Living in Jacksonville, we are lucky to be so close to so many amazing places and gorgeous state parks. One of our favorites winter day trips from Jacksonville is Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, FL near Orlando.
Why visit Blue Springs State Park this winter you ask? Because during the colder months hundreds of manatees seeks these warmer waters (in 2018 they had a record 485 manatees). You can see a river full of sea cows and their babies while you stroll along the boardwalk.
Blue Springs Offers a Boat Ride
Want to take a tour of the area? Grab some hot chocolate in the gift shop to keep warm, before you take the 2 hour cruise down the St John’s River. Your guide will point out wildlife up and down the river as your family gets an up close view of a variety of animals and of course, manatees. You also learn a little more about the history of the area and the river as you enjoy the beautiful views.
You Can Hike at Blue Springs
Not up for a boat ride? Blue Springs also has a beautiful 7.3 mile hiking trail to enjoy! Of course, you don’t have to hike the entire trail, but you can enjoy a nice hike both alongside the river and a bit inland as you enjoy nature and help your little ones burn off some energy. Don’t forget, Blue Springs is a State Park, so your little Junior Park Ranger can earn some stamps while hiking helping entertain your kiddos and get exercise together.
A perfect and memorable day trip activity for only the cost of gas and a $6 entry park fee per vehicle (hot chocolate and boat tour are extra). Your children will love watching the manatees as they swim, stick their noses out for air and of course, eat.
Blue Springs has Camping & Cabins
For those wanting to extend their stay, or those families who love to camp, Blue Springs State Park has campsites and cabins available. For multiple days of manatee viewing, long hikes and just time together, camping this time of year is perfect.
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!
Melody is a graduate of Jacksonville University, married a Jax Beach resident, moved away for 12 years, then returned to the area in 2016. Together they have two girls. Melody works as owner/photographer of Melody Coarsey Photography, she loves yoga, family, traveling, dining with a view and the ocean.