Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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North Florida is home to a handful of the state’s most alluring natural springs, where shimmering shades of bright blue and emerald waters are perfect for taking a plunge or hopping in a kayak or canoe. These North Florida gems are the perfect place to beat the heat and avoid the crowds, where you can spend a tranquil day enjoying the outdoors. From family-friendly hotspots to local diving favorites, here are the top springs in North Florida.
Ginnie Springs boasts some of the clearest springs in Florida, which makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. 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.
Boasting six miles of crystalline spring-fed waters, you can float, paddle or swim through the Ichetucknee Springs State Park’s canopy of shaded hammocks. While tubing is by far the biggest lure to Ichetucknee, water-loving families can also enjoy the plentiful opportunities to go swimming, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking. Surrounded by lush live oak and cypress trees, you can also hike the scenic trails and spot white-tailed deer and great blue herons.
The newest addition to Florida State Parks, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is home to a beautiful display of natural springs that will lure you in with its cool, crystalline waters. This natural wonder is perfect for paddling and snorkeling at the second magnitude spring, while you can spend the night under the stars in its campsite. Admire inquisitive turtles and colorful fish or pack a lunch and enjoy it under the shade of the pavilions.
Located south of Tallahassee, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park boasts one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. The 6,000-acre park sits atop a maze of underground caverns, while those who prefer to stay above water can hop on one of the popular glass-bottom boat tours. Climb its two-story tower and do cannonballs off of it or lounge on the sunbathing platforms amid the clear, cool spring waters.
An ideal swimming hole for the entire family, Fanning Springs is a 72-degree, 207-foot deep spring with crystal clear blue waters and a unique shallow sandy area for the little ones. The second magnitude spring stays at cool 72 degrees, where it’s possible to spot turtles, bass and freshwater flounder. Grill and picnic under the majestic live oaks or stroll the boardwalk to admire the beautiful cypress swamp and six-feet-tall cypress knees.
Tucked away in Williston just 30 minutes outside of Gainesville, Devil’s Den is one of the most unique diving spots in Florida. A 60-foot prehistoric spring, this underground geological wonder is truly a sight to behold. A historic area that dates back to 75,000 B.C., it boasts illuminated waters and inverted mushroom shape below the surface that are popular with divers and snorkelers alike who want to explore 33 million-year-old fossil beds and refresh in the year-round 72 degree waters.
One of the most unique state parks in Florida, the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna features damp caves loaded with limestone stalagmites and stalactites rising and dripping from its ceilings, which took millions of years to form. While visitors are often lured in by the fascinating caves, you can also go fishing at the picturesque Blue Hole spring for bass, catfish, sunfish and mullet or hike the scenic nature trails to explore the beautiful rocky bluffs that tower above the river.
Spend a day exploring Jackson Blue Springs Park in North Florida, as the crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and diving. A dream setting for both nature lovers and photographers alike, this beautiful park is also a great family-friendly destination with its extensive list of on-site facilities. Take a dip in the headwater area, as it is a hotspot for swimmers with its alluring waters and shallow bowl around the spring vent.
Madison Blue Spring State Park is home to a first magnitude spring, where an 82-foot-wide and 25-foot deep spring bubbles up into a limestone basin along the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. A picturesque setting perfect for a day of tubing, bring your own inflatables and tubes in the spring or purchase one in the park. Open on weekends from May to September, it’s a great spot to picnic, paddle and enjoy wildlife viewing.
One of the most popular diving spots in northwest Florida, Morrison Springs boasts a large, sandy-bottomed spring surrounded by a beautiful 161-acre park filled with old grown cypress. The spring discharges an average of 48 million gallons of crystal-clear water into a 250-foot-diameter spring pool and spring run that flows into the Choctawhatchee River, which is a popular spot for swimmers and snorkelers.
Peacock Springs is home to two pristine springs, a spring run and six sinkholes. With this impressive resume, it is no surprise that Peacock Springs is world renown, attracting cave divers from all corners of the world who are eager to explore one of the longest underwater cave structures in the United States. Those seeking a more low-key experience can enjoy the small swimming hole and scenic trails that wind above the underground caverns.
Troy Spring State Park boasts a 70-foot deep, first magnitude spring that is popular for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. The 80-acre park is a hidden gem in North Florida, where you can take a stroll along its 1/2 mile nature trail, go open water diving in the spring or snorkel for a chance to spot turtles swimming by. Those looking for an underwater adventure can explore the remains of a Civil War-era steamboat called Madison sits in the shallow water of the spring run.