Admission: $6 per vehicle Hours: 8 am – sun down Distance from downtown Orlando: 33 miles (42 min) Blue Springs Website
Blue Springs State Park consists of 2,644 acres of pristine wilderness less than an hour from the center of Orlando. The water is crystal clear and a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round. You can scuba dive down 120 feet into the spring itself and over 100 scuba divers per week do just this throughout summer. But in winter Blue Springs is famous for its manatees. To protect these gentle giants, the water is closed to human activities during their stay (Mar – Nov). You can observe them from the boardwalks.
Outside of the winter months (Nov – Mar), Blue Springs is a beautiful spot to swim and snorkel. Canoeing, kayaking and tubing can also be enjoyed along the St. Johns River outside manatee season, and Hontoon Island State Park is a short paddle downstream. There is also a fishing dock on the river. All equipment can be rented from the concession in the park.
A boardwalk takes you through the forest hammock to the spring. Pine Island Trail is 3.6 miles one way and passes through desert-like scrub to the dense forest surrounding St. Johns River.
Wildlife besides manatees includes barred owls, herons, vultures, storks, turtles, and alligators.
You can take a self-guided tour of Thursby House, a plantation style home built in 1872. Two hour river boat tours are also available at 10 am and 1 pm ($25 adults $18 kids).
There are 51 campsites and six cabins in the state park if you wish to stay.