While the Jacksonville, Florida area isn’t known for any hot springs, there are plenty of beautiful natural springs close to the city. These warm mineral waters typically sit between 68℉ and 72℉ year-round making them excellent destinations for your next vacation, regardless of the season.
Tourists have long enjoyed the miles of sandy beaches that line the east side of Jacksonville, but did you know the largest urban park system in the country is there as well? Residents are rich in opportunities to get out into nature, and many take advantage of their proximity to the springs.
Here is a list of the many natural–and warm–springs that are within an easy drive of the city from nearest to farthest:
Green Cove Springs – 33 miles
Green Cove Springs is a small town that developed around the warm mineral spring of the same name. Today, the slightly sulfur-scented water flows into a nearby community swimming pool and out to the St. Johns River.
Residents and visitors alike are welcome to take a dip. It looks like a regular pool at first glance, surrounded by a concrete lounging area with pergolas and encircled by a black metal fence. The water stays around 77℉ year-round, making it a lovely place to get some laps in any time you have the chance.
A lifeguard is always on duty, and a depth of three to six feet makes it appropriate for most ages. It’s hard not to relax in the park-like environment, with palm trees swaying in the breeze and partially blocking the hot Florida sun.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park – 81 miles
Head west to Ichetucknee Springs for 2,669 acres of lush forest filled with wildlife and nine natural springs come together to feed the river by the same name. Share the water with beavers, river otters, manatees, and more as you swim, kayak, tube, canoe, or paddleboard–onsite gear rental is available. It’s also ideal for snorkeling through the underwater cave system.
Head Springs and Blue Hole Spring are the best for jumping in. The former was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and has shallow edges and access to picnic tables making it perfect for a family outing. The latter, at 72℉ year-round and deep, crystal blue waters is one of the more picturesque in the park.
On land, you’ll find multiple hiking trails to get some exercise or go bird-watching. There’s even a tram service for those who want to go further into the park without the long hike. The Riverside Grill and Store offer food and gifts for guests at the entrance to enjoy at the many picnic tables throughout the property.
Gilchrist Blue Springs – 82 miles
Located in Florida’s newest–and lesser-known–state park, Gilchrist Blue Springs offers plenty of trails and water activities for the whole family. Four other springs converge in the park, but Gilchrist Blue is the only one you can get in and attracts paddlers, snorkelers, and swimmers. It is also known for the diverse wildlife that shares the turquoise water like turtles, fish, and invertebrates.
Water remains a cool 72℉ throughout the year, so it’s a refreshing way to cool off in warmer weather. You’ll see signs warning swimmers of alligators here, too, but they typically stick to the area beyond where swimming is allowed.
Like others inside state parks, Gilchrist can be accessed from 8 am to sundown, 365 days a year. If you’d like to spend a night or two under the stars or in an RV, campgrounds can accommodate 23 bookings in total. A concession stand has you covered if you don’t bring enough to cook over the campfire.
Ginnie Springs – 85 miles
Ginnie Springs offers all kinds of fun in and out of the water and is just ten minutes away from Gilchrist Blue, though it’s privately owned. The park rents gear for water sports like tubing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and scuba diving. While an extensive underwater cave system entices people to participate in scuba, many openings are blocked by metal grates for safety reasons.
Safety also comes into play when swimming with the local inhabitants, which could include anything from crocodiles to waterfowl. Typically, if you leave them alone, they’ll return the favor. Boasting some of the clearest water near Jacksonville, you usually won’t be surprised by an unwelcome presence.
For overnight stays, visitors can choose from primitive campgrounds, RV sites, and a single homestead that sleeps eight and has a full kitchen. Groceries can be found at the general store, or full meals can be purchased at one of the multiple restaurants on the property. With 250 acres of wooded land around you, you’ll be able to fall asleep to the sounds of nature.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring – 96 miles
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Springs transports scuba divers and snorkelers to another world in the 54-foot deep cave pool under the eerie light from an opening above. Seeing the stalactites and fossil beds from 33 million years ago alone is worth the visit, and at 72℉ all year, any time is a good time.
As a scuba training center, they offer equipment rental but relegate those just going for a swim to the heated swimming pool and save the springs for the divers and their required dive buddies. You can grab snacks, drinks, and souvenirs from the gift shop in between dips.
On-site accommodations include RV parking, tent campsites, four cabins that sleep four people, and a double-wide trailer with room for eight. Whether you’re there to dive or enjoy the outdoors, you can take advantage of the picnic tables, grills, cabanas, pavilions, and lawn games.
Juniper Springs – 104 miles
The well-known Juniper Springs is just under two hours south between Jacksonville and Orlando in the Ocala National Forest. It’s another good choice if you’re traveling with kids because this sparkling, 72℉ teal pool is shallow at one end and divable at the other. There are, however, tape grasses covering parts of the bottom that American eels and the occasional alligator tend to enjoy.
The pool sits in the middle of a subtropical forest, and if you’re still enough, you might see otters or albino gray squirrels from the water or one of the many trails in the area. Reserve a campsite for your RV or tent to lay back under the dense canopy of live oaks and enjoy the wildlife at night.
Plenty of outdoor entertainment awaits you near Juniper springs both in and out of the water. Scenic kayak routes are fun for the whole family and can even come with a haul-back service if you’re too tired for the return. You might consider an Area Pass if you decide to go spring-hopping; Alexander Springs (see below) is also nearby.
Madison Blue Springs – 106 miles
You’ll find Madison Blue Springs in a state park a few miles from the Florida-Georgia border in the Florida Panhandle. It’s a first-magnitude spring that creates a swimming hole 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep.
With a small sand beach and an underwater cave system to explore, there is something for everyone here. Be aware that you’ll likely be sharing the space with many other spring enthusiasts, something at occasionally causes the park to close to new entries when it reaches capacity.
Madison Blue is in the middle of rocky bluffs, dense trees, and a picnic area. Some parts of the spring are reserved for certified cave divers due to the level of skill needed to traverse the underwater rock formations. Paddling and tubing are also welcome in other parts.
Alexander Springs – 108 miles
Alexander Springs is a revitalizing stop on the Florida National Scenic Trail, a 1500-mile backpacker path that starts on the west side of the panhandle and ends near the Everglades at the southern tip of the state. This first-magnitude spring with a sandy bottom is set amidst a wide variety of trees that create a tropical paradise.
A slightly sloping beach leads into water that also hoovers around 72℉ all year. It’s the only place in Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted, so be sure to grab your gear.
As with most national parks, there are plenty of RV and tent sites available if you’d like to extend your visit overnight. A nearby concessionaire offers things like snacks, groceries, firewood, and beach items. Picnic tables are scattered around the area as well.
Blue Spring State Park – 109 miles
Blue Spring State Park is just under two hours south of the city and has been the site of serious conservation efforts over the years. The results have led to the proliferation of the local manatee population, so be aware that swimmers aren’t welcome when they are populating the water from November to May. There are, however, plenty of ways to see these creatures from the shore.
The water here is nice year-round at 72℉, so grab your swimsuit or snorkeling gear and make a day of it. For those who need more time, 51 campsites are available but book up quickly. Two renovated bathhouses, a store, and a concession stand are available to guests.
If you miss out on the campsites, snag a hotel room nearby. Restaurants for sit-down meals as well as a grocery store are also within easy reach.
Fanning Springs Park – 110 miles
Fanning Springs Park, a handicap-accessible natural spring that also stays at about 72℉ year-round, treats guests to a walk through a cypress swamp on the way to the pool. In the pool itself, you’ll find turtles, many types of fish, and seasonal manatees.
When you’re ready to dry off, jump into a game of volleyball on the vibrant white sand court nearby. Overnight guests can rent cabins or campsites for tents and can enjoy a concession area, picnic tables, and a playground.
Warning: For the past few years, there has been some concern over the level of nitrates in the water despite state park services giving it the ok. Experts hypothesize it comes from fertilizer runoff from fields. It’s also worth noting that sturgeons, large fish that can jump seven feet out of the water, use the area to spawn their young.
Wekiwa Springs State Park – 135 miles
Wekiwa Springs State Park is just outside of Orlando, about two hours from Jacksonville. Though sizable, this spring-fed pond sometimes reaches capacity with all the swimmers, kayakers, and fishermen wanting to take advantage of this natural treasure. Some people believe the water to be so clean that a post-swim shower is unnecessary.
While many visitors make it a day trip from Orlando, there are sites for RVs on the property, primitive tent camping sites a short hike from the springs, and two that can only be reached by boat. If spending a couple of days here, guests can also explore the extensive trails on foot, horse, or bike. Only the last is available for rent.
Anyone who wants to get up close and personal with the marine life without getting in the water can also rent glass-bottomed boats. Turtles, alligators, blue crabs, and stingrays are only a few of the diverse array of animals you may see. Grassy slopes on the side of the pond are perfect for watching from the sidelines and picnics.
Next time you’re in the Jacksonville area, spend some time at one of these amazing warm springs. Each offers a uniquely Floridian experience and a chance to do more than just swim.
If you’re planning to pitch a tent or haul your travel trailer with you, consider one of the top campgrounds by Jacksonville for your stay.