Florida has a mecca of natural springs that are begging to be discovered by outdoor lovers and adventurers. While they aren’t hot like many other mineral pools, these are some of the best, most transparent, pristine places to explore aquatic life and underwater caves.
The average temperature of Florida’s warm springs hovers around 72℉ year-round, but they can also go a couple of degrees cooler. While this might seem a bit frigid for the average swimmer, this can feel refreshing during the humid summer months. The subtropical climate makes swimming appropriate throughout the year in many places.
While exploring natural springs is exciting, remember that many animals call these waters home. Critters like gators, snakes, fish, and even manatees are known to roam some springs and rivers. Even though they often avoid busy areas and humans, it’s essential to stay aware. Lifeguards are not present in all swimming areas.
There are many natural springs in The Sunshine State, but these are some of the top choices of past travelers and residents. Gather your friends and family for a day in some of the most photograph-worthy and azure waters you may ever see. When you’re ready to take a dip and see these gems for yourself, head to one or more of these destinations.
Warm Springs Mineral Park
Located in North Port, Warm Springs Mineral Park is Florida’s only naturally warm swimming area (that’s above 72℉ year-round). The springs form a large sinkhole pool that opened as far back as 30,000 years ago and is believed to have magical healing powers due to its high mineral content.
The water temperature stays around 85-87℉ all year, and it continuously flows, refilling at a rate of 9 million gallons per day. Reaching depths of 200 feet, visitors can swim, soak, or explore the world below by scuba diving with a permit from the city.
Fossils from ancient animals like sabertooth tigers and remains of prehistoric people were discovered in this geothermal pool, but it also was once used as a burial ground for native tribes long ago. Around 50 different minerals comprise its content, which is part of why some call it the “Fountain of Youth.”
Warm Springs Mineral Park is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and greets around 130,000 visitors yearly. On-site spa services like facials, skin care treatments, and waxing are offered for those that want to indulge in even more relaxation.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring
Williston’s Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is one of the most unique of Florida’s natural swimming holes. Open 364 days per year (closed on Christmas), this privately owned scuba diving facility beckons adventurers to come and explore its depths.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are the only two activities allowed in the den, and snorkelers need to make reservations to get in the year-round 72℉ water. Otherwise, there is no swimming permitted.
The pool peaks at 54 feet deep and is 120 feet in diameter, with no animals living in it except a few small fish and a turtle. Not only is this spring excentric in its shape, but its ancient location has born many extinct animal fossils from back to the Pleistocene Age. Visitors under the age of six aren’t permitted in the water, and pets are prohibited from the property.
Anyone interested in camping can book one of the on-site cabins or campsites for RVs and tents. Admission to the den isn’t included with lodging.
Ginnie Springs, near the town of High Springs, is claimed to have the clearest waters in all of Florida. This heavenly natural area comprises seven springs, numerous caves, and boats with many recreation opportunities, from swimming to paddle boating, kayaking, scuba diving, and tubing.
Spend some time soaking in this paradise with the year-round 72℉ waters that get 80 million fresh gallons flowing through it daily. There are three dive sites available nearby, and unless visitors are a “Certified Full Cave Diver”, everyone must have a buddy to explore with.
Rental gear for all water sports is available at the on-site general store. This privately owned attraction is top-rated on weekends and holidays, so you can expect a crowd to be there, especially during peak times.
Aside from all the great things to do in the water, Ginnie Springs has 129 campsites for those who want to stay overnight. Reservations are strongly recommended through their website, and the general store has many of the supplies you’ll need for an evening of fun.
Three Sisters Springs
Three Sisters Springs is found along the Crystal River on the west central coast of Florida, and it’s known as a home and sanctuary for manatees. Only swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are allowed in the springs to protect the animals’ habitat.
The land surrounding the springs is still privately owned and has a boardwalk attraction separate from the water areas. Due to erosion, there is no land access from the water and no water access from the land.
Visitors that want to have the in-water experience at Three Sisters Springs must reach them by paddleboat or motorized vehicle, and boats are only allowed from April 1 to November 14. Swimming is permitted year-round from sunrise to sunset unless the water gets below 62.2℉ (although it averages 73.3℉).
During manatee season, tours are given of the area by Wildlife Services volunteers. This is a day-use facility only, and there is no on-site camping.
Madison Blue Spring State Park
Madison Blue Spring State Park in Lee, FL, is one of the state’s most popular locations for swimming and scuba diving in a natural environment. At one time, this first-magnitude mineral spring was rated by USA Today as the number-one swimming hole in the country.
The crystal-clear waters have a temperature of 72℉ year-round and fill a pool of about 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep. This spring pumps at least 740 gallons per minute into the basin and shallow run; these waters are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and tubing.
Set along the Withlacoochee River and surrounded by forests, Madison Blue Spring is also a haven for certified divers who enjoy exploring little-seen caves and underwater pathways. The primary aquatic cave system sits about 30 feet under the main pool surface.
The park is open daily from 8 am to sundown and offers a wealth of other activities. Picnicking, hiking, birding, boating, and mountain biking are just a few options. Primitive camping and campground stay for tents, R.V.s, and cabins are also available.
North of Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs in the Rainbow Springs State Park is a first-magnitude spring and fourth largest in Florida. These artisan waters have been an attraction since the early 20th century, but they’ve existed for well over 10,000 years.
The bright blue water and calming tree-lined shores create an oasis for anyone looking to unplug for a few hours. The spring headwaters are the best place for swimming, with depths of 10-18 feet and a consistent temperature of 72℉ all year long.
Tubing is allowed from April through September at other parts of the spring, which flows from the swimming area and empties into Withlacoochee River. Other water activities include snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking, which the gear can be rented for on-site.
Tent and RV campsites are available inside the park, and reservations can be made ahead of time. Regardless of what activity you’re planning, arrive at the park early because they close after meeting capacity.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
The Ichetucknee River in Ichetucknee Springs State Park is fed by several natural springs, creating “Florida’s Natural Lazy River” and a popular spot for tubing, kayaking, and paddling. Swimming and snorkeling are also possible in the head spring, which boasts incredible crystalline waters and a consistent temperature of 72°F all year.
Water activities are available year-round, but tubing is the most popular thing to do during the summertime. Visitors have access to the water from 8 am to sunset and often see lots of wildlife living in their natural habitat while enjoying the river.
Scuba diving is only permitted in certain areas and requires certification, especially for underwater cave exploration. During the peak season, people can use the shuttle service in the park to transport their vessels to the water.
Pets are not permitted in the river but are welcome in the state park on a leash. The nearest campground is Ellie Ray’s River Landing in Branford.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Home to the live swimming mermaid show and many boat tours, Weeki Wachee Springs, located in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, has been a tourist attraction since the 1940s. Not only have visitors been coming to these springs for entertainment and a day on the water, but it’s also the site of the deepest freshwater cave system in the United States.
The Weeki Wachee River feeds the springs and maintains a temperature of 72-74°F all year long, pumping 150 million gallons of fresh water daily. This springs area can go down as far as 407 feet at its deepest point.
Paddling and taking a boat down the crystal-clear waters of the river are popular activities and a wonderful way to witness wildlife in the area. Other visitors interested in swimming can go to Buccaneer Bay, where water slides, a lazy river, and a kids’ play area feature fresh spring water.
While there aren’t any camping spots in the park, a few camping areas are close. Cody’s RV Park and Mary’s Fish Camp are two of the nearest ones.
Set in the Ocala National Forest north of Orlando, Juniper Springs is one of the state’s most famous and historic recreation areas. Established in 1908, the swimming pool and campground are encompassed by trees and boast clear turquoise waters that are great for snorkeling or wading in.
Juniper Springs is one of the national forest’s few natural pools that visitors can get in. The designated swimming area reaches eight feet deep on one end and has a shallow side on the other, making it easy for kids to use the 72°F year-round water.
A campground by the springs was completed in the 1930s and features a water wheel that produces energy, a futuristic tool for its time. There’s also an excellent boat run for kayaks and canoes to explore, which is ideal for wildlife viewing but not getting in the water.
The Juniper Springs Campground is one of the most popular in the area and has 79 tent and R.V. camping sites. A few amenities like picnic tables, fire rings, and clean bathrooms are available for overnighters.
Set near Altoona, Alexander Springs is a first-magnitude spring situated in Ocala National Forest and one of the best for recreation. With an average temperature of 72°F all year long and see-through waters, this area is highly sought after for swimming, canoeing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.
The natural pool has a sandy bottom with a length of about 300 feet across and a depth of 25 feet. Scuba diving is permitted here with the proper certification, and it’s the only place in Ocala National Forest to do this activity.
The springs boast beautiful subtropical canopies of tree varieties and plants and aquatic and land-based wildlife. Many like to set up for the day at one of the picnic tables and enjoy hiking, biking, or fishing before taking a dip in the refreshing waters.
Visitors are welcome to bring their own boats, but there are places to rent kayaks or canoes near the launch areas. The camping area at Alexander Springs comprises 67 sites and has many amenities like hot showers, drinking water, bathrooms, picnic tables, and accessibility to the swimming and hiking areas.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park in northwest Florida is the location of a large aquifer-fed springs pool that’s very popular with locals, especially during the summer. The water is very accessible and defined by a rock wall and staircase with tables and pavilions nearby for day use.
The spring pool averages 68-72°F year-round and reaches depths from as shallow as 18 inches to nearly 30 feet in the spring boil area. The circumference of the swimming area is 500 feet, and no lifeguards are on duty, so swim at your own risk.
Open hours of the pool are 8 am to dusk, and no scuba diving is allowed except for instructional learning. Snorkeling is permitted in certain parts of the swimming area, but remember that any artifacts found at the bottom are the state’s property and should not be disturbed if discovered.
Swimming in the runs outside of the pool area is not allowed due to alligators and boats. This park and water area are bustling and can reach maximum capacity quickly, so arrive as early as possible when you go.
Wakulla Springs is located in the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and offers several things to do, from boat tours to swimming and even recreational scuba diving. The state park is known for its incredible prehistoric scenery, which was the backdrop for a few movies like the early Tarzan films and the 1954 horror flick, Creature from the Black Lagoon.
One of the fascinating aspects of these springs and park is the deep history that runs through its water and soil. Dinosaurs and ancient animals like sabertooth tigers used to roam these lands. Visitors can take tours of where they used to walk in this unspoiled location.
Swimming in the 68-70°F water is available in certain areas, along with snorkeling and diving off the 22-foot tower for extra excitement. The main spring at Wakulla Springs is the world’s deepest freshwater one, and with over 80 underwater sinkholes, certified divers will have much to explore.
For those who rather enjoy the sun from land, there is plenty of space on the beach to relax under a tree or work on the tan. The area can be enjoyed all year long from 8 am until sunset.
While there is no camping on-site, there is a special place to stay. Rent a room at The Lodge at Wakulla Springs (affiliate link). Built in 1935, you won’t find TVs in any of the rooms, but you’ll likely wake to wonderful nature views and wildlife roaming around the park.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park
With 44 million gallons of fresh water flowing through it daily, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park near High Springs is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. This once-private park joined Florida’s state park list in 2017 and boasts a number of natural springs along the Santa Fe River.
Even though there is more than one natural spring in the park, the focal point is the Gilchrist Blue Spring, which houses the main swimming area. There is a 20-foot deep vent encompassed by a nice shallow area and a spring run that’s great for families with young kids.
The waters are crystal-clear like many other Florida springs, and it maintains the typical temperature of about 72°F during all seasons. Hiking, picnicking, paddling, and kayaking are also frequently done in this park, with personal equipment or gear rented from the stand near the ranger station.
A forested campground with 25 sites is near Gilchrist Blue Springs too, which is excellent for travelers who want to spend more than a few hours splashing in the water. Keep in mind that not all of the springs allow getting in the water, so it’s essential to pay attention to the signs.
Level up your next trip to Florida with a visit to any of these best natural springs. After a day of looking into these crystal-clear basins, you’ll see why the state continues to attract so many tourists.
Considering camping? Discover the best Florida campgrounds on our sister site, La Vida Nomad.