July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and it’s a great time to add a visit to one of Florida’s many freshwater springs to your vacation itinerary! Ranging from the smallest trickle of water from the Floridan Aquifer to major tourist attractions, Florida has more natural springs than any other state. While many of these springs are located on private property, 21 are preserved and protected at state parks. Most of the springs are located in central and northern Florida – just a day trip from one of Kong Vacation Homes’ Tampa Bay properties – and all are known for their sparkling beauty! Here’s a list of the seven closest springs to visit:
Just an hour’s drive north of Tampa, Homosassa Springs is the perfect day trip! In the early 1900s, it was a popular train stop where passengers could cool off with a dip in the springs while the train cars were filled with cedar, fish, and spring water. Today, Homosassa Springs is one of the best places in the state to watch manatees! Along with various species of fish and alligators, you might also observe animals like river otters, bobcats, white-tailed deer, and even black bears at the park.
Located in Spring Hill (about 75 minutes north of Tampa), Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is known for having one of the deepest, naturally formed caverns in the United States – and for its live mermaid show! At Weeki Wachee, you can swim in the crystal-clear waters, learn about wildlife, or embark on a paddling adventure. A popular tourist attraction since 1947, this world-renown park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2020.
3. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge / Three Sisters Springs
Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast (about 90 minutes north of Tampa), this spring-fed river is the only refuge created to protect manatees. Within the refuge, you can find the Three Sisters Springs, which is an inlet naturally divided into three crystal-clear pools. You can swim at the springs, but you can only access them by waterways. Like all Florida springs, the water temperature stays around 72 degrees, offering a refreshing dip on a hot summer day and a chance to see a manatee up close!
Drive just a little further north (approximately 1 hour and 36 minutes), and you can find Rainbow Springs in Dunnellon. Centuries ago, native Floridians believed the spring waters to have healing powers. Today, people make the trek to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and viewing some of the tallest waterfalls in the Sunshine State!
Glass-bottomed boats were invited at Silver Springs, giving visitors a glimpse of underwater life since the 1870s! You can still take a boat tour of the springs, where you will see many species of fish, Spanish and Native American artifacts, and even underwater movie props. You also can learn more about the park’s history (and Hollywood connection) at the Silver River Museum.
Closer to Orlando (but still less than two hours from Tampa), Wekiwa Springs is actually Orange County’s longest-running tourist attraction! Whether you choose to swim, canoe, or kayak, there are so many ways to experience the emerald waters at this state park.
Drive just under two hours from Tampa and go even further back in time at the Devil’s Den Spring, known as Florida’s premier pre-historic spring. While there is no general swimming allowed at the springs, you can scuba dive and snorkel, exploring the underwater caves. Devil’s Den Spring is privately owned, and snorkeling is available by appointment only.
If you’re interested in more information about Florida’s springs, check out this fun interactive map from the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.
After a refreshing day at the springs, your relaxation can continue at Kong Vacation Homes! We manage four highly rated vacation homes in Tampa Bay, all of which can accommodate your entire family in style. Kong Vacation Homes are impeccably clean, fully furnished, and beautifully designed for your comfort. Among other amenities, each single-family home is equipped with complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, smart home technology, a state-of-the-art security system, and on-demand maintenance. With your health and safety in mind, we provide contactless check-in and check-out at all rentals, and we also follow Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Initiative. When you stay with Kong Vacation Homes, you can truly vacation to the fullest!