Thanks to the Floridian Aquifer, the state of Florida has literally hundreds of freshwater springs, 33 of which are first-magnitude. First-magnitude means these springs discharge massive amounts of water which, for us, means they're large enough to swim in. These springs are crystal clear with a nice refreshing temperature of 72-74 year-round.
Most of Florida's larger springs are north of I4 which runs diagonally from Tampa to Daytona Beach. This is because the Floridan Aquifer is closer to the surface in that area, and runs deeper the more south you go. South Florida residents can easily take a day trip to any of the state's best springs, which are most central.
Here are some of the coolest and closest springs for SoFlo residents:
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Where: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is one of the best- if not the best- springs to visit in Florida. The clear blue spring is very large with a second-magnitude spring attached as well as several other small ones that combine to form the 7-mile Weeki Wachee River. The park has lots of entertainment including a submerged 400-seat theater to watch mermaids perform. There's also animal shows, a restaurant, picnic areas and water slides. Find out more on their website.
Rainbow Springs State Park
19158 SW 81st Place Rd., Dunnellon, FL 34432.
Rainbow Springs State Park is a tropical oasis has evidence of people enjoying it as far back as 10,000 years ago. It is natural beauty at its finest and the spring is the 4th largest in Florida. The land surrounding the turquoise water is high, rolling and covered in mossy Cypress Trees. You can explore the forest to find natural floral gardens, waterfalls and uncommon wildlife like turkey and deer. Check out this blog from the Florida Park Service for photos.
Silver Springs State Park
Where: 1425 NE 58th Ave., Ocala, FL 34470.
Known as the gateway to the Ocala National Forest, the second largest forest in the country, crystal clear Silver Springs feeds into the 5-mile Silver River, becoming a mix of fresh and salt waters. It is a great place to snorkel and see lots of fish or use a paddle boat for some serenity. This spring is where the glass bottom boat became famous and you can take a tour on one at the park to see right through to the sandy floor. Check out the park's gallery here.
Blue Spring State Park
Where: 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, FL 32763.
Blue Springs State Park covers 2,600 acres with the Volusia Blue Spring connecting to the St. John's River. The spring is large, round and deep with a temperature of 73 degrees and is a very popular swimming, snorkeling and diving spot. There's a cave 80 feet below the surface scuba divers often explore while kayakers, paddle boarders and canoers venture the surface down the river. A growing refuge for West Indian Manatees, the spring is closed November 15th- March 15th while the manatees return for winter. More info and photos.
Three Sisters Springs
Where: 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr., Crystal River, FL 34429.
The last undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, Three Sisters Springs is a constant 72 degrees also serving as a home to the West Indian Manatee. The spring is also closed November through March but you will definitely see manatees throughout the year (just don't touch). Check out this link.
Click here to see an interactive map of all 33 major springs in Florida with information about each of them.