Who is more spoiled with outdoor activities and sunny weather than us Floridians?
Options like riding bikes through our beautiful parks, visiting our favorite mouse, and relishing our captivating beaches are just some of the stops available to us. If you are like our family and feel like you’ve left no stone unturned in your Florida ventures, I am going to let you in on a best kept secret spot – not too far, not too expensive, and sure to “cool” you off!
What better way to beat the summer heat than to float on an inner tube through one of Florida’s hidden gems. You’ll be able to leisurely drift through a natural spring while admiring the lush surroundings. If this sounds like something your family would like, hop on – I’m taking you guys to the Santa Fe River.
Santa Fe River
My family and I are avid spring explorers and obviously always looking for new places to discover.
On this summer adventure, we decided to head to the northern part of Central Florida near Gainesville. We were particularly in search of some crystal-clear natural waters, open air, and spacious fun where we could relax and enjoy the day. After extensive research, we learned that the Santa Fe River in High Springs, Florida offers the opportunity to experience approximately 15 miles of perfectly chill water with an array of springs that sit at the banks of the river. The springs are said to be one of the clearest in Florida. Did I also mention the water might be a little cold – coming in at approx. 72 degrees of arctic cold chill sure to keep your skin tight and toes wet. *Mom tip: For an optimistic perspective, I’ve heard cold water is great for youthful tight looking skin, so be sure to take a dip with a smile – WIN, WIN!
How to prepare before the big launch?
Now that we have established where we are going, I am going to walk you to the drop off zone.
In order to avoid long lines and heavy crowds among entry, we arrived early at the park. There is a day visit admission fee. Pricing varies depending on the season and what day of the week it is. You typically pay while in the car, however, in our case, we were deviated to pay inside the General Store. You’ll receive a piece of paper which you will return to the park staff upon your exit. If you want to save some time, have your waiver already filled out.
Parking and Drop Off
Prior to the trip, we learned that the recommendation for parking with families with kids took some effort. In order to avoid a long walk with floats and restless children, after the fun is over, be prepared for the following. This is the part you really want to pay attention to! We temporarily parked in an open space near Beaver Landing. Be attentive when parking as there are people roaming around who are staying at the campsites. Next, we unloaded all our personal items: floats, rope, dry bags, waterproof camera case, snacks, water, etc. (Don’t worry, I’ve created a list of things you need below).
At that moment, we inflated our floats, applied sunblock and bug spray on ourselves and the children, got into bathing suit attire, and packed our dry bags and cooler with the essentials. After that, I stayed with the kids and our floats near the water launch area while my husband moved the car to Twin Springs, which is the exit of the tubing ride. The catch is, he had to take a nature walk back to meet us. It stated that it was approximately a 15-minute walk, I will say it was more like a 30-minute wait. I know it might seem like a challenge at first, but it was a huge family WIN when we were done, and our car was sitting right there waiting for us.
Time to float!
We enjoy drifting down the river via a tube (btw, donut-shaped float). Each of us had our own including a very large unicorn matching our over-animated daughter’s personality. Additionally, our small cooler and bags also had a designated float. Once you arrive, be prepared to either inflate your own tube with your own electric air pump or you can use the complimentary air fill station. In case you decide to go this route, there are several things to consider.
First, you will have to carry the floats from the inflation station to your launch area. Next, you might have to transfer the floats in the trunk or roof of your car with ropes and/or bungee cords. Lastly, *mom tip: if you brought your very cool floats from home, please be sure you test them before arriving (you’ll thank me later). You also have the availability to rent tubes at the General Store for a nominal fee.
What Do I Take with Me?
Tubes are ready – please, don’t sink them with too many things!
Let me remind you that this is a simple, relaxing, and minimalist vacation. I know that our innate mom brains want to be prepared for surgery, however, we want to keep it simple on this ride.
Ginnie Springs Park does allow food and beverages (alcoholic as well). Be cognizant that this is a natural preserve with wildlife, and we want to be sure that our children visit with their children. So be kind to nature!
*Recommendations but not requirements (you know your people)
Waiver (have it done before you arrive, it’ll save you time)
Floaty Tubes (consider your swimmers on whether you buy the ones with the bottom covered or not)
*Portable Electric Air Pump (stays in the car)
*Life Vest (non-swimmers)
*Snorkel & Mask
Non-Disposable Water Bottle with water
Food in Non-Disposable Containers (save the turtles, people)
*Non-Disposable bag (for soiled Little Swimmers)
Change of clothes (stays in the car)
*Bluetooth speaker (if you want to be super extra)
Explore the Springs
We are ready to jump in!
Our vacation is about to begin! How excited are you? I have chills for you – wait… perhaps it’s chills on how cold you are about to be! Just kidding, it is blissfully refreshing.
Finally, we are launching (taking off) from Beaver Landing. You can find the stairs, or you can go between the trees and take off from there. Once everyone has jumped onto their tubes, be sure you have tied yourselves together. Don’t forget the goodies float! I recommend securing all together as it provides a nice sense of tranquility knowing the children won’t float away, but it is your choice.
Now, your toes are wet, you are finally disconnected from reality and drifting happily through the currents’ dance.
You’ll experience an array of wildlife such as birds, fishes, turtles, and perhaps some surprises if you stay attentive. There are no alligators in the Springs – Google has confirmed this. Explore all the springs that sit among the banks of the river. You can also tie against a tree and enjoy the views and the surrounding sounds.
Be sure to explore Devils Eye. The best way to really embrace its beauty is to put your snorkel and mask on and dive in. It is honestly a beautiful and breathtaking view. After swimming a bit, the cold feeling will have disappeared. Additionally, enjoy watching the daredevils jump off tree branches or even a rope. I would recommend joining in on the fun. Show off your best jump and perhaps you’ll get applause from the crowd.
We’ve finally made it to the exit and end of this article. Hope you have enjoyed your trip along with the tips and tricks provided in order to ensure a successful vacation for you and your family.
Tell us about your trip. Was this helpful? What are some things that worked for you?
Want to learn more about other nearby springs, visit Ichetucknee Springs: Summer Fun at a Hidden Gem.
With love, @Illiett (#Chasinbalance) for Miami Mom Collective