One of the best ways to enjoy a weekend with friends and family is to take a trip to one of Florida’s natural springs. Visitors can partake in a wide range of activities, including tubing, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, camping, and more. Luckily, Gainesville is centrally-located and no more than just a couple of hours away from some of Florida’s most alluring springs.
1. Ginnie Springs
This privately owned park, located on the Santa Fe River in High Springs, FL, is a world-renowned diving spot that’s been around since 1976. Perhaps one of the most well-known locations, Ginnie Springs boasts beautiful, clear, blue waters. It’s a popular spot for families and college students alike -- a place to enjoy aquatic activities of all kinds, like river tubing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba and cave diving. The park has various equipment for rent, like kayaks, tubes, flotation devices, paddleboards, and volleyballs. What’s more, the water is usually 72 degrees fahrenheit, meaning it’s perfect for a cool, refreshing dip on a sunny day.
Visitors can experience camping at the various sites around the park grounds. Ginnie Springs offers campsites out in the wilderness, or ones with electricity. Staying at a site by the river is ideal, with the picturesque views of the crystal waters and tall trees. You may even encounter a bit of wildlife on a trek through the woods. Ginnie Springs also has overnight cottages available for rent if tents or RVs aren’t your style. General daily (½ hour before sunset) admission is $14.02 for adults and $3.73 for children ages 6-12. Children ages 5 and under are admitted for free. You can view the springs’ website for more information about camping and other features.
Location: 7300 Ginnie Springs Rd, High Springs, FL 32643
2. Ichetucknee Springs
The bright, crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it flows into the Santa Fe River. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior, rendering it a natural, historic location. The river is formed by the cumulative groundwater generated by nine different artesian springs. From upstream to downstream the named springs include: Ichetucknee (Head Spring), Cedar Head, Blue Hole (Jug), Mission Group (Roaring and Singing), Devil’s Eye, Grassy Hole, Mill Pond and Coffee. The most alluring element of Ichetucknee Springs is its six-mile “lazy river” that’s ideal for tubing.
In addition, the springs offer picnicking, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Scuba diving is also available daily in the Blue Hole for Cave Certified visitors. White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons can be seen from the river perched on branches or flying overhead. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are available throughout the park as well. There’s also a full-service concession that offers food, refreshments, and outdoor products from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Tubes and snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented within the park or from private vendors outside the park (located four miles northwest of Fort White, off State Roads 47 and 238). The park entrance fee is $4 for a single-occupant vehicle or $6 per vehicle for up to 8 people. If you’d like to use the shuttle service that takes you from a launch point to two different take-out points, you’ll need to purchase an all-day wristband for $5.
Location: 12087 Southwest U.S.Highway 27, Fort White, FL 32038
3. Gilchrist Blue Springs
The thought of a beach in North Central Florida seems crazy, but it turns out Blue Springs is where you can find one. Natural springs are surrounded by a stretch of white sand, giving the effect of a tropical beach on the coast. Visitors can lay out on blankets and towels while enjoying a cold drink from a cooler, watching other people float lazily along the river. Gilchrist Blue has amazing water clarity and discharges water through a shallow spring that runs about a quarter-mile to the Santa Fe River. The other named springs on-site are Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring.
The main spring is is known for its various wildlife species including turtles, fish, and birds. Paddling, snorkeling and swimming are all popular activities at the main springhead and spring run. There are also pavilions available, as well as a concession stand that provides a food and beverage service. While visiting, you can also partake in hiking, fishing, nature studying, and picnicking. Park fees include $6 per vehicle, limited to 2-8 people per vehicle, and $4 for a single occupant vehicle, (1 person in vehicle).
Location: 7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643
4. Juniper Springs
Juniper Springs is truly an oasis in the dry, desert-like landscape of Big Scrub in Ocala National Forest. The sparkling, turquoise-tinted water is a piece of paradise in the vibrant, subtropical environment. These springs are some of the largest in the whole state, pumping out about 13 million gallons of water a day. It flows into a relatively large swimming hole that transports you back in time to Old Florida, as you wade through the crystalline water and look up at the palms. Here you can enjoy a setting unlike any other in the United States, with hundreds of bubbling springs gushing out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of shady trees.
The park also features picnic grounds, a campground, and trails, which were all constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Juniper Springs’ historical significance is what gives it its charm. The historic mill house (which has a recently-restored waterwheel) is used to generate electricity for the recreation area, which showcases an early example of green energy. It’s definitely a cool piece of the past and an awesome spot to take pictures.
Location: 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488
5. Rainbow Springs
Enjoy breathtaking views at Rainbow Springs, with its lush landscape, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. The park is divided into three different facilities: the main “headsprings” entrance, the tubing entrance, and the campground. At the headsprings, visitors can swim freely in the freshwater springs and rent tubes or kayaks for some extra fun. Here, you may also view stunning waterfalls rush over the vibrant vegetation and catch a glimpse of an extotic bird or a family of deer. Picnic tables, grills, and pavilions are also available; you can even rent a private pavilion for larger gatherings or parties.
Rainbow Springs is a historic site; archaeological evidence has revealed that people have been using the springs for over 10,000 years. It’s Florida’s fourth-largest spring and from the 1930s to the 1970s, it experienced a surge in popularity. Rainbow Springs attracts a multitude of visitors year-round for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and tubing. The water is incredibly clear, and if you bring along some underwater goggles, you’ll uncover the marvelous underwater world of Rainbow Springs.
Location:19158 SW 81st Pl Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432