A wooded oasis thirty minutes north of Orlando, Wekiwa Springs State Park features a freshwater spring swimming pond year-round. There’s a campground on-site for car campers and RVs, plus primitive hike-to camping sites for those looking for privacy and a backpacking experience,
The ”fountain of youth,’ a priceless treasure we’ve all heard about and probably longed to find. That legend was born in Florida and given life by the Taino people. They believed that on a sacred tropical island, fresh river water would instantly restore a person’s youth and vigor if used for bathing.
Ponce De Leon heard this rumor and it began to spread. This is why natural springs in Florida are referred to as ‘fountains of youth.’ One of these fountains is Wekiwa Springs a stone’s throw away from the tourist hub of Orlando.
The springs are a cool 72 degrees year-round. They do bubble, though that doesn’t detract from the crystal clear quality of the water. Wekiwa Springs is open for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and relaxing. Many visitors take advantage of its proximity to theme park giants to slip into a different, quieter, perhaps more authentic Florida.
To the indigenous people who first settled the land and utilized the mineral water, the spring was sacred. Then, the springs were part of the tourism surge in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The man who owned the land and water claimed that it healed all manner of illnesses, and drew down wealthy members of society from the north.
A spa, Tonyawaha, was built next to the springs to accommodate these rich patrons. In fact, Wikiwa Springs was the first tourist attraction in all of Florida. It predated other mineral water health spas by about two decades.
The freshwater is laden with minerals that swimmers and divers have claimed make it feel “soft” on the skin. Others have said the water is so clean and lacking in impurities that there’s no reason to bath after a dip in the springs.
Wekiwa Springs State Park has on-site camping. You can pitch a tent or drive your RV onto designated spots. There are no cabins for rent, however. The park has concessions and a Publix is quite near.
RV campers have 60 spaces available, each with hookups for electricity, water. Similarly, each site offers a fire pit and picnic table for visitors’ convenience. Not every site has sewer disposal, but there is a dump station located in the communal space. RVs must be 50 feet in length or under. There are also showers and bathrooms.
For primitive camping, there are several sites available and each can have up to ten people occupying it. Like the RV camping counterpart, each site comes with a fire pit and picnic table, although the primitive sites also offer extra benches. There are two specialty primitive sites that can only be reached via the water, by canoe or kayak.
If roughing it isn’t your style, Wekiwa Springs benefits from being so close to Orlando. There are plenty of hotels and inns within easy driving distance.
Bathing isn’t the only thing to do at Wikewa State Park. While the mineral water is the most popular attraction, there are trails that criss-cross the extensive preserve. Bikes can be rented for these if walking isn’t your cup of tea. Also, there are equestrian paths where horses can pick their way over relatively flat terrain.
Don’t worry, your horse can stay with you overnight as well. Some of the camping spots have prepared stables. A local company rents glass-bottomed padded boats so that visitors can truly enjoy the wildlife beneath the water’s surface. Such creatures include turtles, alligators, blue crab, and stingrays.
Address: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, Florida 32712