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Central Florida is home to an array of crystal-clear springs where you can beat the heat at refreshing, 72-degree swimming holes and go paddling past lush foliage. Offering a range of outdoor activities throughout the year, these are some of the best springs in Florida to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, hiking and fishing. From manatee spotting to snorkeling in emerald waters, here are the top springs in Central Florida.
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The largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Springs State Park boasts 2,600 acres and is a manatee refuge. While swimming is not permitted during manatee season November through March, the springs comfortable 73-degree temperatures are perfect for an array of outdoor activities throughout the year. Swimming, kayaking and paddling are popular, as the forested banks and pale blue waters in the swimming hole is a quarter-mile of perfection. Boat tours also operate narrated nature and ecological excursions throughout the area.
A beautiful state park that’s perfect for outdoor-loving families, Weeki Wachee Springs is world-famous for its underwater theater and enchanting mermaid shows. More than just its kitschy nostalgia, this is a beautiful 538 acres of natural oasis is also a developed state park where you can go on outdoor adventures such as swimming, snorkeling and river cruising. Kayak or canoe downstream and spot bald eagles, turtles and a variety of birds or take the kids to the Buccaneer Bay water park to enjoy thrilling water slides.
Ever wanted to swim with manatees? The largest winter refuge for West Indian manatees on the Gulf Coast, Three Sisters Springs is a natural inlet on the east side of Kings Bay. With five natural springs, Lake Crystal and a lush wetland, this 57-acre natural oasis is known for its unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat, making it a prime manatee viewing spot. Hop on a trolley tour to the boardwalk to observe manatees or take a guided paddle or SUP tour to see them up close.
One of the last remaining near-pristine riverine systems in Central Florida, Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run offer crystal clear spring waters, lush green surroundings and undisturbed nature. Launch a canoe at the 8-mile long King’s Landing and enjoy the beauty of the river while traveling downstream at a steady rate of 3-4 miles per hour down Rock Springs Run. Animal lovers can spot wood storks in the towering cypress trees, little blue herons and tri-colored herons foraging along the banks.
Dating back 10,000 years, Rainbow Springs State Park is not only a historic park but boasts the fourth largest spring in Florida. 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. The more adventurous can grab a tube and paddle through the river or hike one of the trails known for spotting fox squirrels, turkeys, and deer.
At 72 degrees year-round, the highlight of De Leon Springs State Park is the beautiful spring that overlooks Spring Garden Run. Native Americans visited and used these springs as far back as 6,000 years ago before becoming one of Florida’s top outdoor recreation spots today. Rent a canoe or paddle boat, then paddle through the park’s trail where you’ll be able to explore the lakes, creeks and marshes of the 22,000-acre Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.
One of Florida’s most beautiful natural wonders, Silver Glen Springs is a recreation area and important archaeological site located in the Ocala National Forest. Complementing the lush foliage and 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 can spot a mix of fresh and saltwater fish. It’s no wonder that this area was popular with Native Americans and European settlers almost 7,000 years ago.
A hotspot for outdoor photographers and nature enthusiasts alike, the Ocala National Forest boasts 360,000 acres of scenic hiking trails and natural wonders, including Juniper Springs Recreational Area. Its landscapes are dotted with pine forests, gum swamps and cypress trees, where you can go on a hiking excursion and be rewarded with views of Juniper Springs. Swim in its emerald waters, enjoy a picnic surrounded by lush foliage or hop in a canoe for a scenic adventure.
Located in the Ocala National Forest, Alexander Springs is popular with outdoor adventurers. With a chance to spot a turtle swimming through the lilies, this area is a great place to snorkel and gawk at the plethora of colorful fish in its first-magnitude spring. It’s a great place to take the kids with its gently sloped spring pool. Kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddling are popular activities, along with hiking the surrounding trails that are dotted with cabbage palms, maples, and magnolias.
Combining the charm of a historic Florida attraction with the crystal clear beauty of one of the last uninhabited spring runs in the state, Silver Springs State Park is a popular spot for glass-bottom boat tours where it’s possible to spot turtles and alligators roaming the waters. Explore the on-site museum to learn about the area’s history through exhibits highlighting Florida’s natural history, then step outside to see the cracker homestead and re-created 19th-century pioneer settlement.
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 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.