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12 Best Natural Springs Near Tampa You Gotta See!

Looking for the best springs near Tampa? Great – you have come to the right place!

When you think of Florida the awesome beaches like Sanibel Island Beaches might come to mind or perhaps Disneyland the “the most magical place on Earth”.  These typical Florida attractions are fun, don’t get me wrong, but you seriously can’t visit Florida without making a visit to the stunning natural springs it has to offer. It would be like visiting Mexico without seeing a cenote!!

Florida has over 700 springs to its name which are part of a deep underground aquifer which pumps gallons of water each day into springs across the state. Pretty cool stuff! You can visit these springs year round as they are a constant 72-degree temperature however, the best time to visit is obviously summer, to cool off from the hot Florida heat.

Although, if you want to see manatee in Florida winter is the best time to visit the springs as they migrate to Florida in winter to warm up their bodies in the springs.

Aside from swimming opportunities, the springs are a great place to visit with the whole family. Each spring is different and unique to the next – some offer amazing trails, kayaking and other water sports, BBQ and picnicking and of course tubing and an opportunities to see Florida’s native wildlife including manatees and maybe even a gator!

There are natural springs in Tampa (no big surprise there) but there are plenty near Tampa within an hour or twos drive. So, if you are looking for an awesome day trip from Tampa, make sure you add these beautiful springs near the Tampa area to your bucket list. They are ones of the best hidden gems of the Sunshine State!

See more: Best Springs in Florida you can’t Miss!

12 Best Natural Springs near Tampa You Must Visit

Three Sisters Springs

  • Driving time? 90 minutes from Tampa Fl

Three Sisters Springs is located 90 minutes drive north of Tampa Bay in Crystal River in Florida. One of the beautiful springs near Tampa for sure. This is also one of the best places in Florida to swim with manatees, we swam with manatees at this spring and we would highly recommend the experience.

If you want to swim with/ see manatees, the best time to go to the spring is during winter in the “manatee season” where the manatees come to enjoy the warm 72-degree temperature of the spring.

Of course, Three Sisters Spring is a great place to visit year round. It is part of a larger system of springs along the Crystal River, on a natural inlet on the east side of Kings Bay.

Three sisters spring does not just have 1 spring but 3 freshwater springs or lobes which have been named “Pretty Sister”, “Deep Sister”, and “Little Sister”. If you go snorkeling in the spring, which you can do as part of a manatee tour. The manatee tours aren’t expensive for what they are and they are very educational. This is the tour we would recommend.

If you are looking for a spring to go snorkeling, the Three Sisters Springs is a great choice because the visibility of the spring is amazing which is perfect for manatee viewing and for seeing the water bubbling up from the 3 springs – something we haven’t seen in any other spring.

Aside from snorkeling or manatee viewing, you can also take a scenic ride on a glass-bottom boat, or go kayaking.

Tip – If you are in the area in January, don’t miss the Florida Manatee Festival along the Crystal River.

There are different prices depending on if you visit this spring in winter or summer. In summer, it is $12.50 for an adult, while in winter it costs $20. We would recommend visiting via a tour which includes this fee in the price.

manatees-in-florida

Weeki Wachee

  • Driving time? Under an hour from Tampa

Don’t feel like such a drive? No probably, the Weeki Wachee Springs are the best springs near Tampa for you as they are the closest springs to Tampa Bay being just under an hour away.

If you are a local with kids or if you are traveling with kids, this is a cool spring to visit as they often put on mermaid shows which the littles seem to absolutely love. They are performed in a 400 seat submerged Mermaid Theater which is pretty unique to Florida’s springs – I have not come across another spring with this show offered!

There is also other entertainment at the spring including wildlife encounter shows with park rangers (again the kids love this as they get to see gators, snakes and turtles up close) as well as fun riverboat cruises. You can check out when these shows are on via the website.

Still bored? You can also visit Buccaneer’s Bay at the springs which includes a white peach, water slides and a swimming area.

The riverboat cruises are something not to miss at the springs as they provide an awesome tour through Florida’s wildlife, flora, and fauna. What’s nice though, is that if you prefer DIY adventure, you can also use kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to explore the springs. Like Silver Springs, oldies really appreciate the river cruise which are great for less capable athletes and mean the springs can be enjoyed by all ages – which is not possible at all springs. A great place to bring the grandparents!

You can also dive at the springs as it boats one of the deepest freshwater cave system in the States. The idea of diving in a cave freaks me out but it is very popular among divers. We would only recommend diving the springs if you are an experienced diver as 2 people have died diving the springs.

We would highly recommend a visit to this 538-acre park, not just for the entertainment value it offers but for its sheer beauty. It is so beautiful in fact that it is often used as a wedding venue in Florida.

It costs $13 entry for adults and $8 entry for kids.

Weeki Wachee Springs

Weeki Wachee Springs/ Flickr

Rainbow Springs

  • Driving time? 90 minutes from Tampa

Only 90 minutes away, Rainbow Springs is one of the best springs near Tampa for sure. It is one of our favorite springs in Florida (not just near Tampa) as we find it to be one of the most beautiful.

If you love to snorkel, it is a great place to go to see Florida’s awesome wildlife including turtles and fish. Turtles are drawn to the area as there is a lot of aquatic grass for them to enjoy. Occasionally people find Mastodons and mammoth fossils so keep your eye out!

If you love a bit of history, this is one of Florida’s largest running commercial springs and even has a longer history than that. Back in the day, native Floridians visited the springs for its natural healing powers. A bit more recently people depended on the phosphate mining jobs around the springs for work.

Following on from this, it was made into a tourist park in the 1960s with even a full zoo. Theres old photos at the springs that you can see what it’s like from yesteryear. Theres even some remnants of the past still available to see around the springs including the remains of old animal cages.

Nowadays, there is more natural fun to be had at the park with it focused on water sports (kayaking, paddle boarding) or swimming and snorkeling. There is also great hiking tracks to enjoy at the State Park which we really liked including some really pretty man-made waterfalls.

In summer there is a fabulous tub run that you can take at Rainbow Springs which is about 2 hours long. In winter this shuts off but there is still a longer run available (4 hours so it is not for the faint of heart!). You can read more about it in our full guide to Rainbow Springs.

This is one of the cheapest springs near Tampa to visit as entry fee only costs $2 – such a bargain!!

rainbow-springs-florida-nature-swimming

Rock Springs at Kelly Park

  • Driving time? 1 hour 37 minutes from Tampa, to be precise 😉

Kelly Park Rock Springs is definitely one of our favorite springs to visit in Florida, I think we say that about every spring we mention but this one is very cool, especially if you want to go tubing.

It is “cool” in multiple meanings as it is only one of the coldest springs in Florida at 68 degrees, meaning everyone flocks to this spring in great numbers on a hot summers day. It is pretty close to Orlando (it is considered one of the best springs near Orlando) so lots of Orlando locals come here and 1 hour 37 minutes drive from Tampa, in case you were wondering.

Back to crowds – you should be prepared to arrive early if you want to visit this park in summer months. We arrived at 8am and there was already 100 cars in front of us.

The most popular activity at the springs is the lazy tube run which is really fun. We would recommend bringing your own tube, although there are places to hire a tube nearby. Many people had this one. There is no air pump at the State Park so you will need to fill your tubes up in advance.

Aside from tubing which in my opinion is the highlight, there are some great walking trails to enjoy at the State Park as well as many picnic and BBQ trails and a playground for children. When we went there was a lot of people enjoying family picnics.

The perfect alternative to visiting the Orlando theme parks. It is also a really cheap place to visit, we couldn’t believe how cheap actually at only $3 a vehicle (up to 2 passengers). You can also camp at the State Park if you want which might be a good idea to get in early.

kelly-park-rock-springs

Wekiwa Springs

  • Driving time? 1 hour 30 minutes from Tampa

Want to hit two springs with very little extra driving time? Wekiwa Springs is the way to go as it located very close to Rock Springs at Kelly Park (around 20 mins away), another spring that is very close to Orlando. It is often thought of as Orange County’s longest running tourist attraction.

If you love hiking, this is a great State Park to visit as there are amazing trails to enjoy which can be accessed on foot, by bike or even on horseback which is pretty unique for a spring. If you own a horse, you can camp with your horse and access many trails from the Big Fork center. People also like to bring their floaties to swim here but more so just to float in the “pool”. It is a nice place to bring kids as the springs arent too deep, no more than 4 feet in depth.

It is also possible to camp at the springs with over 60 spacious campsites. Each site provides water and electrical hook-up, a fire ring with a grill. There is also access to many picnic tables. If you do decide to camp here, note that the Florida black bear is a local here so make sure you properly dispose of food.

If you want some more advnetuous camping, Camp Cozy, Otter Camp, and Big Buck Camp can only be accessed by water so you have to kayak to camp there which is a bit of fun.

It costs $6 per vehicle to visit the Springs.

Wekiwa Springs

Wekiwa Springs/ Flickr

Devil’s Den

  • Driving time? 2 hours from Tampa

Want to visit springs in a cave without having to dive into one? Yeah same! Well, Devil’s Den, just north of Ocala is somewhere you need to visit. It is definitely one of the most unique springs to visit in Florida being located 2 hours north of Tampa.

What’s cool about this spring is it is not just a spring in a cave (although I’d be pretty happy with that) but it is a prehistoric spring in a cave, dating back to the Pleistocene Age.

Despite the fact you don’t have to dive to access the spring which I like, divers will be happy to know  it is a great place to go diving as you can descend up to 54 feet. It is also a nice place to go snorkeling if you prefer to stay above ground!

It is only of the more expensive springs to visit, but it still won’t break the bank at $15 pp Monday to Friday and $20 on a weekend for snorkelers. It is $38 for divers.

A very unique place in Florida to visit and a bucket list item for sure.

Devils Den

Adrian Diaz Cadavid/ Shutterstock

Ginnie Springs

  • Driving time? 2 hours 15 minutes from Tampa

Another amazing spring to visit, around 2 hours from Tampa is the gorgeous Ginnie Springs, a true paradise along the Sante Fe River.

I think Ginnie Springs has the best tube run we have visited in Florida. What also makes this spring unique and special is that it is the only tube run where alcohol is allowed as you float along, which is a fun experience if you don’t mind a few roudy college students hanging around. I think it makes for a party atmosphere.

It is also a great place to go for both snorkelers and divers as it has a great underground cave system among the 7 natural springs which is located at Ginnie.

The reason why alcohol is allowed at the springs is because Ginnie Springs is a privately owned spring. It is an awesome place to camp as you have full access to the springs before the day trippers come in. However, I will note the facilities including bathroom and showers aren’t the cleanest I’ve seen.

In addition to swimming and tubing, there are plenty of other activities you can enjoy at the springs including kayaking and canoeing (which can be hired there). There is also sand volleyball courts for use if you visit with a group of friends.

Ginnie Springs is one of the more expensive springs to visit because it is privately owned at $15 off season and $20 during peak season. Still pretty good value for such amazing beauty if you ask me. Don’t forget to bring your camera, the spring is very photogenic!

Ginnie-Springs-Natural-spring-in-florida-usa

Gilchrist Blue Springs

  • Driving time? 2 hours 30 minutes from Tampa

Gilchrist Blue Springs, two and a half hours north of Tampa, and a half hour from Gainesville, is a really nice spring to visit. This should not be confused with Blue Spring which is also great for tubing in summer and manatee viewing in winter.

Gilchrist is a really nice place to swim and if you like to snorkle theres tonnes of underwater life to see at the springs including  freshwater fish and turtles. If you want to hit up 2 springs with one stone, you might also like to visit Ginnie Springs on the same trip as it is also located on the Sante Fe River, only 10 minutes away.

Aside from swimming there are lots of nature trails to enjoy at the State park. Geocatching is pretty popular here so if you are into this ‘sport’ go to this park. It is also possible to engage in some fun water sports like kayaking and canoeing in the park.

As we are back to a State owned facility, it is affordable to enter the park at only $6 per vehicle.

Gilchrist Blue Springs

Gilchrist Blue Springs/ Flickr

Juniper Springs

  • Driving time? 2 hours from Tampa

We really enjoyed Juniper Springs , but less so for swimming this time, and more so for the gorgeous scenic walks you can take in this stunning State Park. It is one of the best springs near Tampa, being located two hours drive away.

Despite the fact I wouldn’t call swimming the best, you can still cool off at Juniper Springs which is nice to do in the hotter months. There is however no tube run at this park which of course is a bit of a bummer.

It does make up for that in sheer natural beauty in the walks through Ocala National Forest.

One of the most popular activities at Juniper Springs is the juniper springs kayak run. It is not for the faint of heart however as it takes 4 hours to finish. It really isn’t great for beginner kayakers as there are a lot of rapids and narrow sections along the path. Kayakers have been known to capsize and there are gators on the run, so I’m not sure I’m too keen but if you are its $42 to hire a canoe/kayak.

If you want to camp, the campgrounds are one of the most popular in the Ocala National Forest and cost $22 a night. It is primitive camping and there is no electricity at the sites or in the bathrooms.

It costs $11 for 2 people to enter the park.

juniper-springs

Silver Glen Springs

  • Driving time? 90 minutes from Tampa

The Silver Glen Springs, not to be confused with Silver Springs (I know, so many similar names), is another great spring to visit from Tampa.

There is no scuba diving allowed at the springs so divers will need to go to another spring but it is a great spot for swimming to escape Florida’s heat. It is also a good place to go snorkeling as there is a lot of underwater life to see including variety of freshwater and saltwater fish. Manatees are also known to visit the spring in the winter to warm up.

One interesting part of the springs is that they are an important archeological site. You might be lucky enough to find a fossilized snail shell or other items underneath the water if you choose to go snorkeling.

Kayak and canoe rentals are also available if you prefer to stay dry.

Admission costs $7 per person on weekdays and $10 pp on weekends.

Silver Glen Springs

Silver Glen Springs/ Flickr

Ichetucknee Springs

  • Driving time? 2 hours 30 minutes from Tampa

Ichetucknee Springs vs Ginnie Springs is often a question people ask themselves as Ichetucknee is also a popular place to go tubing in Florida. You can find more information about tubing here as there are multiple places you can enter the springs. You can BYO your own tube but rentals as also quite affordable at $8 for a single or $12 for a double.

Another reason that people visit this spring in particular is to see Florida’s native wildlife. As you tube along you often get the opportunity to see otters, gar, ducks and beavers and the occasional manatee or two has been spotted.

If you prefer to not actually be in the water, this spring is also a nice place to canoe or kayak as the water has a mild current that helps lift the workload (kayaking can really kill your arms!).

There is also good hiking available at the park with Blue Hole Trail, Blue Hole Spring and Tressle Point Trail being the most popular treks to make.

It is a pretty affordable spring to visit at only $6 entry.

Ichetucknee Springs

Ichetucknee Springs/ Facebook

Alexander Springs

  • Driving time? 2 hours from Tampa

We really liked Alexander Springs, this is the first spring we ever visited in Florida, located in the Ocala National Forest and is just under two hours away from Tampa. If I’m being completely honest, I would say I preferred some of the other springs like Ginnie Springs but this was still a really nice spring to visit, especially if you are in the area visiting others.

One of the biggest draw-cards of this spring is for divers in that it is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted.

You can swim in this spring although I would say it is better for kayak or canoeing. I did see a few gators in the spring (away from people) so that turned me off a swim a bit.

There are also trails in this State Park and lots of wildlife to enjoy. I will note we saw some of the friendliest squirrels I have ever encountered in this State Park – they would actually climb up your leg. On the walking tracks it did warn that Florida Black Bears are in this State Park. Call me stupid, but I wanted to see one (from a distance of course!) but we didn’t.

It costs $6 per person for day use of the park.

Alexander Springs

Alexander Springs/ Flickr

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