Looking for the best springs in Ocala?
Florida is best known for its bodies of water, more so for the Atlantic Ocean, of course, but in addition to that, it is also becoming more well known for its springs!
With things such as kayaking, canoeing, and even paddle boarding now, those bodies of water are increasing in popularity! I went with my best friends for the first time on a kayak a few years ago and I didn’t want to get out of it, it was so much fun!
We woke up early one morning to get to the springs near our house so we could go to celebrate one of our birthdays. That was during the winter when no one was really wanting to be out on the water like that, however, we still went early just in case people had the same minds! We had to go early on in the morning that day since they would always reach capacity before we knew it. Which means you would have to turn around and go back home or try to wait it out.
And then as you can imagine, Florida has finicky weather, so it almost always rained the days that my friends and I wanted to go out to a spring, or the beach, or a water park, even. There are plenty of springs out there, but the ones that are going to be talked about in today’s article are the very best ones in the area of Ocala!
This article is in no particular order, but they each deserve their very own spotlight. I hope you find this list informative as well as helpful when it comes to deciding which spring to venture out to next!
9 Best Springs in Ocala You Must Visit – Stunning Natural Springs!
1. Juniper Springs
The first spring we are going to be talking about is none other than the Juniper Springs! At about seventy-two degrees, this spring is a great place to snorkel, however, scuba diving is not the best idea due to how shallow the water is.
There is also no fishing in the springs and there is no wading in the spring runs either. The maximum depth is about eighteen feet, give or take. The actual spring itself is located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along SR 40. It was constructed in the 1930s and it is still a nice historical site to visit! When it was first created, there was a water wheel that was used to provide electricity to what is now the visitor center.
Juniper Springs is actually one of the top destinations for camping, and they have about 79 tent and RV campsites. If you are camping, you have 24-hour access to the campgrounds and are given a gate code when you check in. You can make reservations to camp there online or you can call a number provided on their website. If you are swimming in the spring itself, it is not unlikely that you will see an American eel swimming by!
You can also expect to see other animals you wouldn’t see anywhere else, such as gray albino squirrels and even otters! There’s a thing available for purchase called the Ocala National Forest Springs Hopper Pass. This pass is good for a year from the date of purchase. This is available for around $70 (not including tax as well as per person) and can grant you access to Juniper Springs (available for purchase here), Alexander Springs (available for sale here too), Silver Glen Springs (you can buy it here too), Clearwater Lake and Wildcat Lake.
However, if you don’t want to do all of that, you can buy a day pass for $7 per person during the week, but it will cost $10 a person on weekends! One of the best springs in Ocala for sure.
2. Fern Hammock Springs
Next up on the list is the Fern Hammock Springs! The Fern Hammock Springs is also part of the Ocala National Forest, like the Juniper Springs, and it is also part of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Unfortunately, this is not a spring meant for swimming in, as the environment is protected and is also a sensitive area. It is also not the most ideal for swimming and activities of that sort anyway due to the spring being very shallow, as it ranges from 2-6 feet deep for most of it. It is also dangerous for humans to swim in it due to the creatures living inside of it, such as snakes and alligators. In addition, there are also turtles and fish you can view as you walk along the trails.
While on the subject of the trails, it is important to note that people are slightly upset with how the trails have been maintained. Visitors have often mentioned that the trails and the boardwalk need to be updated. People have also noted to others that the path to the spring itself is not a loop, it is just one path. There are pictures posted online of the spring, and those pictures are very beautiful, despite the slight neglect of the boardwalk and trails.
You can also rent cabins at the Fern Hammock Springs and there is also on-site camping available. When you pay to get in, you pay the same amount that you would to enter the Juniper Springs Recreation Area since they are neighboring springs. The entrance fee during the week is $7 and on the weekend it costs $10 to get in.
Also if you buy the Ocala Park year pass that was previously mentioned, that will get you into the Fern Hammock Springs as well!
3. Salt Springs in Ocala
The Salt Springs is best for camping, as there are many amenities that come with it. For instance, it comes equipped with a gas station, a few different restaurants, a grocery store, a laundromat, bait and tackle shops, and even a post office.
Due to these amenities (and just in general), there is a restriction in place that says you can only camp there for up to 14 consecutive days in a 30-day period. After all, who would want to leave that behind? Especially since if you are camping there, you can actually get to the Springs earlier than the general public, which means you can enjoy it before it gets too crowded.
The best time to go to the springs is typically the mornings of the week. Seeing how their hours vary based on season, it is best to check before you make plans. However, right now the hours go from dawn to dusk, or 8 am to 8 pm. The water is at a consistent temperature of 74 degrees, which makes it a hot spot for manatees during the cooler months.
Just like the other two springs mentioned, this is located in the Ocala National Forest. This spring doesn’t seem as “natural” compared to the others, but that’s okay because it is more easily accessible for people. They have ramps and stairs for people to enter the springs with. There are also many places where you can enjoy a picnic with your friends and family, and some of these sites even have charcoal grills available for use!
There is a single-day-use fee of $6.50 per person and the parking at the private Salt Springs Marina is $10, this price could vary though. The Salt Spring Run is not the best place to canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, because of things like choppy water, motorized boat vehicles, high winds, sun exposure, and distance.
4. Silver Glen Springs
The Silver Glen Springs is a bit pricier than the other springs, it costs about $8 a person during the week and on weekends it costs about $11 per person.
That could also change depending on the season. Silver Glen Springs is located on the eastern edge of the Ocala National Forest and the water is consistently around 72 degrees all year. This used to make it a hotspot for manatees during the cooler months of the year, however, due to humans kind of taking over, we have kind of damaged the aquatic vegetation. On top of being a fun place to hang out with friends and family, it is a really neat place with history.
It is an important archeological area. There are middens there which are large mounds behind fences that mark where land was sacred to the Native Americans. Visitors are asked nicely to stay away from them and to steer clear from going near them and possibly climbing them. Silver Glen Springs is also a great place to snorkel, but any kind of scuba diving is prohibited. There is a designated swimming spot to avoid accidentally messing with any sensitive underwater habitats. Boats are also not allowed in this particular area as it is just dedicated for swimming.
There is also a beautiful walk that goes through the woods by the Lake George Trail. It is about a three-mile walk round-trip. At the designated picnic areas, people have reported that bears, raccoons, and even crows have stolen food off the tables as well as just shiny objects.
Typically there is a general store where you can buy stuff, such as water bottles and sunscreen, things of that nature. However, that is currently closed, so it is best to come prepared with that stuff handy!
5. Alexander Springs
Alexander Springs is another great place to go camping! There are sixty-seven campgrounds that can accommodate tents and RVs that are up to 35 feet long.
Some of these campsites can be reserved in advance while others are first come, first-serve. As the same as the previous spring mentioned, you can camp for up to fourteen consecutive days in a 30-day period. However, unlike the last one, there are not nearly as many amenities provided. They do not offer any electrical, water, or sewer hookups, but they do have hot showers available, as well as dump stations!
They have a concessionaire where they sell snacks, groceries, personal items, ice, charcoal, firewood, and even more. Fun fact about this spring, this is the only spring in the Ocala National Forest where you are allowed to go scuba diving (as long as you are a certified scuba diver) as there is enough open water. As with the other springs mentioned, they are open 8 am to 8 pm, of course depending on the season as well.
However, if you are camping at the springs, you can have 24-hour access to the campground through the gate that has a code. And with the other springs, Alexander Springs tend to get full and start turning people away once they reach capacity, so it is best to have a plan in case you do not get there in time.
The fees are similar to the others, with weekdays costing $8 a person and weekends costing $11 a person. The annual day-use pass is available for purchase here! They also have picnic tables that are shaded by the trees, and you can still view the springs from there. The best time to go is during the spring, as you can probably guess it is the busiest during the summer.
6. Paradise Springs
Paradise Springs in Ocala is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to the general public and their hours from Wednesday-Sunday are 8 AM to 5 PM.
You can actually book appointments on Mondays and Tuesdays, but you have to let the company know 48 hours in advance and have at least five divers in your group. They are open year round, but are closed on Christmas Day. Paradise Springs is meant for experienced divers, as in, you have to show them your scuba certification and everything before entering. The entry fee is $30 a day per diver. They only accept cash, they do not offer air fills or offer equipment rentals anymore.
The water is always crystal clear and is always at a consistent temperature of about 72 degrees. The Paradise Springs is what is considered a “Karst Window” which is a fancy way of saying it is the opening to an underground stream. Once you get to Paradise Springs, you have to sign in and that is where you show your scuba certification, they also ask you to sign a liability waiver.
Then they give you a list of rules and guidelines to abide by. One of the rules is that the diver cannot go off by themselves. They also say you are not allowed to go if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which, this one should be common sense.
Another interesting rule is the rule of thirds. This means they have to start exiting the cave once they have two thirds of their gas supply remaining. There are actually signs in the deep depths of the water, warning you when you should start turning back.
7. Silver Springs
Silver Springs State Park is open 365 days a year, from 8 am until sundown. Admission to the actual park itself is about $8 a vehicle, which means two to eight people per vehicle. Swimming is not permitted in this state park. If you want to be out on the water, you must be in a kayak, canoe, or riding on a boat during a glass-bottom boat tour.
This park was where the glass-bottom boat tours were first launched and they quickly became one of Florida’s first attractions to tourists. A glass-bottom boat is exactly how it sounds, and it allows you to watch the creatures down below as you go on a journey with your captain! There are different tours you can take: the normal 30-minute one and the extensive 90-minute one.
However, the 90-minute tours are only available on certain days, mainly holidays and weekends. It is highly encouraged for those who want to do the 90-minute tour to book ahead of time. For adults, a 30-minute tour will cost $13. If you are a senior that is 55 or older, it will cost $12 for a 30-minute tour. Children between the age of 6 and 12 also cost $12.
Any children under the age of 5 can ride for free. The prices for the 90-minute tours: adults cost $25, seniors and children cost $20 while kids under five can still ride for free. Of course, if the boat tour thing is not for you, there is still plenty more you can do at the Silver Springs!
You can kayak, or canoe, as previously mentioned. You can go biking or hiking on the multi-use trails, and as you do so, keep your eye out for animals such as frogs, tortoises, deer, turkeys, and other wild birds. There is also a museum that has an admission fee of $2. Mostly only open to the public on holidays and weekends, so it is beneficial to check before you go if you plan on going for that reason alone.
8. Rainbow Springs
The Rainbow Springs is also formerly known as the Blue Spring. The hours are from 8 in the morning to sundown, 365 days of the year. The entrance fee is $2 a person, but for those six or younger, they have free admission.
Their website lists that they rarely hit capacity on the weekdays unless it is a holiday, but during the weekends they reach capacity at around nine or ten in the morning. They have tubing available and the price is $20 per person and that price is the same whether you have your own tube or not. Also, the price of $20 is good for two hours of floating down the river in a tube.
If you want to rent a kayak for an hour, it will cost about $17 per hour and that price is for 1-2 people. You can also just rent a kayak for a whole day for $54. If you want to rent a canoe for an hour, it will cost about $23 an hour and a canoe can fit three people at the most.
Canoes are available for rent for a whole day for about $64. Everyone at the park must have a lifejacket, and whenever a child who is five or six years old is in a canoe or any kind of watercraft, their lifejackets must be securely buckled.
There are also waivers of liability that every visitor must sign when they first get to the spring. The company that is in charge of the spring would appreciate groups of twenty people or more to call ahead to just give them a courtesy call of some sort. Personally, one of our favorite springs in Ocala.
9. Scott Springs Park
The Scott Springs Park has been described as a hidden gem in the area. This park is open from 9 in the morning to 7 in the evening every day, 365 days a year. There is no entry fee to go here, however, there is also no swimming here.
It is not like the other springs mentioned; this spring in particular is just for looking at. This place has an actual playground structure for kids to go and play on if they want to! This is more of a park in the traditional sense than anything else. It is meant for things like bike riding, taking a stroll, jogging, and all of those sorts of fun, leisurely things.
On top of those amenities, they also have exercise equipment available for people to use. There are also plenty of pavilions that are available to rent through the City of Ocala and these are excellent for having picnics. Also for the picnics, they have grills available, so you can throw your own barbecue and have a great time grilling out with your friends and family!
Scott Springs Park is also a more pet friendly area, which means your dog can enjoy a walk around the spring with you. There are also benches that you can sit on and just admire the view and do one of my personal favorite things: people watching! If you just want to get out and hang out in nature and take in all of the wildlife, Scott Springs Park would be right up your alley!