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Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling…

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Floridians survive the heat and humidity of brutal summers by turning to the state’s wealth of cool, clear, refreshing springs.

Geologists estimate there are more than 700 freshwater springs in Florida — the largest concentration on Earth — but only a few dozen are accessible for public recreation.

crystal river three sisters spring
Three Sisters Springs undergoing shoreline restoration. Three Sisters Spring feeds the Crystal River. Read more about the Crystal River. (Photo courtesy Save Crystal River)

This is our roundup of the best springs in Florida for swimming, snorkeling, diving and paddling canoes, kayaks and float tubes. Some have camping, some don’t.

Florida’s public springs are stressed by overuse. They are being loved to death. Do your part to let them live:

  • Tubers, floaters and paddlers should stay in your vessels when possible.
  • If you have to leave the vessel, tie off in shallow water and avoid damaging riverbanks.
  • Don’t trample vegetation or kick up silt and don’t climb trees or use rope swings.
  • Pack out your litter and don’t leave anything behind.

HOT TIP! Florida’s most popular springs reach capacity fast on summer weekends. Arrive early. When parking lots fill, gates close, and waiting lines may stretch for hours. How early should you get in line? Certainly no later than 7 a.m. on weekends at the most popular springs, and we’ve seen reports of lines starting as early as 4 a.m. at some.

Editor’s Note: Blue Spring State Park in Orange City has closed the spring this summer (2024) as crews stabilize the shoreline. No swimming, snorkeling, tubing or diving. Kayaks, canoes and boat tours will still be allowed on the St. Johns River, and the campground remains open.


Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Tubing in Florida at Ichetucknee Springs
Tubing at Ichetucknee Springs. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Ichetucknee Springs State Park may be the best spring in the state for tubing.

Canoeing and kayaking is a year-round activity, and during summer there is an in-park shuttle service, but if you want to paddle, stick to weekdays when you won’t dodge as many tubers. Snorkeling is allowed in designated areas.

Picnic areas with tables and grills are available throughout the park, but they fill up fast, and the concession offers food and refreshments.

There are three hiking trails at the north entrance of the park, one of which leads to Blue Hole Spring, the largest spring in the park. Blue Hole is popular with scuba divers, who dive only from October through March.

Swimming is allowed year-round at both Ichetucknee Spring and Blue Hole, but there are no lifeguards and only experienced swimmers should consider Blue Hole because of the depth and strong currents.

As the state’s most popular tubing destination, the Ichetucknee River is under heavy pressure, and you will not be allowed to transport anything that can be discarded, including food and drinks, fishing, alcohol, tobacco products, etc.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park, 12087 SW US 27, Fort White, FL 32038. Phone: 386-497-4690. Day-use admission: $6 per vehicle. Tram and shuttle service is offered by park concessionaire. Tubes are available for rent within the park.

Read more:


Rock Springs at Kelly Park

best florida springs: Rock Spring Run
Lifeguard chair on Rock Springs Run. There’s a series of pools for swimming at the headspring. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

This beautiful, shady park in a quiet corner of Apopka is one of my favorites.

At the head spring, the cool water spills into a series of pools at the rate of 26,000 gallons a minute. From the springs, you can wade or tube a quarter-mile through crystal clear water down picturesque Rock Springs Run.

Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards may be launched at Camp Joy at Kelly Park, which has a separate park entrance, or go to privately owned Kings Landing, where you can rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. (Reservations required in summer.)

You can launch your own boats at Kings Landing for a fee and arrange shuttle service if you are planning the eight-mile paddle to the wild and scenice Wekiva River through two wildlife preserves, untouched by development.

From Kings Landing, paddle upstream to stunning Emerald Cut, which is also accessible from Camp Joy.

Kelly Park at Rock Springs, 400 E. Kelly Park Rod, Apopka, FL 32712.  Phone: (407) 254-1902. Park Admission: $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people; and $1 for additional person/walk-ins/motorcycles/bikes. No pets, no alcohol. Camping reservations can be made online up to 45 days in advance. Kayak/Canoe/Paddle Board Launch at Camp Joy: $3 for 1-2 people; $5 for 3-8 people; and $1 for additional person. Launching hours are between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.; guests must return no later than 5 pm. For the latest rates at Kings Landing, go to kingslandingfl.com

Read More: Beautiful park, cool swimming, shady campground


Wekiva Springs State Park

Best Florida Springs: Wekiwa Springs
The swimming hole at Wekiwa Springs. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

One of the features I like about Wekiwa Springs State Park is the broad lawn sweeping downhill from the parking area. It’s a beautiful scene.

When I visited, three groups of students and a few families had spread blankets on the lawn area for a picnic as children splashed and played in the spring. It was really peaceful with birds chirping and an occasional splash of water to break the silence.

This spring gets quite boisterous with the laughter of children on busy summer weekends, when visitors are advised to arrive before 10 a.m. The gates close when it reaches capacity.

If the spring head is too crowded, follow the footpath downstream to the kayak and canoe concession at the headwaters of the wild and scenic Wekiva River. From there, you can explore the lower reach of Rock Springs Run or the Wekiva in a kayak. 

The park also has more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails. The campground is recently renovated and set apart from the swimming holes.

Wekiwa Springs State Park, 1800 Wekiwa Circult, Apopka, FL Phone: 407-553-4383. Admission: $6 per vehicle. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at park concession. For information on rentals and fees, go to Nature Adventures or call 407-884-4311. Camping: $24/ night plus $7 daily utility fee. Primitive camping $5 per person. Make reservations online at reserve.floridastateparks.org.

Read More: Wekiva River Basin — A wild and scenic adventure


Lithia Springs County Park

Lithia Spring
Lithia Springs swimming hole. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Lithia Springs Conservation Park is not a state park, nor is it very well known, so it’s off the radar for most Floridians.

The spring is popular with residents of Hillsborough County, so popular that swimmers are divided into two groups of 300 daily — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 pm. until 6 p.m. during summer months. Only 200 swimmers are allowed in the spring at once.

Campers get a free pass all day, so it pays to camp here if you love the spring.

I was surprised by the size of the spring bowl, its white-sand beach, and adjacent picnic areas that slope away from the main pool under a thick canopy of trees.

The water is not as clear here as other springs, although it is crystal clear around the spring head. As the spring run flows a few hundred yards to the Alafia River, underwater vegetation introduces a faint green tint, while a definitive tannin color takes over as it merges into the river.

I really loved the campground and stayed several nights.

Lithia Springs Park,  3932 Lithia Springs Rd, Lithia, FL 33547. Phone: 813-744-5572. Day-use fee is a modest $2 per vehicle (up to 8 people per vehicle.) Swimming: $2 per person (Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult). Lithia Springs Park, operated by the Hillsborough County Parks Department.

Read More: Secluded park near Tampa for camping, swimming and paddling.


RAMBLER TIP: Alligators are common in Florida’s freshwater rivers, lakes and springs. Swim only in designated areas, never swim at night, always exercise caution and swim in groups, especially with small children and pets. Almost all of the springs in this list do not allow pets.


Alexander Springs Recreation Area

in Ocala National Forest
The swimming area at Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest is excellent -- if you like 72 degree water. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The swimming area at Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lying in the southern tier of Ocala National Forest, Alexander Springs may be the best swimming hole in the state.

The springhead creates a large, shallow sandy-bottom bowl ideal for swimming in water at a chilly 72 degrees. Snorkelers and scuba divers explore the limestone rocks and boulders at the spring head.

The spring has a gently sloping beach into the spring basin. Snorkeling, off-road bicycling and an excellent seven-mile canoe trail add to the summer fun.

The canoe trail is paradise for birders. Backpackers can connect to the Florida National Scenic Trail. Alexander Springs is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted. 

Alexander Springs Recreation Area, 49525 CR 445, Altoona, FL. Phone: 352-669-3522. Swimming, scuba diving, hiking and camping. Day-use fee is $5.50 per person. Campground reservations on recreation.gov. If you visit on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, a vehicle access reservation is required.  

Read more: Cool swimming, easy scenic paddling plus lots of wildlife


Juniper Springs Recreation Area

in Ocala National Forest
Juniper Spring in Ocala National Forest
Juniper Spring. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Juniper Springs may be the most well-known springs in Florida, and the Juniper Spring Run is one of the most beautiful paddles in the state.

Dense, semi-tropical foliage rarely seen anywhere else, the forest provides a unique environment for picnicking, bird watching, hiking, swimming, snorkeling and paddling down the awesome spring run fed by Juniper Spring and Fern Hammock Spring.

Here’s a guide to Juniper Springs Run kayak run, including rentals, shuttles and tips.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area, 26701 State Road 40, Silver Springs, FL. Phone: 352-625-3147. Swimming, snorkeling, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, camping. Campground reservations on recreation.gov.

Read more: One of the best kayaking runs is open again


Salt Springs Recreation Area

in Ocala National Forest
Salt Springs
Salt Springs

A large swimming area is cordoned off for swimmers at the spring head before the water flows into a broad spring run that offers a scenic paddle all the way to Lake George.

The fishing here is world-class, and the campground is the largest in Ocala National Forest.

The presence of potassium, magnesium and sodium salts give the waters in the spring a slight salinity. There are no lifeguards. 

The privately run Salt Springs Run Marina rents paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, skiffs and pontoon boats for cruising the spring run and Lake George.

Salt Springs Recreation Area, 13851 North Highway 19, Salt Springs, FL, is on SR 19, north of State Road 40, which crosses the state from Ormond Beach to Ocala. Phone: 352-685-2048. Swimming, scuba diving, camping and cabins. Campground reservations on recreation.gov. Day-use admission is $6 per person.

Read More: 6 Things to Do in Ocala National Forest


DeLeon Springs State Park

best florida springs deleon springs volusia county
Spring and Museum at De Leon Springs State Park. (Photo by David Blasco)

Although Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon never really found his Fountain of Youth, this cool little enclave has as much right as any to lay claim to the title. You certainly feel younger after you jump in and out of this spring!

The spring head is very impressive, a very large wading pool, encircled by a low concrete wall, and a spillway that tumbles down into a broad, scenic spring run through a chain of three lakes to the St. John’s River.

A beautiful, shady picnic ground is adjacent to the swimming area, and canoe and kayak rentals are available at the park concession for paddling the run, which flows into the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Lifeguards are on duty at this popular swimming hole seven days a week until school begins, then weekends only through the winter.

De Leon Springs State Park features a popular pancake house, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, where visitors have been making their own pancakes since 1961.

The restaurant is under new management and retains the same “unique dining experience.”

DeLeon Springs State Park, 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd., De Leon Springs FL 32130. Phone: 386-985-4212. Park Admission: $6 per vehicle. The Sugar Mill Restaurant is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays, serving until 4 p.m.

Read more: State park known for pancakes is so much more.


Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

best springs in florida ponce de leon springs 1 Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling...
Ponce De Leon Springs State Park. (Florida State Parks photo)

Don’t be confused. This is not the same as De Leon Springs in Orange City. As any Floridian knows, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon got around in his search for the Fountain of Youth.

At 68 degrees, the 14 million gallons of water that flow out of this spring every day can chill the soul.

The spring bowl is crescent-shaped with depths averaging five feet, partially surrounded by a stone wall with a shaded picnic area.

Two hiking trails follow the spring run.

Virtually abandoned in winter, this popular swimming destination is bursting at the seams during the hot summer months, so get there early.

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, 2860 Ponce de Leon Springs Road, Ponce de Leon FL 32455. Snorkeling, swimming, fishing. Day-use fee is $4 per vehicle, $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists (honor system).


Rainbow Springs State Park

best springs in florida rainbow springs canstockphoto3098012 Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling...
Paddle trail at Rainbow Springs State Park. (c) Can Stock Photo / amandaols

Florida’s fourth-largest spring, Rainbow Springs State Park is a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking and tubing.

There is a newly renovated 105-site campground with full hookups about 1½ miles downstream from the main head spring and day-use area.

Campers can launch their own canoes or kayaks on the river near their sites, and you can rent them at the concession at the head spring for the 5.6-mile paddle along the Rainbow River to the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon.

Tubing is not allowed at the head spring, but there is a tube launch on the river 1.4 miles south of the campground and you can rent tubes at the park concession.

Moss-draped cypress trees line the river banks, offering a spectacular tour of Florida’s backcountry. The swimming area at the head spring, where the water maintains a constant 72-degree temperature, is very busy from late spring through fall. Lifeguards are on duty during the busy summer season.

Be aware that the average depth is 5 feet to 18 feet, which is not conducive for small children or wading.

Day-use admission is $2 per person at the headspring entrance and $5 per vehicle (up to 8 people) at the tube entrance. Children under 6 are free. Rainbow Springs is 23 miles west of Ocala, just off U.S. 41 north of Dunnellon.

Rainbow Springs State Park, 19158 SW 81st Place Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. Phone: 352-465-8555. Admission to head springs for swimming: $2 per person. For tube rental and shuttle fees, call 833-945-2925. Camping: Campground is on the Rainbow River, separate from the main park entrance. Camping is $30 plus $7 daily utility fee, taxes and a one-time $6.70 booking fee. Reservations can be made online at reserve.floridastateparks.org.

Read More: Pure spring water makes kayaking, tubing tops


Peacock Springs

best springs in florida Peacock cavern Barbara Am Ende 2013 Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling...
Cavern at Peacock Springs State Park (Park photo by Barbara Ende)

With one of the longest underwater cave systems in the country, Peacock Springs is a dream for cave divers, who have explored and surveyed nearly 33,000 feet of underwater passages.

This park has two major springs, a spring run and six sinkholes, all in pristine condition.  All divers must provide proof of certification, and there are several restrictions on when, where and with whom you can dive.

Swimming and snorkeling are limited to Peacock and Orange Grove springs and is dependent on seasonal water levels. When we visited in May, Peacock was not an appealing as a place to swim. (There are lifeguards and the springs are not child-frieindly.)

Hikers can get an above-ground view of the winding underground passages with photographs and trail maps that show you what’s below your feet. A new interpretative trail offers boardwalks and interpretive kiosks for hikers.

Admission is $4 per vehicle (up to 8 people per vehicle) and $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Peacock Springs State Park is about 20 miles south of Live Oak on State Road 51.

Peacock Springs State Park, 18532 180th Street, Live Oak FL 32060. Phone: 386-776-2194. Admission is $4 per vehicle (up to 8 people per vehicle) and $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Peacock Springs State Park is about 20 miles south of Live Oak on State Road 51.

Read More: 5 Florida wet and wonderful  getaways


Ginnie Springs

best springs in florida ginniesprings canstock Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling...
Diving for the caves at Ginnie Springs. (c) Can Stock Photo / desant7474

Ginnie Springs is a magnificent, privately owned 200-acre recreation area that includes seven springs feeding the Santa Fe River just outside of High Springs, near Gainesville.

The river is a paddler’s dream as it lazily flows towards the Suwannee.

A major attraction is scuba diving into the 50-foot deep head spring and its underlying network of caves with about 1,000 feet of subterranean passages. Certified cave divers have access to another 30,000 feet of passages in the Devil’s Spring system.

One of the big attractions at Ginnie Springs Outdoors is the private campground. There are 90 sites water and electric hookups, and another 300 tent sites scattered about the park, many waterfront.

Day-use admission for divers or paddlers is $12 ($3 for children). Ginnie Springs is about 9 miles west of High Springs on State Road 340/236.

Ginnie Springs Outdoors, 7300 Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs, FL 32643. Phone: 386-454-7188. Admission: Adult, $15-20; Children 5-12, $5; Children 4 & under, free. Diving: $24-32. Camping: Adults, $25-30 each; Children 5-12, $8; Children 4 & under, free; Utilities (water, electric), $11. Tube, snorkel and dive rentals, canoes, kayaks and paddle board rentals.

Read More: Kayaking Santa Fe River: Springs & scenery make it a treasure


Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida
Mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (Photo by David Blasco)

Weeki Wachee Springs is a venerable Florida tourist attraction, famous for its 400-seat underwater theater and performing mermaids, is now a state park with all the trimmings.

For your summer escape, enjoy the 72-degree crystal clear water as it feeds Buccaneer Bay. Kids will love the waterslides and water park on the Bay, elevating the swimming experience to theme-park fun.

There are also boat tours available, canoeing and kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving (no lone dives).

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee FL 34606. Phone: 352-610-5660. Mermaid shows are offered daily at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. (August 2022) Admission is $13 per adult, $5 for children 6-12.  Weeki Wachee Springs is 56 miles north of Tampa, near Brooksville, just off the Suncoast Parkway (SR 589).

Read More: Weeki Wachee – Kayaking, manatees and mermaids 


Fanning Springs State Park

The spring at Fanning Springs State Park on the Suwanee River.
The spring at Fanning Springs State Park on the Suwanee River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

This park is small for a state park and known mostly by locals. The spring itself has swimming-pool clear water and is a dazzling blue in the sunlight. In has been a popular summer swimming hole for a century.

Its water is a brisk 72 degrees year round. Snorkelers and scuba divers come for the underwater view and winter visitors occasionally get lucky and spot visiting manatees.

Fanning Springs State Park is on U.S 19/98 in the town of Fanning Springs, near the intersection of State Road 26, west of Gainesville

Fanning Springs State Park, 18020 N.W. HWY 19, Fanning Springs, FL 32693. Phone: (352) 463-3420. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking. Day-use admission is $6 per vehicle. Primitive camping for paddlers, hikers and cyclists only: $5/night plus tax. Cabins are $100 a night, plus $7 daily utility fee and a one-time booking fee of $6.70.

Related Story: Fanning & Manatee Springs: Hidden treasures for cabins, camping


Manatee Springs State Park

Admirers of manatees float among them at Manatee Springs State Park on the Suwanee River.
Admirers of manatees float among them at Manatee Springs State Park on the Suwanee River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Manatee Springs is an exquisite sight, with clear blue-green water ringed by cypress trees and knees, all draped with Spanish moss.

Extensive boardwalks give you many good views of the spring and spring run and there are 8.5 miles of hiking trails in the park.

The spring is a quarter mile off the scenic Suwanee.

The spring has a well-developed swimming area and a concession, where you can rent canoes, kayaks, small motor boats and snorkeling gear.

Manatee Springs State Park, 11650 NW 115 Street, Chiefland, FL 32626. Phone: (352) 493-6072. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, camping. Admission is $6 (2-8 people per vehicle), $4 for a single, $2 for pedestrians and bicycles. Camping at one of the park’s 86 campsites is $20 per night. All sites have water and electric; dump station on site.

Related Story: Fanning & Manatee Springs: Hidden treasures for cabins, camping


Morrison Springs County Park

best springs in florida morrison springs canstockphoto37151255 Cool escapes: Best springs in Florida for swimming, tubing, snorkeling...
Morrison Springs (c) Can Stock Photo / digidreamgrafix

This crystal clear aqua spring pumps 48 million gallons of water per day into a 250-foot wide pool popular for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Morrison’s chilly waters (68 degrees) surface from the underground aquifer from three cavities, the deepest of which is about 300 feet.

Well-known as a destination for divers,

The surrounding 161-acre park, managed by Walton County, offers picnic areas and restroom facilities, and a wheelchair-acccessible boardwalk links the springs to a floodplain along the spring run.

Water clarity varies, so check the park’s web site for the current status, especially if you plan to dive there.

Morrison Springs, 874 Morrison Springs Road, Ponce de Leon, FL 32455. Phone: (850) 892–8108. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving. There are no entrance fees.


Wakulla Springs State Park

Kayaking on Wakulla River below the famous springs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Kayaking on Wakulla River below the famous springs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

One of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, the swimming area has a grassy beach, a 22-foot diving platform and floating docks.

Snorkeling is allowed within the boundaries of the swimming area only. Water temperature is a constant 69 degrees, making it one of the coolest springs in the state.

The spacious picnic area has a playground, and in winter months, attention shifts from the spring to miles of nature trails.

Glass-bottom boats thrill visitors with views of ancient mastodon bones when the water is clear. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear. Call before you go.

Wakulla Springs State Park, 465 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs FL 32327. Phone: 850-561-7276. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving. Day-use fee $6 per vehicle ( 2 – 8 occupants); $4 per vehicle with single occupant; $2 for pedestrians or bicyclist. River boat tours: $8, 13 years and up; $5 for ages 3 to 12 years; Free for ages 3 years and under.

Read More: Wakulla Springs State Park: Out of the way; worth exploring


RAMBLER TIP: During winter months, many springs harbor manatees seeking protection from the elements and are closed to swimming. Read More: Where to see manatees in Florida waters: Try these 15 spots

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Onisha E

Sunday 30th of June 2024

I grew up enjoying Rock Springs and stayed at Camp Joy one summer. We would bring a picnic and have a wonderful family time. Had a few dates there too

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