Florida is typically known for its gorgeous white-sand beaches, but the abundance of natural springs found in the state are equally impressive.
Florida springs offer crystal clear, cool water that is perfect for swimming, tubing and kayaking year-round, but they are particularly refreshing in the heart of summer. Below are six springs, some nearby, others a bit of a drive, and all perfect spots to cool off on a hot summer day.
Lithia Springs Park is well-known for its natural springs, which flow year-round at a crisp 72 degrees into the Alafia River. It is a great spot to swim, but the park also offers fishing, volleyball, picnic tables with a playground within view. Camping is also available for those who want to extend their stay.
Location: 3932 Lithia Springs Rd., Lithia, FL 33547
Summer hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: $2 per vehicle park admission (up to 8 people); swimming $2 per person
Weeki Wachee may be known for their mermaids, but they are also a great spot to cool off in beautiful, brisk spring water. Here, guests of all ages can enjoy swimming, tubing, kayaking and tons of fun in Buccaneer Bay Water park, which includes a water slide, lazy river and kiddie pool all in gorgeous spring water. This is definitely not your typical water park. There is also a Wilderness River Cruise that runs daily from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Location: 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL 34606
Hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Cost: $13 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Ages 5 and under admitted free.
Rainbow Springs is roughly an hour and a half north of Tampa in Dunnellon. With its crisp, crystal clear water that flows into the Rainbow River, this is one of the most popular tubing destinations during the summer months. The adjacent spring is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, and the hiking trails that surround the spring feature some of the tallest waterfalls in Florida. This site is an easy day trip, but weekends are packed and the park closes when it reaches capacity. The best bet is to go on a weekday and to go early. For those hoping for a weekend, arrive before the park opens. Camping is available for those who don’t want to make an early drive.
Location: 19158 S.W. 81st Place Rd, Dunnellon FL 34432
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset, daily
Cost: Park entrance is $2 per person (under 6, free); Tubing is an additional cost.
This unique park just minutes from downtown Orlando features emerald springs feeding the Wekiwa River and lush tropical hammocks perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. The crystal-clear water is a refreshing 72 degrees year-round. The swimming area at the spring is just over a half-acre in size with an average depth of four feet and is surrounded by wide-open grassy spaces perfect for picnicking. This is also a great place to snorkel.
Location: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka FL 32712
Hours: 8 a.m.-sundown, daily
Cost: $6 per vehicle
This area features spring-fed rivers, lush canopies and cool swimming hole, making it a perfect spot for both tubing and swimming. Tubing is available year round. With two drop-in spots. Swimming is available at either Ichetucknee Spring (head spring) or Blue Hole Spring, but it’s important to note Blue Hole Spring is for experience swimmers only due to its depth and current. The area is also home to 2,669-acre Ichetucknee Springs State Park, which is a wildlife haven where beaver, otter, gar, softshell turtle, wild turkey, wood duck and limpkin all find a home. This area is a bit of a drive from Tampa, so book a campsite in advance to make the most of your stay.
Location: 12087 S.W. U.S. Hwy 27, Fort White, FL 32038
Hours: 8 a.m. to sundown, daily
Cost: $6 per vehicle; Tubing is an additional charge and information can be found here.
These springs, located in the Ocala National Forest, are a bit of a trek from Tampa, but worth the drive. Known for being one of the oldest recreation centers on the East coast, this place has it all. During the day, enjoy swimming snorkeling, picnicking, bird watching, paddling and hiking. This site tends to be packed on weekends and does close when capacity is reached. Make it a vacation by booking a camp site and arriving at the recreation area early in the day to take advantage of these gorgeous springs.
Location: 26701 E Highway 40, Silver Springs, FL 34488
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m., daily
Cost: $8 on weekdays and $11 on weekends; Camp sites are additional.
By Karen Ring