5 Florida Springs Near Orlando You’ve Got To See To Believe

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Key Points:

  • Wekiwa Springs: Perfect for swimming, hiking, biking, and observing wildlife in tropical hammocks. 
  • Blue Springs: For observing manatees during winter, swimming and snorkeling in summer. 
  • Rock Springs Run: Best for tubing down the lazy river and enjoying picnics on the grassy slope.
  • Alexander Springs: First-magnitude spring in Ocala National Forest with cool, crystal-clear water.
  • De Leon Springs: Popular for its historic “healing waters” and nature trails through ancient forests.

Florida has the highest number of large springs in the country (more than 700), with several freshwater springs located near Orlando. These crystal-clear springs maintain temperatures from 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. 

The springs are perfect for swimming, tubing, kayaking, and hiking in the hot summers and mild winters. Some even have small water parks and water slides. 

Here, I’ll share my top picks for natural springs that are just a short drive from Orlando.

Wekiwa Springs – Wekiwa Springs State Park

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, FL 32712
Open Hours: 8 am – sunset, Daily
Entrance Fee: $6 per vehicle

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, Wekiwa Springs State Park is the nearest spring to Central Florida. The highlight of the park is undoubtedly its namesake spring. 

Wekiwa Springs is the oldest and most popular tourist spot in Orange County. This second-magnitude spring expels 43 million gallons of water and feeds the Wekiva River. 

The park can get crowded, especially during the summer months. So, make sure to arrive early to secure parking.

Point of Interest

Make a quick and enjoyable stop at Wekiva Island, where you’ll find cabana rentals, bars, food, and many year-round events. The place becomes a lively beach party on weekends, especially in the summer.

Popular Activities in Wekiwa Springs

Here are some popular outdoor activities at Wekiwa Springs.

Swimming

Wekiwa Springs is popular for its large swimming hole. The swimming area is about half an acre large and four feet deep. 

In addition to swimming, you can relax in the grassy areas around the springs, picnic, or even go snorkeling.

Pro Tip: Swim safely, as there are no lifeguards on duty. Kids and non-swimmers should always have an adult with them, and diving or jumping isn’t allowed into the water.

Hiking

The park’s extensive network of trails, around 13 miles, makes it a favorite spot for hikers. You can explore the trails on foot, bike, or horseback. There are both short, scenic walks as well as longer treks here. They go through sandhills, swamps, and woods.

Along the trails, you might see animals like tortoises, turkeys, deer, bobcats, black bears, and bird species.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Launch your own vessels from the kayak rental area without an additional fee. If you don’t have a canoe or kayak,  rent them from Wekiwa Springs State Park Nature Adventures. 

The most popular paddling route is from Wekiwa Springs to Wekiva Island, which takes approximately 30 minutes. 

Other popular activities include birding, fishing, and geocaching. There are also picnic areas and a nature center to learn about the park’s flora and fauna.

Where to Stay 

If you want to extend your stay, there are several hotels near Wekiwa Springs. Consider Holiday Inn Express & Suites, which is only a six-minute drive from the spring. 

Camping options are also available, with spacious sites equipped with water and electrical hook-ups, picnic tables, and fire rings.

Find the Best Hotels to Stay Near Wekiwa Springs

Blue Springs – Blue Spring State Park

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, FL
Entrance Fee: $6 per vehicle  
Open Hours: 8 am – sunset, Daily

Located along the St. Johns River, Blue Spring State Park is about a 45-minute drive from Orlando. The park is home to one of Florida’s largest natural springs, pouring more than 100 million gallons of water daily. 

During the winter months, Blue Spring serves as a refuge for West Indian manatees. Conservation efforts have led to a remarkable increase in the population of wintering manatees, from 14 in 1970 to a record 729 in 2023. From November to March, all water activities in the spring are closed to keep these gentle creatures safe.

If you’re visiting in summer, you can enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, tubing, and swimming. There are also multiple picnic pavilions and a playground for all-day entertainment.

Popular Activities at Blue Springs

Here are some popular activities you can enjoy at Blue Springs.

Hiking

Blue Springs State Park has diverse hiking trails, including an easy-to-access boardwalk to Blue Spring. Stroll through the Pine Island Trail, a 3.6-mile trail that shows various plant communities, or the Sand Pine Scrub Trail, a 0.25-mile loop where you can spot the endangered Florida scrub jay.

Paddling

You’ll have to share the spring with lots of tubers, but paddling is a fantastic experience. You can paddle through the beautiful St. Johns River and Blue Spring Run. 

Bring your own kayak or rent one at Blue Springs Adventures along the St. Johns River. If you paddle outside the spring, you might spot sandhill cranes, alligators, and other birds.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

You can also snorkel and scuba dive here, but the park has specific rules and capacity limits for scuba diving. Guided underwater tours are available through Florida Dive Company. They also offer snorkel tours.

Tubing and Swimming

Tubing and swimming are some of the most popular activities at Blue Springs. Enjoy a float run and start at the upper entry, swim to the spring boil, and then float back to the main swim dock. In total you’ll cover about an eighth of a mile.

Keep in mind, swimming or diving with manatees is not allowed. For the safety of all visitors, please refrain from climbing onto the spring banks or trees.

Where to Stay

If you plan to extend your stay, the park features 51 campsites suitable for recreational vehicles up to 40 feet long. 

Each site is pet-friendly and has amenities such as water, electricity, a picnic table, and a grill. If you want a private experience, you can stay in nearby hotels or cabins.

Find the Best Hotels to Stay Near Blue Spring State Park

Rock Springs at Kelly Park

Location: 400 E Kelly Park RD Apopka, FL
Open Hours: 8 am – 8 pm
Admission Fee: $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people

Rock Springs at Kelly Park is one of the most stunning springs near Orlando and a popular spot for day-trippers and tubers. Kelly Park, the second oldest park in Orange County, is about 30 miles from Orlando.

It is home to Rock Springs, which begins from a spring vent in the park and flows 8 miles downstream to form Rock Springs Run. The spring run joins Wekiwa Springs to the Wekiva River. 

Rock Springs is nicknamed “Orlando’s natural lazy river” because of its gently flowing waters. Its Emerald Cut area is famous for its green water and wildlife like turtles, otters, and deer.

Amenities include picnic pavilions, restrooms, a concession stand, and a playground. 

The best time to visit Kelly Park is on weekdays or during off-peak seasons like October, which is surprisingly pleasant for tubing.

Pro Tip: Arrive early! Kelly Park fills up fast, especially in the bustling summer season. Try to get there before 8 am when the gates open.

Popular Activities at Rock Springs

Tubing

The main attraction at Rock Springs is tubing down the spring-fed river, where you can float along the gentle currents among lush vegetation and limestone cliffs. You can rent tubes from vendors outside the park from Rock Springs Bar and Grill for $7 per day or bring your own tube (must be less than 5 feet in length or width).

To access the springhead for tubing, walk from the parking and concession area to the boardwalk. You’ll be at the spring vent when you see a cave that is not open for exploring. The flat rock cliffs provide an easy launch into the water for tubing. During your tubing adventure, you’ll pass under bridges, find shallow beach areas, or spot wildlife. 

The 3/4-mile run takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes, and you reach the end of the tubing run at a bridge. There is a ramp to exit the river, and you can either walk back to Spring Head or take a break.

Paddling

If tubing isn’t your thing, you can paddle along the crystal-clear water of the spring. While canoeing and kayaking are not permitted within Kelly Park, you can enjoy these activities further downstream at King’s Landing

At King’s Landing, you can rent equipment or join guided tours. Or, you can bring your own and start from Camp Joy at Kelly Park. Launching hours are from 8 am to 12 pm, with a return deadline of 5 pm.

Swimming 

The park has designated swimming areas, including sandy spots great for the kids. The main pool section has plenty of space. However, diving is not allowed due to shallow depths and rocks.

Hiking

Near Rock Springs, you’ll find the Kelly Park Loop Trail. This 2.4-mile trail is perfect for hiking and wildlife sightings. The trail winds through the forest filled with ferns, oak, and pine trees. You might spot Luna moths, deer, black bears, and fox squirrels along the trail.

Where to Stay

If you plan to stay overnight, the park has a campground with many RV and tent sites. If you want to stay nearby, there are many hotels and lodges that meet every budget.

Check Out the Best Hotels to Stay Near Rock Springs at Kelly Park

Alexander Springs – Alexander Springs Recreation Area

Location: 49525 County Road 445, Altoona, FL 32702, US
Open Hours: Daily 8 am – 6 pm
Admission Fee: $8/person on weekdays and $11 on weekends

I visited Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest a lot growing up. It’s always been one of my favorite springs, mainly because the wildlife there is really good. Not to scare you, but I’ve even been in the swimming hole with a couple alligators!

If you look closely, you can see the alligator in the background, right in the grass next to the bank.

Alexander Springs is about an hour from Orlando, Florida. You can find it on County Road 445 in the northeast corner of Lake County, between Altoona and Astor.

This first-magnitude spring feeds into a large spring pool. The spring pool is broad, gently sloped, and has a sandy bottom. The swimming area is open to the public and has clean beaches, clear water, picnic and camping facilities, nature trails, and boat rentals. 

Popular Activities

Here are some popular activities to do at Alexander Springs.

Swimming and Snorkeling

The clear, cool water of Alexander Springs is perfect for swimming. The gently sloped beach leading into the spring basin makes it easy for visitors to get in and out of the springs.

You’ll also find plenty snorkeling here. I usually saw turtles and lots of fish, including sometimes a flounder. I would just keep a healthy distance from the seagrass and edges where you may see gators.

Kayaking and Canoeing

If you want to paddle down Alexander Run, rent a kayak or canoe at the concession stand. This gentle waterway takes you through the Alexander Spring WIlderness. You might spot great blue herons, alligators, and turtles along the way.

Scuba Diving

Alexander Springs is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is allowed. Its clear water and sandy bottom make it a nice beginner-friendly dive site.

Hiking

Day hikers will love the shaded Timucuan Trail, a 0.9-mile interpretive loop with a boardwalk through the palm hammock along the spring run. This easy trail is great for all ages and allows visitors to see the springs’ natural beauty closely.

Camping

If you want to spend more time in nature, the campground at Alexander Springs has 67 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 35 feet long. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and grill. 

If you want to stay nearby, you can find numerous accommodation options.

Check Out the Best Hotels to Stay Near Alexander Springs

De Leon Springs State Park

Address: 601 Ponce De Leon Boulevard. De Leon Springs, Florida
Open Hours:  Daily, 8 am to sunset
Admission Fee: $6 per vehicle

De Leon Springs State Park has one of the best natural springs in the area, and is just under an hour from Orlando

De Leon Springs was originally named Acuera, “healing waters,” by the Macaya Indians. Today, it provides a glimpse into its 6,000-year history with remnants of a Fountain of Youth. The spring run powered a sugar cane mill and, later, a grist mill during the Civil War.

Unfortunately, the rumors are true – the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill is closed. They were a favorite spot for pancakes for visits for decades, but are no longer there.

Popular Activities at De Leon Springs

Swimming and Snorkeling

De Leon Springs has a 500-foot swimming hole (around, not deep!) surrounded by greenery all around. Swim from 8 am until 30 minutes before sunset.

You can enjoy snorkeling in the designated swimming area but not in the spring run due to boats and alligators.

Paddling

There is a designated launch near the canoe rental for a round-trip journey of up to 8.5 miles along Spring Garden Creek. Initially, the creek is broad, but after passing Spring Garden Lake, it merges into a winding stream through the floodplain. Stay close to the shore along the lake’s edge. After more than 4 miles, Spring Garden Creek flows into Lake Woodruff, which serves as the end point of your paddling adventure.

Hiking

There are three nature trails that take you through the cypress swamps and dense palm hammocks. 

For a shorter walk, try the Monkey Island Trail to see the remnants of the former boat ride area. 

For a longer adventure, take the 4.2-mile Wild Persimmon Trail. It will take you to the jungle-like basin of Spring Garden Run.

Where to Stay

Camping is not allowed at De Leon Springs State Park. However, if you want to stay overnight, there are many hotels located nearby.

Check Out the Best Hotels to Stay Near De Leon Springs State Park

Other Popular Springs Near Orlando

Taking a dip in the head springs at Rainbow River.

Here are some other beautiful springs near Orlando you’ll want to check out:

  • Silver Springs: About 85 miles from Orlando, it is one of the largest springs in America, famous for its iconic glass-bottom tours and underwater world. 
  • Silver Glen Springs: About 69 miles from Orlando, this first-magnitude spring is located in Ocala National Forest. It is popular among tourists for swimming, snorkeling, and picnicking.  
  • Weeki Wachee Springs: This natural tourist attraction is about 87 miles from Orlando and is famous for its live mermaid shows, riverboat cruises, and kayaking and paddleboarding activities.
  • Rainbow Springs: This fourth-largest natural spring in Florida is about 1.5 hours from Orlando. It is a perfect destination for tubing, swimming, and hiking.

The Bottom Line

Wekiwa Springs State Park, minutes from downtown, has lush hammocks and miles of hiking and biking trails. Enjoy tubing down the lazy river or picnicking on the grassy slope at Rock Springs Run. Blue Springs is the largest spring on the St. Johns River and serves as a refuge for manatees in winter. 

With abundant wildlife and family-friendly activities, these springs offer a perfect escape after a busy week at Orlando’s theme parks.



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