It’s a fact: Florida is more than 18% water. Some of the most beautiful water features in Florida are our natural springs. There are nearly 900 natural freshwater springs in Florida, many of which offer opportunities for outdoor recreation that everyone in the family can enjoy. Let’s look at some of the best natural springs in Florida and the activities you can enjoy there.
Some of the best natural springs in Florida include Silver Springs in Ocala, Devil’s Den near Ocala, Kings Bay in Citrus County, Ginnie Springs near Gainesville, Weeki Wachee in Hernando County, and many more. Activities you can enjoy at these springs range from swimming to picnicking to fishing and beyond.
Let’s dive into the details about the best natural springs in Florida. We’ll look at everything from geology and history to the information you need to plan a visit to a natural spring during your next Florida vacation!
What is a Natural Spring?
Natural springs are a geologic phenomenon you’ll find all over the world, but Florida has an especially high concentration of these natural wonders. In simple terms, a natural spring is a place where water pressure forces water from the aquifer above ground. The pressure moves the water through cracks in the earth’s surface, creating the bubbling springs we might think of when natural springs come to mind.
Springs fall into three categories: perennial, intermittent, and periodic. Most of the natural springs in Florida are perennial, which means there is a constant flow of water from the spring all year long. Intermittent springs might occur during periods of heavy rainfall or seasonally in cooler climates after snow melts, while periodic springs include geysers that erupt irregularly.
Springs are further classified by magnitude, which is a way to measure the output of the spring.
Does Florida Have Natural Springs?
There are nearly 900 natural springs in the Sunshine State. In fact, 27 of the natural springs in Florida are first-magnitude springs.
One unique feature of the natural springs in Florida is that the water flowing from them is constantly 72 degrees. This cool, refreshing water is perfect for enjoying all kinds of freshwater activities, like snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, diving, and more.
Many kinds of wildlife also love these waters, as you might see creatures like manatees and river otters congregating at Florida’s natural springs. Visiting a natural spring in Florida can be part of your green vacation.
The beauty of Florida’s natural springs makes them great places to visit no matter whether you’re vacationing in the Sunshine State or a Florida local. Let’s look at some of the best natural springs in Florida and the activities you can enjoy there!
What Are the Best Natural Springs in Florida?
Florida is home to many natural springs. While many of the best natural springs in Florida are located in the central part of the state, you’ll find them across the entire Sunshine State. We’ve put together a list of 8 of the best natural springs in Florida. Peruse our list and start planning your next day at the springs!
Silver Springs just might be what put Ocala, Florida on the map. Today you can visit these crystal clear waters at Silver Springs State Park, located at 5656 E Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala. The waters here feed into the Silver River.
You’ll find that Silver Springs is rich in history. In fact, Silver Springs was among the first tourist attractions in Florida in the 1800s. The famed Glass Bottomed Boats here have been operating since 1870.
Since then, the spring has been used as a movie and TV set, a private theme park, and much more. Movies like Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1961), and even James Bond films like Moonraker (1969) and Thunderball (1965) were all filmed at Silver Springs.
Today activities you can enjoy at Silver Springs include everything from kayaking to fishing to picnicking to camping. It’s the perfect place for a day trip from your Ocala vacation rental.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring in Williston, Florida, is a can’t-miss attraction for scuba divers. Unlike other natural springs in Florida, it was formed by an underground karst window and dates back to before the Pleistocene era.
Today Devil’s Den is a nationally-known destination for scuba diving and is even home to an onsite diving academy. The deepest chamber in the underwater caves at Devil’s Den goes down 370 feet underwater and contains prehistoric fossils as well as human remains dating back 7,000 years.
Devil’s Den is located at 5390 NE 180th Avenue in Williston, FL. Williston is approximately 25 miles northwest of Ocala.
The Ocala National Forest spans a massive 673 square miles and is home to four of the best natural springs in Florida. These springs are Silver Glen Springs, Salt Springs, Alexander Springs, and our favorite, Juniper Springs.
What makes Juniper Springs special? This recreation area managed by the USDA National Forest Service is the perfect place to cool off. Here you can enjoy boating through spring-fed marshes perfect for observing wildlife, camping under a canopy of live oaks, day hiking and backpacking on the Florida Trail, experiencing history at a historic mill house, and of course, find a swimming hole in the refreshing spring.
Juniper Springs is east of Ocala, in the forest. The address is 26701 E Highway 40 in Silver Springs, FL.
Kings Bay is a first-magnitude spring in Crystal River, Florida. It is part of a complex that includes more than 70 individual springs that pump out in excess of 600 million gallons of water per day. Other springs in the system include Hunter Springs and Three Sisters Springs.
At a consistent 72 degrees year-round, Kings Bay is a mecca for manatees in the winter. You might find 400 manatees in Kings Bay all year long, but this number can swell to over 2,000 in the winter. Crystal River and Kings Bay are very unique because they are the only places in the entire U.S. where you can swim with manatees legally. You’ll find several manatee tour operators in the area.
Kings Bay and the small islands surrounding the bay are part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. You can find a visitor center at 1502 SE King Bay Drive in Crystal River, FL. Crystal River is about 40 miles from Ocala.
Ginnie Springs is a recreation area just north of Gainesville, FL. It is privately owned and operated. Billed as a “true slice of Florida,” Ginnie Springs offers tubing and floating, camping, paddleboarding, scuba diving, and more. You can spring your own equipment or rent what you’ll need to enjoy the water onsite.
Ginnie Springs is located at 7300 Ginnie Springs Road in High Springs, FL. High Springs is about 60 miles from Ocala.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, near Brooksville, is often thought of as one of Florida’s best natural springs. It is a truly enchanting place to visit. In fact, Weeki Wachee Springs is home to real, live mermaids.
The mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs have been one of Florida’s favorite roadside attractions since the late 1940s. The mermaids, which are really just costumed models, have been performing water ballets and breathing through air hoses in the spring since Perry Newton originally opened the attraction in 1947. They still perform here daily.
The spring itself here is one of Florida’s first-magnitude springs and pumps out more than 100 million gallons of water a day. The spring flows into the Weeki Wachee River.
The river is easy to navigate and perfect for paddling. You’ll find canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and other vessels on the water here frequently. You can rent the equipment you’ll need to enjoy the water onsite. You can also enjoy the Buccaneer Bay waterpark art Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
You can find Weeki Wachee Springs State Park at 6131 Commercial Way, in Weeki Wachee, Florida, FL. Weeki Wachee is about 60 miles southwest of Ocala.
Tarpon Springs is a famous destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast best known for its rich Greek culture and tradition. In fact, Tarpon Springs is one of the only places in the U.S. where you can see traditional Greek sponge diving in old heavy rubber suits just as it’s been done for more than a hundred years. Off the sponge docks, you’ll also find antique shops, art galleries, and all kinds of restaurants serving traditional Greek food.
But did you know there’s also an actual springhead around Tarpon Springs? The town is named after the nearby Tarpon mineral springs, which feed into the Anclote River.
The major spring at Tarpon Springs is more than 100 feet deep and once attracted visitors from around the country for its supposed medicinal properties. The spring was a major Florida tourist attraction as far back as 1885 when it became accessible by rail lines from Tampa.
Tarpon Springs is located in Pinellas County, about 100 southwest of Ocala or 140 miles north of Fort Myers.
Bonita Springs is a wonderful Southwest Florida destination. It sits right on the Gulf of Mexico. Bonita Springs is famous today for great fishing, great weather, a scenic white sandy beaches.
Like Tarpon Springs, what initially put Bonita Springs on the map is its natural springs. Bonita Springs is named for a natural springhead located off U.S. 41.
Though the spring is long forgotten, it was once upon a time known for its healing waters. The Calusa Indians who inhabited the area before the Spanish took over Florida in the 1500s were known to bring their sick to the spring here for its medicinal properties.
While you can’t visit the actual spring in Bonita Springs anymore, its history still lingers. Bonita Springs is a wonderful place to visit with ample vacation rental properties to enjoy!
Bonita Springs is located in Southwest Florida, between Fort Myers and Naples.
Plan a Florida Vacation with Royal Shell
Interested in exploring the best natural springs in Florida? Make seeing these natural wonders part of your next Florida vacation. No matter you’re staying for a week or for the season, Royal Shell has the perfect vacation rental for you.