Plan a Date to Explore the Best Springs in Florida

Florida is well-known for its theme parks, abundant sunshine, and sparkling coastlines. But Florida’s springs are an often overlooked natural wonder. Refreshingly cool crystal clear waters, wildlife viewing opportunities, and aquatic activities like tubing and kayaking make Florida springs the perfect day trip year round. And there are dozens to explore! We’ve compiled everything you need to know into one place, including information about Florida springs, which Florida springs are closest to Orlando, and which ones are definitely worth the drive.

Info About Florida Springs

Did you know there are more than 700 Florida springs located throughout the state? The wealth of natural beauty surrounding us in Central Florida is astounding. As an added bonus, many springs are located within Florida State Parks. For a small entry fee, you’ll be able to soak up the scenery while enjoying the additional amenities provided by our state park system.

Florida springs are popular year round, but especially so in the steamy summer months. Floridians looking for a reprieve from the heat flock to the springs because the water is a refreshing 67 – 72 degrees year-round, at most springs. While swimming is a popular pastime, other activities include tubing (at select Florida springs only), manatee watching, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. Many springs located within state parks also have hiking trails, and some even have overnight accommodations.

When visiting Florida springs, it’s important to do your part to aid in their protection. Simple actions like cleaning up your trash, choosing sunscreen free of harmful chemicals, and using reusable water bottles instead of plastic all make a difference in preserving our state’s natural playgrounds.

Springs in Florida Near Orlando

Wekiwa Springs, Apopka

Distance from Orlando: 30 minutes
Highlights: Kayaking, Wekiva Island, swimming

Wekiwa Springs State Park‘s beautiful spring waters made for Central Florida’s first tourist attraction, with a bathhouse and hotel established in 1870. The swimming area is an average depth of four feet, making for a relaxing, refreshing dip. Bring a picnic and beach gear to really enhance your experience. There are over 25 miles of hiking trails too! We love arriving early, renting a canoe or kayak, and then cooling off for the afternoon in the refreshing spring water. You can launch your canoe or kayak from the springs area, follow the Wekiva River for about a mile, and then you’ll come across Weikva Island, Florida’s best outdoor bar. Weekends are very popular. Admission is $6 per vehicle.

Kelly Park / Rock Springs Run, Apopka

Distance from Orlando: 30 minutes
Highlights
: Tubing, King’s Landing, gorgeous scenery

Located north of Orlando, Kelly Park is popular with tubers eager to float down the short but serene 3/4-mile tube run. Pack a picnic and stake out a sunny spot in the grass along the water after you’ve had your fill of floating down the crystal clear water. Tube rentals are available outside the park from multiple vendors (or bring your own tube — must be less than 5 feet in length or width), and park admission is $3 – $5. We recommend visiting during the week or outside of the busy summer season (October is a surprisingly great time to tube!). If you do visit in the summer, be sure to arrive very early (before 10am) as the park fills up quickly.

If tubing isn’t your thing, pass the entrance to Kelly Park and continue to King’s Landing where you can rent kayaks and hit the water. Keep your eyes out for playful otters, turtles, birds and other wildlife. Several local kayaking companies also launch guided tours from this area.

Kayaking Rock Springs Run | Image credit: Get Up and Go Kayaking

Blue Spring, Orange City

Distance from Orlando: 55 minutes
Highlights: Manatee viewing, boardwalk, boat tours

Blue Spring State Park is located in Orange City, Florida and is best known for its incredible manatee watching on cold winter days. In the spring and summer when the manatees have gone, you can snorkel, swim, or scuba dive in the crystalline waters. Take a walk along the hiking trail or lovely boardwalk winding through the woods and along the water’s edge to the headwaters of the spring. A camp store and concession stand offer good, basic food, or bring along a picnic. There is also a guided river boat tour along the St. Johns River. This park is very popular on the weekends, especially in manatee season. Admission is $6 per vehicle.

De Leon Springs State Park, De Leon Springs

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Highlights: Old Spanish Sugar Mill DIY pancakes, swimming

Make your own pancake breakfast, swim in the cool 72-degree spring water, wander the peaceful hiking trails (including a half-mile wheelchair-accessible paved nature trail), and soak up rich history at the small museum exhibit. You can do all of this and more at De Leon Springs State Park. But perhaps the most popular activity is making your own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill for $5.50 per person. Admission is $6 per vehicle.

Other Springs in Florida Near Orlando

Sometimes you just need a little time in Florida’s natural beauty without heading to one of the major landmarks. You can explore a few local Central Florida springs that are lowkey and relaxing. Please note the following local springs have recreational areas and facilities, however, swimming is not an option at these locations.

Florida Springs Worth the Drive From Orlando

Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest

Swimming is ideal at Juniper Springs, but there are a few features that make this park worth the trip from Orlando. Its location within the Ocala National Forest provides one of the vastest encounters with Florida’s natural beauty. There is also a millhouse with a working waterwheel that adds a unique charm. A limestone wall acts as an inviting entrance into the crystal clear waters. There is also Juniper Creek, which offers 7 miles of canoeing or kayaking, and a 1-mile hiking trail that leads to another spring, Fern Hammock Spring. Admission is $8 on weekdays, $11 on weekends.

Alternatively, Alexander Springs is also within the Ocala National Forest area. Camping, swimming, snorkeling, hiking and canoeing are popular activities here. Notably, Alexander Springs is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted.

Rainbow Springs, Dunnellon

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 15 minutes
Highlights: Tubing

Rainbow Springs is located in Dunnellon, Florida and offers some of the best tubing near Orlando. For a glorious day in the sun spent swimming or tubing for hours, you just can’t beat the Rainbow River. Visiting Rainbow Springs State Park allows you to experience multiple aquatic adventures, from swimming in the 72-degree headsprings to renting a canoe or kayak to explore the scenic river. While tubing is not permitted within the headsprings area of the park, tubers can float down the Rainbow River by way of a separate tubing entrance. Tube rentals are $20 (plus a $2 park entry fee) and the experience lasts about 2 hours. Hours vary depending on the time of year, so check the website ahead of time.

For a longer tube run (we’re talking 4-4.5 hours of floating!), KP Hole is an alternate park nearby offering tube rentals.

Guide to Rainbow River Tubing at KP HoleTubing the Rainbow River from KP Hole

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Crystal River

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 30 minutes
Highlights: Manatee viewing

Crystal River is one of the best places in the state to view the Florida manatee. In fact, it’s also the only place in which you’re permitted to swim with manatees while on a guided tour. Three Sisters Springs is a fantastic place to observe manatees on foot from the winding boardwalks, which offer views of the springs full of manatees in the colder winter months. If you’d rather view these gentle giants from the water, book a manatee snorkeling tour (in season) or join a guided kayaking tour in clear kayaks with Get Up and Go Kayaking. Tour options include visits to Three Sisters Springs, Hunter Springs, and Jurassic Springs. The most unique feature of this tour is, of course, getting an unobstructed view of the manatees directly below your kayak.

Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 45 minutes
Highlights: Glass bottom boat tours

You’ll find Silver Springs State Park located in Silver Springs, just under 2 hours from Orlando. This park’s claim to fame goes beyond the typical swimming, paddling, and hiking available at most Florida springs. While swimming isn’t permitted, you can experience this spring best from aboard one of the park’s beloved glass bottom boat tours, allowing you to observe what’s in the water below. These 30-minute tours are offered daily, with extended 90-minute tours available on weekends. Park admission is $8/car and boat tours are $12-$25/person, depending on which tour you choose.

Weeki Wachee Springs, Spring Hill

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 45 minutes
Highlights: Mermaid show, natural spring waterpark, kayaking

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is best known for its iconic mermaid show offered twice a day at 11am and 3pm. While this is a must-see at least once, there’s so much more to explore at this Florida State Park, including an impressive water park, canoe and kayak rentals to paddle the Weeki Wachee River, boat tours and so much more. You can splash and play in the spring at Buccaneer Bay (open seasonally), the natural waterpark complete with water slides, swimming and snorkeling. Alternatively, rent a tandem kayak to paddle 5.5 miles of the Weeki Wachee River. Admission is $13.

Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid showWeeki Wachee mermaids | Image credit: Florida State Parks / photo by Phillip Grierson

Homosassa Springs, Homosassa

Distance from Orlando: 1 hour 45 minutes
Highlights: Manatee viewing, unique wildlife

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park combines everything you love about Florida State Parks into one visit. What started off as a tourist attraction in the 1950s has now grown to be a Florida State Park. The history is quite fascinating, and remants of the old roadside attraction are apparent in places. While swimming isn’t permitted, there are natural walkways and landscapes to explore, plus abundant opportunities to see wildlife. Spot manatees in the winter, plus rescued wildlife like flamingos, pelicans, owls, turtles, otters, alligators, deer, and more. There are a small number of manatees year round that are kept at the park as they are not fit to return to the wild. Admission is $13 per person ages 5 and older. Weekends are especially busy.

Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring, Williston

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours
Highlights: Snorkeling and diving, unique scenery

While most springs in Florida offer swimming, Devil’s Den is unique in that it is open for snorkeling and diving only. It’s also seriously photo-worthy, as the spring is located underground in a cave with a huge opening into the blue sky above. This illuminates the clear spring water below as you snorkel or dive. Keep your eyes out for wildlife like turtles and fish. Snorkeling and diving are available by appointment only. Admission for snorkelers is $15 – $22, and rental gear is available for an additional $12. Planning on diving? Admission is $38 for divers, and full rental gear is $45.

Swimming at Devi's DenImage credit: Natalie Monzon @roamsick

Ichetucknee Springs, Fort White

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours
Highlights: Tubing

Crystal clear, 72-degree spring-fed water and a fantastic tube run make Ichetucknee Springs State Park one of the state’s best tubing spots. Choose your own adventure for a float as short as 45 minutes to as long as 2 hours, depending on where you choose to exit. Tube rentals are available online in advance, or you can bring along your own or rent from vendors outside the park. Expect to pay around $15 in addition to the $6 park entry fee. Other park activities include hiking, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking and more.

Ginnie Springs, High Springs

Distance from Orlando: 2 hours 15 minutes
Highlights: Cave diving, tubing

Located near Gainesville, Ginnie Springs is one of the only places where certified divers can go cave diving in Florida. For a more leisurely activity, rent tubes and relax as you float down the Santa Fe River with your love. The facility also offers overnight rental cottages, campsites, and picnicking if you’d like to turn your visit into a weekend getaway. Admission is $15 – $20 depending on the time of year, and rentals are available for an additional fee.

Are there alligators in Florida springs?

If you’re a Floridian, chances are you already know that alligators can be present in any body of water in Florida. We have seen baby alligators in Florida springs before.

In short, alligators are always a possibility. That being said, Florida springs that are especially popular for swimming and tubing are generally close to the public if alligators are present. Many swimming areas also feature netting to provide an added layer of safety.

Your best bet is to always err on the side of caution and assess your personal comfort level. Opt for an activity like canoeing, kayaking, or hiking instead of tubing or swimming if that feels more in your comfort zone. We also recommend checking out this resource on living with alligators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. If you’re visiting Florida from another state, it’s especially important to educate yourself about alligators and familiarize yourself with safety tips. And please, never ever feed or approach an alligator or any wildlife for that matter.

Explore More Springs in Florida