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Florida Spring: Silver Springs State Park
Location: Ocala, Florida
Just under two hours from Jacksonville is the oldest commercial tourist attraction in Florida, Silver Springs State Park. Stories of their famous glass-bottom boat tours and monkey sightings convinced us to make the trip.
Silver Springs is one of two state parks in Florida that does not allow swimming, the other being Homosassa Springs State Park. Maybe you are not quite ready to snorkel with your littles in a deep spring, haven’t experienced old Florida, or would like a gentle introduction to Florida Springs. If so this park may be perfect for you and your family.
Silver Springs State Park offers the historic glass-bottom boat tours, kayak and canoe rentals, hiking trails, camping, and bike and equestrian trails. There is a museum, gift shop, ice cream, and restaurant shop all located within the park.
Our family arrived early and promptly got in line for the boat tour. The boats run continuously throughout the day, we did not have long to wait until we boarded. No matter where you sit on the boat you have a wonderful, crystal clear view of the spring waters below you. Our tour guide and Captain was rich with knowledge and history about the park, and the treasures below the waters’ surface. Besides wildlife and vegetation there are also movie props and historical artifacts from days gone by. My daughters were fascinated by the glass bottom of the boat. Even though the glass is original to these boats the view was crystal clear no matter the depth of the water.
After the boat tour we picnicked along the river with a packed cooler we brought into the park. The on-site restaurants’ menu had many options and even ice-cold beer if you forget your lunch or get thirsty. The park grounds are beautiful and worthy of a stroll down the paved path that runs along the main spring head. There are many tables and picnic spots throughout the park. Make sure to take a photo with the lucky palm tree. Rumor has it that anyone who takes a photo with the palm is assured good luck!
If you are feeling adventurous there are kayak and canoe rentals as well as a launching area if you bring your own. While we did not see any monkeys on our outing to the park many have, especially if you do choose to kayak/canoe the run yourself. Make sure to keep your eyes focused along the shoreline during hot summer days when the monkeys may be getting a cool drink from the spring.
Silver Springs State Park makes a great day trip from Jacksonville. This is the perfect park to chose for the entire family to experience the Florida Springs without having to swim. Fees vary depending on the activities chosen but overall a visit to this park is well worth the nominal charge.
If you’re interested in learning more about springs in Florida, we recommend Touring the Springs of Florida: A Guide to the State’s Best Springs. It’s a great resource for day trips that your family is sure to love!
Looking to explore more springs in Florida? Check out our other suggestions for the best springs to explore with your family!
Jillian Gishler is a New Englander at heart. Born in Jacksonville Beach, she grew up in Massachusetts but was beckoned back to Florida by Mickey Mouse for a Disney World Internship. She returned to the beach in 2005 after graduating from Florida State. Ten years ago she opened her handmade & vintage collective shop, Sew Vicious, in Neptune Beach. Jillian raises chickens, is a passionate gardener, a DIYer, a thrift store junkie, and a deal loving mama who runs Sunny Savings. She leads her daughters Girl Scout Troop, teaches sewing at a local Montessori School, and is a Parents Who Lead Alumni. She loves surprising her husband and daughters with mini-vacations around the Sunshine State.