Blue Spring State Park, near DeLand
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You could get addicted to this place. Summer in Florida is miserable but this is the antidote! When it's 85 degrees out, the sun is pounding down, and it's stickier than a gecko's toes, what do you do? The beach is nice but it's too exposed to the sun. Waterparks and splash parks can get you by but they are full of chlorine and also leave you with a sunburn. The answer: springs! It's like God came up with this solution to the Floridians' summer blues.
Perfect pleasure is easy in this piece of paradise. You park your car just steps from where you enter the springs. Grab your tube, and attach your car key to your pocket. No need for towels- it's warm out! You walk along the most gorgeous boardwalk under a jungle of tropical trees that reach incredibly high to the sky. Follow the signs to the swimming entry and walk down the steps into the cool water. It's cold but not too cold. You can swim but after a while you feel chilled. What works better is to sit on your tube or swim with your arms over your tube. With your chest above the water you can last a long time without feeling cold. The air outside is so warm and now it's a good thing!
Revel in the clarity of the water- you can see the bottom, and the Needle Gar fish swimming by. The spring water pushes you slowly a quarter of a mile to the steps at the end of the spring. Here people watch from a dock, and there's a string of buoys blocking off where the spring continues a little further and then joins the warmer black water of the St John River.
Get out of the spring and repeat the blissful journey down the spring to your heart's content!
From the swimming entry area you can swim upstream to the head of the spring. You can also walk to this spot and look down from the lookout gazebo. Bring your mask because you can watch as scuba and free divers dive deep down into the mouth of the spring- it's amazing! This is nature, the earth, and a source of pure, pristine water at work right in front of you! The banks of the spring head look lovely, and many people gather here just to enjoy themselves, to sun on tree branches, and watch the action.
After your swim, you can warm up in the sun by the gift shop. Bring some cash if you need anything at the gift shop and don't want to bring your wallet. You can get a water bottle for $2 and a snack for $1. They have it all, including tube rentals, but I suggest you bring your own because you will want to spend hours here and not pay a rental fee (see below) for a tube. You can also rent lockers at the gift shop.
The most important thing to remember about Blue Spring State Park is that you have to come early. Be here by 9am on the weekend if you want to have the best chance of entry- what is wonderful about this spring is that it's protected and the rangers don't allow too many people in at one time. See the photos displayed in the park of how awful the spring looked when it wasn't being protected and there were motor boats and erosion. It makes you realize how important it is to protect all these lovely springs so we can enjoy them in their unspoiled beauty- lawn fertilizer especially ruins the springs because the nitrates cause algae mats to grow, which smothers the native eelgrasses that the manatees feed on. Don't use lawn fertilizer!
You can also take a two-hour boat ride up the St John River from here. Renting kayaks is another wonderful option, as you can see how clear the spring water is from high up and watch the fish swim about. You can also see alligators once out of the spring run and on the river.
If you come in winter (Nov 15 to Mar 15) you can't swim in the spring but you can see the manatees from the boardwalk, sheltering in the 72 degree water when the outside temperatures can be in the 30s.
Walk inside Thursby House to read about the history of the area.
There aren't too many mosquitoes at this park- it's wonderful!
A nice place to stay just five minutes from the spring is the Alling House Bed and Breakfast (choose a room in the main house)- they take care of you and even give you kayaks and tubes to use for free! They even give you a ride in their truck with the kayaks and then pick you up when you're done. And every morning their breakfast is a delight! My daughter loved the fancy table each morning and said she wanted to live there!
After your visit, have a meal at DeLand town, your best bet for good food in the area. And check out an amazing snake venom extraction demonstration at the Reptile Discovery Center- do not miss this!
Other wonderful springs to check out in Florida are Ichetucknee Springs State Park near Gainesville, Silver Springs near Ocala, Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, Madison Blue Spring near Highway 75 on the way to Georgia, and the Venetian Pool in Miami.
Florida has the largest concentration of freshwater springs on earth, with 33 First Magnitude springs (springs that produce over 65 million gallons per day). One hundred million gallons of fresh water pour out of Blue Spring each day!
Photo GalleryClick on photo to see large version
Blue Spring State Park is located at 2100 W. French Ave, Orange City FL 32713.
Entrance fee is $6 per car.
Tube rentals from the gift shop include snorkel, mask, and fins as well. $5 an hour, $2.50 additional hours, $15 all day. Locker rental $3 for large, $2 for small.
St John River Boat Cruise, $22 per adult, $20 for seniors, $16 for children aged 3-12, call (386) 917-0724 to reserve. Daily at 10am and 1pm- take the earlier trip to see more animals. Closed Thanksgiving day and Christmas day. Kayak rentals from 8:30am-4:30pm: prices hard to find out!
Alling House Bed and Breakfast, 215 E. French Ave, Orange City FL 32763, call (386) 775-7648.
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Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.