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Instead of fighting the crowds at the theme parks this summer, take the kids to one of Florida’s beautiful natural springs for a day of outdoor adventures. Florida is home to more than 700 springs, where shimmering shades of bright blue and emerald waters are perfect for taking a plunge or hopping in a kayak or canoe. From 72-degree swimming holes to a paddler’s paradise, here are the best Florida springs to take the kids this summer.
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Considered one of the most beautiful springs in the Sunshine State, Three Sisters Springs is a swimmers and snorkelers paradise. While it is a hotspot for manatees in winter, in summer you’ll find crystalline waters that are great for swimming, kayaking and canoeing. Crystal River is known for its abundance of freshwater springs that originate in Kings Bay and its many native and migratory species, while the 1.5 miles of scenic nature trails that surround Three Sisters Springs reveals impressive views of the area.
An iconic state park that dates back to 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs is world-famous for their unique underwater theater and enchanting mermaid shows. It’s also a great place to enjoy outdoor adventures with the entire family, as its crystal clear 72-degree waters are perfect for an afternoon of swimming, snorkeling and river cruising. Take a kayak or canoe paddle downstream and spot bald eagles, turtles and a variety of birds or visit the kid-friendly water park called Buccaneer Bay and enjoy thrilling water slides.
The newest addition to Florida State Parks, Gilchrist Blue Springs is home to a beautiful display of natural springs. This natural wonder is the perfect spot for an outdoor adventure, from paddling and snorkeling to wildlife watching along the boardwalk in the quiet rural 250-acre area. Pack your sunscreen and enjoy a family-friendly day in this picturesque park, where outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, picnicking or jumping from a huge wooden platform into the cool, crystalline waters.
Located in Fort White just northwest of Gainesville, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a great place for a summer adventure with the kids. While summer can get crowded, visit early or on a weekday and spend a day tubing down the crystal clear springs. Its six miles of shaded hammocks and wetlands offer a lush canopy of live oak and cypress trees. Swimming, snorkeling and canoeing are also popular throughout its eight major springs, while hiking and spotting white-tailed deer and great blue herons are perfect for adventurous families.
Boasting mesmerizing landscapes, take the kids this summer to Ginnie Springs in High Springs to see some of the clearest springs in the state. It’s hard to not be lured in by the 200 acres of natural beauty lining the banks of the Santa Fe River, as the entire family can get excited about a day of canoeing, tubing and snorkeling. Snorkeling adventures offer a glimpse of colorful schools of fish and turtles, or you can spot the area’s diverse wildlife from a stand-up paddleboard.
Officially a state park since the 1930s, Rainbow Springs actually has evidence that people have been enjoying it for over 10,000 years. Walk through the moss-covered Cypress trees to spot floral gardens, impressive waterfalls, and five main springs before indulging in a refreshing dip in the natural swimming pool. Families looking to relax can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking, while more adventurous visitors can grab a tube and paddle through the river or hike one of the trails known for spotting fox squirrels, turkeys, and deer.
Another historic natural wonder, Silver Glen Springs is a recreation area and important archaeological site located in the Ocala National Forest. Contrasting the surrounding forests of oak, cedar, and pines, the blue-green waters are great for swimming, snorkeling and canoeing. Floating above the shallow sandy bottom of this spring you will find a mix of fresh and saltwater fish to admire. It is no wonder that this spot was popular with Native Americans and European settlers dating back 7,000 years ago.
Just a short drive outside of Orlando sits Wekiwa Springs State Park, a 7,800-acre stretch of land where nature-loving families can enjoy a pleasant summer day of soaking up Central Florida’s natural beauty and hop in the 72-degree waters for an afternoon swim. Its gentle currents are great for families with kids, where you can lounge on a floatie and enjoy stunning views of centuries-old trees at this Old Florida attraction.
One of Florida’s newest state parks, Madison Blue Spring State Park sits between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Home to a first magnitude spring, it is home to an 82 foot wide and 25-foot deep spring that bubbles up into a limestone basin along the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. Walk along the paths that lead to the spring and admire the view from the rock platforms, then hop in the spring with your inflatables and tubes. There’s also a wooden platform with steps for swimmers.
Perfect for a day of swimming, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park in Crawfordville boasts 6,000 acres of natural surroundings. You’ll find one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world here, which flow into the Wakulla River. Let the kids do cannonballs off the wooden jumping tower, hop on one of the popular glass-bottom boat tours guided by park rangers or relax on the sunbathing platforms amid the clear, cool spring waters.
Located in North Florida, the idyllic crystal clear waters in Jackson Blue Springs Park are perfect for swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding and diving, while its scenic landscapes offer a glimpse of some of Florida’s diverse birdlife. This beautiful park is also a great family-friendly destination with its extensive list of on-site facilities, where you can play a game at the volleyball courts, let them loose in the children’s playground or relax on the park benches and picturesque beach area. During the summer season, lifeguards keep watch of the designated swimming area.