Best Springs in Florida?
One of the best natural springs in Florida is Blue Springs. It’s a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Whether it’s the middle of summer or the middle of fall there’s plenty to see. I love it here so much I’ve visited twice with my family in under six months.
During the fall this Florida State Park takes on a brand new life.
Unlike the summer time when you can snorkel, swim or tube
in the brisk 72 degree water, during the winter months there’s no swimming allowed.
Why you ask? Because of the adorable (albeit, large) Florida manatees. These lovable creatures migrate to Blue Springs during the colder months in search of warmer water. Warmer you say?
Yes, to the manatees who are warm blooded creatures this is considered warmer waters. This is one of the springs in Florida that closes their swimming activities from mid-November through March so that the manatees can swim in peace.
But there’s still plenty of things to do. You can still canoe or kayak on the St. Johns river. Or, take a river boat tour down the St. Johns. You can still hike down one of the many trails at this Florida State park.
You can also do some outdoor camping if you’re into that sort of thing. Or, if you’re like me you may want to just rent one of their cabins. It’s in the woods but also offers some of the comforts of home.
One of the reasons I love writing this website is because I get to rediscover my hometown and all the natural wonders that go along with it. My Mom, husband and I had a week to celebrate our Christmas in Orlando.
So we decided that a trip to
Ponce De Leon Springs
was in order. There they have the Old Spanish Sugar Mill which is a restaurant that’s equipped with tables that have griddles built right in them.
That’ s so you can make you very own pancake creations! It's one of the only springs in Florida that has it's own restaurant.
We arrived at Ponce De Leon Florida State Park (another one of the great springs in Florida) around 10 am hungry for some pancakes, only to discover an hour and a half wait!
So we thought no problem we’ll just go on the Fountain of Youth Eco/History Tour and feast our eyes on manatees, alligators, cranes and other types of birds and animals.
Unfortunately, it was a bit cold out so they couldn’t round up enough people to go. So we decided that we’d just take a canoe ride after breakfast.
Fortunately for us we talked to a lady while waiting who told us that Blue Spring Florida State Park had over 300 manatees swimming around as we speak. She said it was always one of the best springs in Florida to see them.
I was so excited I told my husband and my Mom we needed to make the short trip to Blue Springs to check out these gentle giants.
So we hopped in the car after breakfast and made our way to Blue Springs Florida State Park. Less than 15 minutes later we had arrived (only an hour drive from downtown Orlando, Florida.) The entire car full got in for only $5.00!
There’s a few differences between summer time and winter time at Blue Springs.
One of which is the amount of people. As always no matter is it’s summer or winter you’ll want to arrive early to any of the springs in Florida so you’re guaranteed to get in.
Otherwise you may be forced to wait outside if they’ve reached capacity. Although there seems to be less people when it’s cold out. Which is such a shame because it’s so beautiful.
The grassy lawn that usually packed with beach towels and sun bathers is now an open field. And the water that’s being splashed around and in constant movement is now serene and peaceful.
It was so still and quiet that you could see all the species of fish that live in these waters. During the summer you’d never get the honor of seeing all this.
Normally the water gets a little murkier during the summer because of everyone stepping through the seaweed on the bottom of the spring.
Although the boil is always kicking out a large amount of fresh water (all the springs in Florida have a boil that do this.) You see some fish but not as many as when there’s no one in the spring.
*There’s only a snack bar at Blue Springs so it would be wise to pack a lunch if you plan on hanging out for more than a few hours.*
Chris and I decided that we wanted to take a stroll down the one-third mile boardwalk while my Mom watched a short film about manatees.
In my mind I was thinking that we’d see manatees just hanging out on the sides of the spring. I mean with 200-300 manatees swimming around you’re bound to see some. Not the case.
So we’re walking and we’re looking. No manatees. Lots of fish, but no manatees. I started getting a little disappointed because I wanted to get some good pictures to share with you.
Although the natural beauty of this Florida State Park makes it a little hard for me to get stressed......
We walked over to where the boil is (this lets all the natural spring water into the river. ) No manatees......
We hung out there for a minute and talked about how it would be great to have a fishing pole because the fish are just sitting there waiting to be caught. But too bad we didn’t have one (you need a Florida state fishing license anyways.)
Next, we decide to turn around and go the other way down the boardwalk. If you go in that direction you’ll find one of two drop off points to jump in the water.
Walk a little further and you’ll see Louis Thursby House that used to belong to the original owners of the land. You can take a self guided tour everyday of the week except for Mondays and Tuesdays. We didn’t go in because I was on a mission!
We walked a little further and a heard a child yell “there’s one!” I ran over and see a large manatee and a little tiny one. A mama and a baby “awwwww”.
They were all the way down by the end of the spring run where it starts to open up into the St. John’s river. I saw someone canoeing near there and noticed that the manatees keep swimming in that area.
So of course I think we "have to" rent a canoe so we can get closer. After a small amount time of convincing Chris, and a short walk to get my Mom, we were in our three man canoe.
Me in the front, my mom in the middle and Chris in the back. Mind you Chris has never rowed a canoe before and my Mom has bad knees so we are just praying she doesn’t tip us over.
We start rowing over to the area that I saw the person in the canoe but yet again no manatee. So we decided to go a little further up the river.
It’s a beautiful open body of water. Blue Springs is one of the largest springs in Florida and scenery is awe inspiring. The beginning of the day had started out cold and overcast but in traditional Florida style the afternoon was turning out to be sunny and beautiful.
So we were rowing our canoe (not very well I might add) into the tranquility of this awesome Florida spring but still no manatees! So we decided just to enjoy ourselves while we were out there.
I snapped some pretty pictures of the trees with leaves that were changing colors. And we tried to strengthen our canoeing skills.
After about 20 minutes we decided to go back over where we saw the original manatees. Finally I hear Chris say “there’s one right behind us!” The manatee was actually pushing our canoe! It went underneath our boat and then out the other side.
A huge rush of excitement ran through me. If the man renting the canoe hadn’t told us how friendly these creatures were I might have been scared. It was huge! Like a cow swimming in the water. Pretty much with the same disposition.
This manatee was having fun with us. He kept bringing his face up to the boat and just staring at us. Then he would go back in the water and roll over for us to rub his belly.
We were told before we got in the canoe that it’s a $25,000 fine if you touch the manatees (we were told some of the other springs in Florida allowed you to touch them, but not here.) Now let me tell you it was hard to resist....
This manatee was like a little water angel and I wanted to hug it! It was one of the most unusual and wonderful experiences I’ve had in my entire life.
I’m sad to say that even as a native Floridian I’ve never actually seen one of the marvelous creatures up close and personal. It was awesome!
For 30 minutes we played with this manatee. He stayed close to our boat and I made myself a new friend. I think this might have been the Dad to the baby manatee because these three were the only ones we saw. But that was enough for me.
I still can’t wipe the smile off my face when I look at the pictures or think about the experience.
Not all springs in Florida offer such a unique experience.
That $12.00 to rent the canoe was the best money I've ever spent. Now my Mom, Chris and I have a story to tell about our play date with the manatees at my favorite Florida springs.
If you’re looking for something a little different to do during your winter trip to Orlando, Florida I'd highly suggest getting up close and personal with a manatee at Blue Springs Florida State Park. One of the best springs in Florida for a fun day with the family!
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