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Ocala Springs – Ultimate Guide

Ocala Springs

Visiting Ocala Springs should be part of every nature lover’s bucket list. Beside amazing thoroughbred farms, the springs are one of the major attractions in Ocala. Especially during hot and humid Ocala summer when the horses get moved up North, Ocala Springs is the main local attraction. In addition, they are a great way to cool down, relax and enjoy the power of nature and view Florida wildlife.

To enjoy these natural swimming are year round attractions with temperatures that average 68-72 degrees all year we recommend going early due to capacity restrictions. This is why we have decided to list the springs by distance to Ocala to make sure you can easily calculate your travel time. The closest Ocala Spring (Silver Spring) is a ten minute drive and the furthest (Manatee Springs State Park) a little over an hour. 

9 Stunning Ocala Springs To Visit

 

Silver Springs – 6.4mi – Number 1 Ocala Springs

Since 1870’s Silver Springs has been one of the largest and most visited springs in Florida.

Best known for: World famous for its green and white glass bottom boats (book ahead). Boats take you to the spring and the 5 mile Silver River.

Location: Silver Springs is also located within Ocala National Forest. Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488, United States

Hours: Silver Springs State Park is open 7 days a week year-round, including ALL holidays, from 8 am. to sundown

Fees: There are several entrances to the park, and admission fees paid at one entrance authorizes admissions to all other areas. If you park at the Main Entrance on SR 40, the cost of admission to Silver Springs is $2.00 per person. Children 5 and under are free.  

At the Camping and Equestrian Entrances the cost is $8.00 per vehicle with 2 to 8 occupants.  Admission is $5.00 for single occupant vehicles.

Activities

  • Paddling: Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboards and go down for five miles downstream on the pristine and unspoiled Silver River. Transportation back upstream is provided. Alternatively pick a shorter,  one and two hour, out-and-back excursion.
  • Hiking: If hiking is one of your healthy lifestyle activities, pick one out of five hiking and nature trails ranging one mile to a 4.6-mile loop.
  • Swimming: Please note that swimming is not permitted. (But who would want to share the river with alligators anyway)
  • Wildlife and bird watching: Armadillo, deer, turkey, fox, Sherman fox squirrel and gopher tortoise are very common. Less frequently seen are coyotes, bobcats and Florida black bear. Alligators, turtles, manatees and many species of fish live in the river. Birds include a significant population of limpkin, and many other aquatic and woodland birds.
  • Camping: Silver Springs State Park’s campground offers different camping options. This includes cabins, RV and Tent Sites, and Group Primitive CampSites.
  • Culture: Visit Cracker Village to find out about the life of early local settlers. At Silver River Museum you can learn about Florida geology, paleontology, archaeology and natural history and also about early years of Marion County and Florida.

 

Paradise Springs – 9.3mi – Number 2 Ocala Springs

This is a perfect place for adventures. This privately owned site offers scuba diving.Note that you must show scuba certification at the entrance. No air fills or equipment rentals. 

Best known for:  Most beautiful and memorable cavern dives in Florida. Unique entrance through aKarst Window opening that allows you to enter the underground stream.

Location: 4040 SE 84th Lane Road, Ocala, FL 34480 (352) 368-5746

Hours:Wednesday – Sunday 8:00am to 5:00pm

Fee: $30.00 per diver per day- Cash only,

Activities: Scuba diving

Rainbow Springs – 22mi – Number 3 Ocala Springs

Rainbow Springs is the fourth-largest spring in Florida

Best known for: Rainbow Springs has crystal clear water with a sapphire-blue tint. Human made waterfalls and gardens surrounding the spring give it a very unique flair. Some people say the water has healing powers

Location: Rainbow springs is located within Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon. Please note that during the summer there is an extra entrance for tubing! Tube rental and shuttle available. (for more details, call guest service: 833-945-2925)

Hours: Hours are 8 am to sunset daily. But please make sure you arrive early. The park closes once it reaches capacity. 

Fee: $2 per person. Children under 6 admitted free.

Activities: 

  • Swimming: Enjoy swimming in crystal clear water and aquatic life like fish, turtles, and grasses. The  roped off swimming area that ranges from 5 to 18 feet deep. Like most springs in Florida the temperature has a constant of 72 degrees.
  • Tubing: Try tubing on the river for only $20 with a shuttle that will bring you back!
  • Paddling: all non-motorized vehicles are allowed!

Juniper Springs – 29 mi – Number 4 Ocala Springs

Juniper Springs in Ocala especially attracts canoers and kayakers. The reason is that there is a 7 mile Juniper spectacular  run through the wilderness.  

Best Known for: Juniper Springs is best known for its river run and hundreds of tiny bubbling springs and massive springs. They are gushing out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. It reminds of an oasis within the heart of a desert-like scrub ecosystem.

Location: Juniper Springs is located in the Ocala National Forest east of Ocala. Located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along SR 40. From the intersection of Highway 40 and Highway 19, the campground is 4.5 miles west on Highway 40. The entrance is on the north side of Highway 40.

Hours: Hours are 8 am to sunset daily. But please make sure you arrive early. The park closes once it reaches capacity. 

Fee: 

  • Camping: Single Campsite: $31 + taxes/night (14 Day Stay Limit, Maximum Occupancy: 5 People, 2 Vehicles including trailers, 2 tents) (please make a reservation!)
  • Private canoe or kayak launches (limited to 35 per day, must be on water no later than 1:00 p.m.): $10 per vessel
  • Day Use: Weekdays: $8 + tax/per-person AM,  Weekends: $11 + tax/per-person AM 
  • Dump Station: $10.50 + taxes for non-campers 
  • 3rd Vehicle: $9.00 + taxes

Activities: 

  • Swimming: Families love coming to Juniper Springs. The reason is that the spring is relatively shallow. It is only 8 feet at the deepest point which makes it standing out compared to the other Ocala Springs. It is also perfect for snorkeling and seeing fish! Water Temperature is also 72 degrees.
  • Nature Watching: Enjoy looking for animals and birds in the jungle-like forests surrounding Juniper Springs and Juniper Run.
  • Camping: Juniper Springs has 79 unique sites for Tent and RV campsites. 
  • Hiking: Hike the accessible Juniper Springs Nature Trails between the swimming area at Juniper Springs and the lovely Fern Hammock Springs, Accessible and only 0.8 miles long!

 

Salt springs – 30 mi – Number 5 Ocala Springs

In the early 1900s, many people came to the spring, believing it had medicinal healing powers.

Best Known for: For the high mineral content of its water.

Location: The main roads through Salt Springs are State Road 19, as well as County Road 314 and County Road 316, both of which terminate at SR 19.

Hours: Hours vary by season

Fee: $6.50 per person day use fee and a $10.00 parking fee

Activities: 

  • Swimming: Swimmers can enjoy the clear waters of Salt Springs Run and year round temperature of 74 degrees.
  • Camping: Salt Springs has the largest campground on the Ocala National Forest and the only one with full hookups for RVs. Rates are $31 per tent per night and $50 per RV per night.
  • Hiking: Nice two miles loop with some sharp climbs and a long boardwalk. Beautiful observation deck at the end for bird lovers. 
  • Nature Watching: Salt Springs has common native trees and shrubs of the Big Scrub. Some examples are live oak, Chapman oak, myrtle oak, southern magnolia and saw palmetto. Make sure to get some interpretive information at the kiosk that helps you understand the flora and landscape along the trail.
  • Fishing: Salt Springs Run is an enjoyable place to fish. The reason is that there are plenty of small coves along the cypress-lined shoreline which give it a unique and super relaxing atmosphere. Please check licensing requirements for Florida.
  • Boating: Bring your kayak, canoe or stand up paddle and use the boat launch that is located at the end of the campground closest to Salt Springs Run.
  • Snorkeling

 

Silver Glen Springs – 39 mi – Number 6 Ocala Springs

One of the best springs in Florida. Read our ultimate guide to Silver Glen Springs here

Alexander Springs -44mi – Number 7 Ocala Springs

Alexander Springs is one of the most pristine springs in Florida. The unique subtropical vegetation surrounding the complex includes hardwood swamps, palms and sand ridges

Best Known for: Alexander Springs has the most crystal water of all springs making it a photographers dream!

Location: “Alexander Springs Recreation Area is located along CR 445 in the northeast corner of Lake County between Astor and Altoona. 

From SR 40 at Astor, take Butler Street to CR 445A, and turn left on CR 445. The recreation area is 5.8 miles south on the right. 

From Altoona, drive north 5.2 miles on SR 19, and turn right on CR 445. Continue another 5.1 miles to the entrance on the left.”

Hours:  Alexander Springs Recreation area open 8 a.m. to dusk.

Fee: WEEKDAYS: $8 + tax/per-person, WEEKENDS:$11 + tax/per-person

Activities: 

  • Swimming: Lifeguard: 7 days a week May 15 – September 15: 10am to 6pm. he water is a constant 72 degrees.
  • Hiking, 
  • Canoeing, 
  • Birding, 
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Scuba Diving: for certified divers only

De Leon Springs State Park – 52 mi – Number 8 Ocala Springs

The Mayaca Indians who inhabited the area once called Acuera, or “Healing Waters”. The famous naturalist John James Audubon visited the springs in 1831. Make the drive to enjoy an amazing variety of wildlife!

Best Known for: De Leon Springs State Park is known for its  massive old-growth bald cypress trees and its rich history.

Location: 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd., De Leon Springs FL 32130

Hours:  8 a.m. until sunset, 365 days a year

Fee: $6 per vehicle

Activities: 

  • Swimming: Swimming is permitted from 8 a.m. until a half-hour before sunset (park closing). The swimming area is a constant 72 degrees, and depths range from 18 inches to 30 feet at the spring boil.
  • Snorkeling: Snorkeling is permitted in the swimming area only and not in the Spring Run due to boats and alligators
  • Boating: Spring Garden Run starts at the park and connects with the St. Johns River, a distance of about 10 miles.
  • Birding: The park is on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. A bird list is available at the park.
  • Boat Tours: Enjoy a 50-minute eco/history boat tour on Spring Garden Run aboard the M/V Acuera
  • Wildlife Viewing: Huge variety of wildlife like otters, alligators, manatees, osprey, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and even a swimming black bear have been spotted. Also watch out for turtles, wild hogs, turkeys, deer and bobcats.
  • Fishing: Fishing is permitted in Spring Garden Run and from the fishing pier.
  • Hiking: De Leon Springs State Park offers a half-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved nature trail with interpretive signs. The trail passes through a floodplain forest with cypress, hardwoods and other plants native to this area, including a cypress tree that is more than 600 years old. The Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail, a 4-mile loop, will lead you through several natural communities. Deer, turkeys, wild hogs and Florida black bears are sometimes seen.

 

Manatee Springs State Park – 59mi – Number 9 Ocala Springs

Manatee Springs State Park has so much to offer that it is worth driving a little longer. From guided nature tours, biking, and motorized boating, there is so much to do.

Best Known for: Watching manatees in the colder months and its fantastic ranger programs.

Location: 11650 N.W. 115 St., Chiefland FL 32626. This is off US 19.

Hours:  8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year

Fee: $6 per vehicle

Activities: 

  • Swimming:
  • Hiking: The park also offers 8.5 miles of nature trails and a safe connection to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail, 
  • Biking: Great biking on trails! Mountain bikers can enjoy 8 miles of wooded off-road trails within the park. Please bring your helmet.
  • Swimming: Swimming activities can be enjoyed in the natural feature of this beautiful first-magnitude spring. Use caution – the current is swift.
  • Fishing: “Freshwater fishing from the park’s boardwalk along the spring run and in the Suwannee River is always popular. Largemouth bass, catfish, mullet and a variety of panfish will delight the lucky angler. All fishing within the park must conform to regulations concerning size, number, method of capture and season.”
  • Guided Nature Tours: Rangers-led programs are offered throughout the year. Conestoga wagon rides are offered seasonally (fall and spring) along the north trail system. Most ranger-led programs are free with paid park admission.
  • Boating: A boat ramp is located just outside the park. 
  • Kayak, Canoeing: Canoeing and kayaking is available year-round down the famous Suwannee River.
  • Camping: The park features 80 campsites in three loops, each with its own hot shower restroom and all within easy walking distance of the spring. There is electricity and water at each site.
  • Wildlife viewing: “Excellent wildlife viewing is available along the boardwalk that winds through the cypress swamp from the spring to the river as well as along some hiking trails.”

A Word from healthylifestyleflorida.com

Ocala Springs are great fun for everyone. From springs located within National Forests or at Silver springs, one of the oldest Florida attractions, you will not be disappointed at the beauty and wildlife that awaits! 

Ocala Springs is a great place to start your healthy lifestyle! You will love what you can be!

Antje Diana Baumgarten

Antje Diana Baumgarten

I believe that the things we do and the products we use determine our lifestyle. Whether your ultimate goal is to optimize your health, fitness or well-being. I introduce you to content that has the true potential to make a significant difference to how we live, love, perform, learn, look, exercise, travel, relax, sleep, work and more.

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