Visiting Florida's natural springs can be a great way to make memories with your family and friends. There are over 80 unique springs that can be visited and most are open year-round. Whether you're looking for an outdoor adventure, swimming in crystal-clear waters, or just taking the time to appreciate nature, Florida's springs offer something for everyone. We wanted to highlight the 3 best locations for family friendly fun and day-long adventuring.
Stunningly Beautiful Springs, Waterfalls on the Trails
Rainbow Springs is located in Dunnellon, FL and it is known for its crystal clear waters which are fed by a network of underground springs. It's the 4th largest spring network in the state of Florida and is known for being true to its name. Rainbow Springs offers visitors the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in the natural spring-fed pool, or enjoy the nature trails of the Rainbow Springs Sate Park that wind through lush garden areas and waterfalls. You can also go kayaking or tubing down the Rainbow River if you're feeling adventurous.
Tubing the rainbow springs in the summer is a must-do Florida experience. The water is cool and clear. You can relax and enjoy floating down river while observing and appreciating the wildlife. This is one of the few places in Florida where you can spot otters swimming freely. It's a great activity for any age and any family size. The tubing is extremely popular, so we recommend getting an early start and getting to the park before 10am to be sure you're able to get a seat.
River Springs Tubing Hours and Fees: https://visitrainbowsprings.com/hours-and-fees/
Florida Rambler's Guide to Rainbow Springs: https://www.floridarambler.com/kayaking-in-florida/rainbow-river-tubing-kayaking/
Crystal River and Crystal Springs
Swimming With the Manatees, Discovering Native American History
The Crystal Spring near Crystal River City which is an an hour and a half south west of Gainesville, FL. Or an hour and half north of Tampa. This is the ONLY place in Florida where you are allowed to swim with the manatees. You heard that right, you can actually swim with these gentle giants. Thousands of manatees swim in the Crystal River in the warmer months and there are several programs that offer guided tours and guided swims. There are several springs that you can visit in the area that are connected to the Crystal River including: Three Sister Springs and Hunter Spring City Park - both of which have excellent kayak launches. However, the Three Sister Springs is currently (as of Summer 2023) under restoration and closed until November 15, 2023.
List of companies certified for guiding swimming with the manatees tours:
One of the remarkable places to see in the area is the Crystal River Archeological State Park. The park is located on a Native American settlement and ceremonial burial grounds which date back to 2,500 years ago. At the park you can get a bird's eye view of the marshes, learn about Florida's ancient history, and enjoy birding, angling, and hiking. The park and the crystal river activities together make for a full day trip.
Read more about the Crystal River Archeological State Park:
Kayaking Pristine Nature, Spotting Historic Sites
Silver Springs State Park is a must-visit day-trip destination. There are many watersports options to choose from. The Silver Springs kayak launch rents out single and tandem kayaks, paddle boards, and even 3-person canoes. You can also bring your own kayak to paddle the 5-mile stretch of the Silver River - a trip that takes around 2 hours. As you paddle you spot the historic Fort King, a fort built in the 1800s. There is a huge variety of wildlife to see: alligators, turtles, birds, and fish. Most interestingly, there are run-away monkeys and manatees that have made the clear springs their home. After your river trip, you can enjoy a picnic at one of the many pavilions in the park or stop by the park's own restaurant "Springside Restaurant."
The park has an excellent website and great maps and helpful people around the grounds.
Read more about kayaking the Silver Springs: https://5gr.cb4.myftpupload.com/paddling/
Silver Springs Park Website: https://silversprings.com/getting-here/
The Silver Springs State Park is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year from 8am-sundown. Kayak and canoe rentals are from 8am to 5pm.
What to Bring on a Family Day Trip to the Florida Springs
No matter what springs in Florida your family visits, you're sure to have an unforgettable experience. To make sure your trip goes exceptionally well don't forget to bring the following items:
Re-usable water bottles (we recommend insulated ones to keep the water cool): Tubing and kayaking can take several hours and you want to stay hydrated. Many springs don't allow plastic containers on the water to keep the springs clean and free of trash.
Hats and sunscreen: you're in Florida!
Cash for the $2 state park fee.
Waterproof bags to keep your stuff dry while tubing or kayaking. Shop marine quality bags now.
Snacks that don't melt: apples, trail mix, or jerky.
Plan a Florida springs day trip today and get ready for some outdoor family friendly fun! Whether it's swimming, fishing, paddling, hiking, birding, or just relaxing along the shores of these springs, you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.