The freshwater springs of central and north Florida might be one of the most unique landscape features of the U.S. These crystal clear bodies of water look like they belong on a secret tropical island rather than just a few miles from many popular locations in this southern winter haven.
The thousands of springs throughout the state bubble up from the porous limestone and the ancient Floridian aquifer. The springs are home to many of the state’s fish and birds as well as the endangered manatee. In addition, you don’t have to worry about Florida’s famous gators in these springs. They don’t like the cooler water temperatures and tend to stick to more muddy waterways.
Unfortunately like the manatee, many of these springs are also in peril. Groundwater usage by millions of people, tropical storms, rising sea levels, and fertilizer runoff are affecting the clarity and health of these special places.
So while there are some amazing places to go camping next to these springs, the state of Florida does control the number of places where RVs and other more high impact visitors are allowed.
1. Blue Spring State Park
Located north of Deltona, Florida, this beautiful park and spring is the winter home of the previously mentioned Florida manatee. Blue Spring State Park’s springs are open all-year for swimming and snorkeling, but only when the manatees are not around.
The 51-site park has parking for RVs, tents, and trailers up to 40-feet long. All sites come with hookups, picnic tables, and grills. Bathrooms and showers are available as well as reservations up to 11 months in advance.
2. Rainbow Springs State Park
The campground has a kayak and tube rental kiosk as well. The RV loops can fit some longer RVs and the sites all have picnic tables, fire rings, and trees for privacy. The springs also have a boat launch area and boat parking.
3. Wekiwa Springs
If you have a family that loves to swim, the large, shallow pool at Wekiwa Springs near Orlando is great for children. The pool even has a swim lift for people who may have difficulty entering the water.
The campground at Wekiwa is even better. The park offers over 50 RV and tent sites as well as some overnight backpack trails. Along with hiking, playgrounds, a museum, and equestrian area, there is tons to do in this park. Who needs Disney World?
4. Ginnie Springs
If you want a really luxurious dip into the world of Florida springs, visit Ginnie Springs Outdoors north of Gainesville. This location is not a state park but should be a destination on any freshwater spring trip. The aquamarine, sheltered pools of this resort are a balmy 72 degrees year-round.
You can even scuba dive in these pools. The resort has 129 RV sites with water and electric hookups and plenty of shade. The resort rents out snorkel gear, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and tubes to go down the Santa Fe River.
5. Wakulla Springs
Wakulla Springs south of Tallahassee has the distinction of being the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. This 6,000-acre wildlife sanctuary is home to alligators, manatee, dozens of waterfowl, and turtles. In addition, the bones of prehistoric mastodons have also been found here.
Because this is a protected area and The Lodge is the only on-site accommodation, camping is located outside of the park at the Newport Park & Campground. This park is smaller than most with only 25 sites, but a full hookup site only costs $27 per night. It’s also only a 15-minute drive from Wakulla Springs.
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