Florida is home to over 700 freshwater springs, all a constant 72 degrees, many easily accessible to the general public in our State Parks system. From shallow pools full of colorful fish, to deeper sinkhole caverns, the springs are perfect for snorkeling, and are watery fun for kids of all ages. Though springs exist in almost every corner of the state, it's northwest Florida that is considered 'Spring Country.' Small, rural towns just a three and a half hour drive from Venice including Branford, Mayo, and Old Town are great places to stay.
1. Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a great choice for a first-time springs visit. The main pool, about the size of a football field, is shallow and lively with fish. The main vent from the aquifer splits the sandy bottom and creates a gentle underwater current that kids enjoy swimming through.
2. The park also has river tubing on the spring-fed Ichetucknee River, and for the intrepid, a hike through the 2700-acre woods leads to the famous, diveable open-ceiling cavern called the Blue Hole. Kids can snorkel on the surface and watch as their parents wave up at them from the deep blue water below.
3. Ginnie Springs is privately owned and has a modest entrance fee that is well worth the cost. It has a series of seven aquamarine pools along a two-mile trail that runs parallel to the Santa Fe River. Plan a full day to snorkel or dive at Ginnie. It’s considered by many to be the clearest and most beautiful of all Florida’s springs, and with plenty of modern amenities, is easy to visit with young children.
4. Just west of Ichetucknee, Troy Spring State Park features a sunken paddle-wheel riverboat, scuttled by Confederates as Union soldiers advanced, that’s a great wreck-snorkeling site. The park’s main pool, a 70-foot-deep cavern, has limestone formations that resemble brain coral. Kids love swimming with the yellow-bellied slider turtles that call the spring home.
5. 5. Royal Springs near the small town of O’Brien has a huge, deep main pool with a tall wooden diving platform. Kids scream with delight as they fall far through the air to the warm, blue waters below. No matter which springs you visit, the kids will learn about freshwater ecology and the importance of Florida’s aquifer.
For public springs visit Floridadep.gov/my-home-my-springs.
For the private Ginnie Springs visit Ginniespringsoutdoors.com