Florida is an endless wonderland of lush nature, breathtaking water systems, world-class hiking, and sights that can’t be experienced anywhere else on the planet.
So why do we keep going to the same two or three springs every year?
Habit. We run out of ideas and go with what we know.
Well, living the #FrayLife means getting out of your comfort zone, so it’s time to break away from your norm and check out some of the hidden gems our home state has to offer.
Unique and magnificent, here are 5 natural springs you may not know about, but absolutely need to go explore:
1. Troy Springs
Approx. 2-hour drive
Suwannee and Hamilton Counties are packed with springs and hiking trails, one of which is the history-rich Troy Springs. The floor of this water system is home to the remains of the civil war steamboat Madison, which was scuttled and set on fire by its Confederate captain to prevent the Union from taking it over. Swimmers and divers are welcome to explore the remains during their visit and put their hands on a piece of American history.
The park is open 365 days per year from 8:00am-sundown and dives may not extend past 5:00 pm. Admission is $5 per car with a maximum of 8 passengers.
Approx. 1.5-hour drive
Just a short drive from Troy Springs, Suwannee Springs can be a same-day visit or as a stop during a weekend camping excursion. Suwannee Springs was built as a resort in the mid-to-late 1800s with a hotel, private cottages, and healing spring that was marketed as a treatment/cure for many ailments. The hotel burnt down in 1925, but the cottages stayed booked for tourists through the 1970s.
The man-made limestone wall surrounding the water is still partially intact, a few abandoned vacation cottages still stand, and one nearby cottage has been renovated and is available to rent. An old graffiti-covered bridge overlooking the area is a popular photographer’s destination. Hikers can enjoy traversing a few paths including a portion of the connected Florida Trail, a 1,100-mile majesty that expands across the entire state.
There is no charge to explore Suwannee Springs.
Approx. 3-hour drive
When thinking about a water destination, typically a summer trip comes to mind. However, 3 Sisters Springs is as awesome from mid-November to April as it is in the warmer months since the park is a natural manatee habitat. This waterway is used as a migration sanctuary for wild manatees seeking a warm home for the winter. While water access is not permitted from the boardwalk, visitors may bring kayaks, paddleboards, or diving/snorkeling gear to enter the spring and see the creatures from a permitted viewing area.
Trolley tours are available Friday-Sunday from April 1 to November 14, and 7 days per week from November 15 to March 31. Park hours are 8:30am-4:30 pm and admission is $15 during the winter season and $7.50 in the off-season.
Approx. 2.5-hour drive
Upon entering Kelly Park/Rock Springs, your stress instantly melts away. Rent a tube for $7 inside the park or $5 from a nearby vendor and float down one of Florida’s natural lazy rivers. The park has full-service concessions, volleyball, camping, hiking, and a canoe trail that connects to the Wekiva River. With views of a vertical rock bluff surround the spring, close encounters with wildlife, and some of the most aesthetically-pleasing sights in the state, it’s no wonder Kelly Park is gaining popularity among Floridians.
The park limits admission to 350 cars per day – The first 280 are permitted in the morning and 70 more may enter at around 2:00 pm. Early arrival is highly recommended, and it’s worth every bit of effort. Admission is $3 per vehicle with 1-2 passengers and $5 per vehicle with 3-8 passengers.
Approx. 4-hour drive
Exactly how it sounds, Vortex Springs is for the nature-loving adrenaline junkie. The park is equipped with slides, high-dives, swings, diving boards, and more. Scuba diving is a big attraction because the space is fun for experienced divers, gentle enough for novices, and classes are offered for beginners.
It’s a bit of a drive from Jacksonville, but Vortex Springs offers enough action to make a weekend out of it. Its neighbors are Florida favorites Ponce de Leon Springs and Madison Blue Springs, ensuring possibilities for endless fun and adventure.
Florida never ceases to amaze, and all of these parks boldly represent what life here – and living the #FrayLife – is all about.
Do you know of an awesome, lesser-known spring that’s worth the trip from Jax? Let us know in the comments, or better yet, tag us in a picture next time you’re there using #FrayLife.
Want to hit the water without leaving home? Here are 5 of the coolest spots to paddleboard in Jacksonville.
View More Articles By Kelli Kocak
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