Incredible Freshwater Springs in Florida

Grab a canoe for a peaceful afternoon at Rainbow Springs
Grab a canoe for a peaceful afternoon at Rainbow Springs | © RSBPhoto / Alamy
Karina Castrillo

The freshwater springs scattered throughout the Florida peninsula promise snorkeling, swimming, manatee spotting and, of course, sparkling waters. Your trip will be enhanced by the year-round temperate climate in The Sunshine State. And if you hit the right spot, you might even see a mermaid or two. No, really. Ready to take the dip? Here are the best freshwater springs in Florida.

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Alexander Springs

Surrounded by a forest of maple trees, the natural waters of Alexander Springs are ideal for a refreshing soak. Sitting in Ocala – Florida’s horse country – the area also has historic importance to one of Florida’s Native American tribes, the Timucua, who settled in the forests surrounding the spring.

Troy Spring State Park

Located on the Suwanee River, Troy Spring is home to the remains of Madison, a Civil War-era steamboat that was sunk in 1863. The spring is a popular scuba spot, and the surrounding forested area is full of wildlife, including turkeys and deer.

Juniper Springs

With hundreds of bubbling springs along a 7mi (11km) creek, Juniper Springs Recreation Area is perfect for peaceful canoeing. There’s a section for swimming, nature trails and plenty of shade under the oak trees.

Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs is a local favorite. The scenic waters have a blue-green hue and are bordered by vegetation. They’re also home to wading birds and turtles. The river also served as an important source for Native Americans, and relics such as stone tools and mammoth fossils have been found here.

Three Sisters Springs

A sanctuary for migrating manatees, Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River is a refuge for the gentle beasts during the winter months. Visitors can view them from the boardwalk, but for swimming, you must reach the springs via boat or kayak.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Come to Wekiwa Springs State Park near Orlando to delight in wildlife watching, kayaking and camping. Spend the day swimming in the water or exploring the 13mi (21km) of nature trails.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Settle in for a live mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs, a major attraction for families. The Weeki Wachee mermaids perform several musical numbers and activities underwater, including eating and drinking. The park also offers educational wildlife shows and a riverboat cruise.

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

A dip in these springs may not bring immortality, but the area is nonetheless named after Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the expedition to find the Fountain of Youth. At a constant 68F (20C), the waters provide a refreshing escape from the Florida summer heat.

Rock Springs at Kelly Park

You could take a refreshing soak in the cool waters of Rock Springs, but, better yet, jump in an inflatable tube (bring your own or rent) to drift lazily through Kelly Park.

Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs is a first-magnitude spring (meaning it’s one of the largest) that flows into the Suwanee River along western Florida. Swimming is forbidden during the winter months when manatees congregate, but you can dip in the refreshing waters during the summer.

Ginnie Springs

Perched on the south side of the Santa Fe River, Ginnie Springs has clear-blue water that draws in scuba divers and snorkelers who explore the limestone bottom and caves. You can spot turtles, wading birds and other wildlife near the area, while the bubbling string of springs along the river is perfect for tubing and kayaking.

Ichetucknee River

A favorite for tubing, the spring-fed Ichetucknee River in Ichetucknee Springs State Park flows lazily for miles, with tranquil, glassy waters that stay at 72F (22C) year-round. Just get here early, as the park often reaches its daily capacity.

Blue Hole Spring

Blue Hole, the largest spring in Ichetucknee Springs State Park, flows from an underwater cavern with a strong current, so only venture here if you’re an experienced swimmer. It runs 40ft (12m) deep, which makes it great for scuba diving.

Blue Spring State Park

A designated manatee refuge, Blue Spring is home (from November through March) to a population of West Indian manatees. Though visitors may not swim here during the winter season, there are plenty of opportunities for manatee viewing. Swimmers, snorkelers and certified scuba divers are welcome to take a dip during the summer months.

Silver Springs State Park

You may not be able to swim in this artesian spring, but it’s worth a visit for the epic sunset reflections and natural beauty. You can stroll along the river or go kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding. You can also take a glass-bottom boat ride – perfect for spotting fish, alligators and manatees.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Among the deepest and largest freshwater springs in Florida, the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs feature a network of underwater caves; swimmers have plenty of water to explore here. The grand spring is near the Wakulla River, home to alligators, turtles and other wildlife.

Vortex Spring

Vortex Spring in northern Florida is home to koi and eels, and has platforms for diving. The spring is also a popular site for both novice and experienced scuba divers. However, only certified cave divers are allowed through the dangerous sections of its underwater caves.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

You may not be able to swim here, but there’s plenty of wildlife watching to do, as the springs are a magnet for manatees and fish. The forested area surrounding the waters is also home to the bald eagle, the red fox and many other native Florida species.

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

Peacock Springs, a trendy site for cave divers, has almost 20.5mi (33km) of underwater cave systems for certified scuba divers to explore. The state park also has six sinkholes and two springs.

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