a more natural experience. When you are done swimming, head to Merrit’s Mill Pond for some world class fishing.
Sitting between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Madison Blue Springs is one of Florida’s newest parks. Like Jackson Blue springs it is a First Magnitude Spring that was voted the #1 swimming hole in the country in 2015 by USA Today. This spring also supplies water for Nestle company for it’s Deer Park and Zephyrhills brands. Visitors can enjoy swimming, scuba diving, kayaking and canoeing, fishing, hiking, picnic area, playground for the kids as well as wildlife viewing.
The state park is located in Dunellon and has three parts, the campground, the tubing entrance and the main headsprings entrance. It is believed that the spring has been used by humans for 10,000 years. This is one of our favorite places to rent a tube and float down the river. It is about a 4 hour float from the drop off point to the exit. Activities here include swimming, snorkeling, tubing, kayaking/canoeing, hiking, wildlife viewing, formal gardens, camping and a picnic area.
Known to many as one of the clearest and most popular springs in the state. it is also one of the largest springs at almost 200 feet wide. Because of it’s year-round temperatures it is considered a critical habitat for the manatee. The recreation area is used for swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, fishing and boating, however boating is not permitted in the spring pool area.
The park is located about 20 minutes north of Orlando in Apopka. This is a great location for kids because of it’s mild currents and shallow sandy depth. The spring is about 105 feet in diameter and about 5 feet deep. Available activities include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing, fishing, hiking, equestrian trails, wildlife viewing, picnic area, playground area for the kids, camping, group camping, youth camping and primitive camping
People have been inhabiting the are for over 6000 years but contrary to what the name suggests, there is no link between Ponce de Leon and this spring. The name was changed from Spring Garden after the Key West, Tampa, Jacksonville Railway was built in 1886 to attract tourists. It was advertised as a winter resort due to the springs possible healing powers and named the Fountain of Youth. Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are allowed in the spring run but swimming is only permitted in the spring pool.