The best way to deal with Central Florida’s steamy, sultry days? Get yourself underwater – preferably crystal-clear water surrounded by gorgeous greenery. Whether you prefer to kayak, canoe, paddleboard, tube or just wallow in the water like a sexy manatee, these springs have you covered.
5390 NE 180th Ave., Williston
You can't exactly work on your tan here, and the website (devilsden.com) says that "general swimming is prohibited," but how could you possibly turn down a dip in a dry cave's underground spring? At Devil's Den, you can scuba-dive or snorkel among 33-million-year-old fossil beds and stalactite formations. The glowing underwater colors guarantee this will be your most-liked Instagram of the summer.
De Leon Springs
601 Ponce de Leon Blvd., De Leon Springs
De Leon Springs has a reputation for beautiful turquoise water and on your way down the boardwalk to the spring, you're sure to see birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Canoeing and kayaking is popular, if you prefer to make your way through the spring one stroke at a time, but swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are also allowed. If you don't observe that whole "no swimming for an hour after eating" rule, a stop by the Old Spanish Sugar Mill for pour-your-own pancakes is a must.
2100 W. French Ave., Orange City
Blue Springs is the biggest spring on the St. John's River, and probably very familiar to many Orlando residents. It's a designated manatee refuge and home to a population of West Indian manatees during the winter, but in the summer it's all about hanging in the H2O – swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, tubing, kayaking and canoeing are all allowed on the Blue Spring Run. (Fishing and boating are allowed on the nearby river, but not in the spring.) If you've got a scuba license, you should definitely check out the underwater cave lingering about 100 feet below the surface.
12087 SW U.S. Route 27, Fort White
Back in the early 1900s, phosphate was mined in this park; you can still see some pits around the headspring. Cave-certified scuba divers can explore the Blue Hole October through March, but in summer it's best known for its tubing. No motorized watercraft are allowed on the Ichetucknee River, so prepare to float lazily alongside otters, beavers and wood ducks.
13851 State Road 19, Salt Springs
You might notice the water is a little tastier here than at other springs around Florida; that's because Salt Springs' waters contain a bit of potassium, magnesium and sodium salts. Spring vents form large pools perfect for a leisurely swim, but if you're more of an activity person, Salt Springs offers some pretty good fishing locales as well.
Silver Glen Springs
5271 State Road 19, Salt Springs
About 10 miles down the road, Silver Glen is located in a beautiful patch of the Ocala National Forest. Its crystal-clear water is not only soothing, it also comes in handy when you're trying to get a look at all the fish swimming around. Silver Glen is also the place that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to write her best-known novel, The Yearling, in 1938.
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka
The classic choice. People of Orlando are very familiar with the spring at the end of the grassy hill known as Wekiwa Springs, so we won't bore you with the details. It wouldn't be a proper Orlando summer without at least one day here, so get some friends assembled and pick your activity for the day: canoeing, swimming, snorkeling, general chillin'.