Day Trip: Visit Florida’s Springs

Springs

While Florida is well known for it’s stunning beaches, Florida’s equally stunning Florida springs can be your next summer adventure. These watery treasures provide beautiful scenery, aquatic activities, and unique wildlife while giving you relief from the steamy Florida heat. Hidden away in Florida’s wilderness, many of these Florida springs are a reasonable drive from the Tampa Bay area. Here is a list of some of our favorite Florida springs, drive time included!

Covid 2020 update: We’ve included notes below to indicate where park facilities and rentals may be limited or temporarily closed. We’ll update this post as things continue to gradually reopen.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour

With a plethora of attractions for the whole family to enjoy, Weeki Wachee Springs is more than just a state park. Buccaneer Bay Waterpark offers 5 waterslides, a sandy beach, swimming, snorkeling, and a special water play area for the little ones. For an active adventure, rent a tandem kayak for just over $50 to paddle 5.5 miles of the Weeki Wachee River’s calm waters. Make sure to catch the Weeki Wachi Mermaids perform Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid underwater. Park entry is $13 per person.

Note: The park (including the waterpark and mermaid show) is currently closed, but kayak rentals are available daily from 8am-noon. Reservations are required and you’ll have to paddle out and back. Get the latest park safety updates here.

Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid show
Image credit: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and Springs

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 20 minutes

This is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the Florida manatee. In Crystal River, you have the unique opportunity to glimpse these gentle, slow moving mammals during manatee season. Three Sisters Springs is a fantastic place to observe manatees on foot from the winding boardwalks, which offer views of the springs full of manatees in the colder winter months. Tickets are $12.50/adult in the summer and $20/adult in the winter and include shuttle transportation to the refuge.

If you’d rather view these gentle giants from the water, book a manatee snorkeling tour (in season) or opt for our personal favorite, a guided kayaking tour in clear kayaks with Get Up and Go Kayaking. Tour options include visits to Three Sisters Springs, Hunter Springs and Jurassic Springs. The most unique feature of this tour is, of course, getting an unobstructed view of the manatees directly below your kayak.

Image credit: Get Up and Go Kayaking

Silver Springs State Park

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 40 minutes

You might think of swimming, tubing and kayaking when you think of Florida springs, but Silver Springs State Park offers a unique experience not available at other parks. The iconic glass bottom boat tours offered at this park allow you to see the springs in an entirely new way. 30-minute tours are offered daily, or you can book a spot on an extended 90-minute tour on weekends. Park admission is $8/car and boat tours are $12-$25/person, depending on which tour you choose.

Note: Glass bottom boat tours are currently closed, but the park is open for limited day use.

Rainbow Springs State Park

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 40 minutes

Popular with swimmers, snorkelers, paddlers and tubers, Rainbow Springs State Park offers a variety of water adventures. A designated swimming area is the perfect place to cool down, or rent a tube or kayak to cruise the picturesque Rainbow River. Kayak rentals begin at $50 for the day. Tubing is accessed via a separate tubing entrance ($2 entry fee) and rentals are $20 for the day.

On land, hike the scenic walkways and nature trail to admire manmade waterfalls and colorful flora that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

For a longer tube run (we’re talking 4-4.5 hours of floating!), KP Hole is an alternate park nearby offering tube rentals. Bookmark it for future reference when rentals reopen.

Note: Tubing is currently closed, but kayak rentals are available and the park is open for limited day use.

Outdoor activities in Tampa - Rainbow River tubing
Tubing the Rainbow River from KP Hole | Image credit: Stephanie Patterson

Kelly Park / Rock Springs

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 45 minutes

Located north of Orlando, Kelly Park is popular with tubers eager to float down the short but serene 3/4-mile tube run. Pack a picnic and stake out a sunny spot in the grass along the water after you’ve had your fill of floating down the crystal clear water. Tube rentals are available outside the park from multiple vendors for around $5 each, and park admission is $3-$5. If tubing isn’t your thing, pass the entrance to Kelly Park where you can rent kayaks from King’s Landing, or book a guided kayaking tour in a clear kayak. Keep your eyes out for playful otters, turtles, birds and other wildlife.

Note: Tubing may be limited or unavailable at this time. Kayaking rentals and the tour listed above are currently open.

Devils Den Spring

Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 50 minutes

For a truly magical experience, Devil’s Den Spring is the place to be! Located below ground, visitors can scuba dive or snorkel in an underwater cavern in crystal clear waters. Unlike other springs on the list, this one is only open for snorkeling and scuba diving. Admission is $15-$20 ($38 for scuba divers) and rental gear is an additional cost. While in the area, make sure to stop by Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens nearby. Get the full scoop on planning a day trip to Devil’s Den Spring from our sister site, Orlando Date Night Guide, here.

Note: Snorkeling is currently open by appointment only at the spring.

Devil's Den Spring
Image credit: Natalie Monzon @roamsick

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Distance from Tampa: 2 hours 30 minutes

Crystal clear, 72-degree spring-fed water and a fantastic tube run make Ichetucknee Springs one of the state’s best tubing spots. Kick back and relax for the 3.5-hour float while soaking up the scenery. Or, opt for the Midpoint Tube Launch for a shorter 45-minute to 1-hour float. Tube rentals are available on a limited basis within the park, or you can bring along your own or rent from vendors outside the park. Other park activities include hiking, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking and more.

Note: Currently, only the Midpoint Tube Launch is open for tubing.

Ginnie Springs

Distance from Tampa: 2 hours 30 minutes

Located near Gainesville, this destination is one of the only places where certified divers can go cave diving in Florida. For a more leisurely activity, rent tubes for $6 each (or a double tube for $12) and relax as you float down the Santa Fe river with your love. The facility also offers overnight rental cottages, campsites, and picnicking if you’d like to turn your visit into a weekend getaway.

Image credit: Ginnie Springs

Want more outdoor adventures? Check out Rainbow River Tubing Dates for Summertime Fun or Best Bike Rides in Tampa Bay.

Feauture Photo Credit: ginniespringsoutdoors.com


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