How many of you have been counting the stars from your window, floating in your inflatable pools, and daydreaming about your next vacation? Finding relaxation and peace has become a “hot” commodity that can only be found in our backyards. We have been eagerly skimming through old photos trying to rekindle with memories of vacations past, and now that summer is in full swing, the sun’s subtle smile peers through our shades – giving us an urge to feel the sense of travel again.
Although some would say cloudy skies have been occupying most of our days, similarly, others would say that the shade has allowed for clearer views. The opportunity to travel looks a little different now but still allows us to explore new adventures that perhaps wouldn’t have been considered before.
If this is you, and you live in Florida, I have broken the ice for us and taken the plunge of our insecurities. I’ve grabbed my family, our bags, masks, fueled up our tanks, and headed north for a quick summer outdoor adventure.
Sleeping in the Suwannee
On this trip, we decided to drive up the west coast leading towards Central Florida. Our itinerary for the weekend was to visit Ichetucknee Springs and explore the Santa Fe River. We decided to book a VRBO rental on the Suwannee River as it promised no Wi-Fi, no connectivity, and a scenic backyard view of the Suwannee – 5 stars for that! Although we booked intentionally in a secluded town for reasons of budget and a great pic of a dock, we would probably stay closer to the springs on our next visit.
Meet the Road Trippers
Let me set the stage for relative purposes – we are a family of 4 consisting of my husband (Mr. I know where I am going – even when I don’t know where I am), me (go with the flow but please find me a latte), our 2 kids Maui age 9 (the queen of fun) and Kash age 11 (coping with the loss of WiFi). We all love nature and are comfortable with adventure and the general outdoors. Furthermore, we traveled with another family which consisted of a nursing mom, a dad, a young girl age 6, and an energetic baby boy of 10 months (I know… daring, but “scouts honor” he was a perfectly behaved road trip trooper).
Next stop: Ichetucknee Springs State Park
What to expect
The park opens at 8:00 am and closes at sundown. We arrived at about 10:30 am. Be sure to arrive early as there is a max capacity at the park (to preserve the ecosystem). The entrance charge is a per car fee of $6.00. There are several entrances to enter the park. Always verify with their website on entrance closures as it does change throughout the year. We parked at the south end entrance because the north end entrance was closed. After parking, you can anticipate a short walk and a trolley ride to an oasis of 6 miles of crystal-clear chill waters sure to cool your stresses off. Oh yeah, the water is freezing – no way around it, but a good attitude and constant movement! There are a variety of ways to enjoy the peaceful waterway, which include kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and tubing.
Our ride of choice is typically tubing. In fact, it is also the most popular among families. You can take your own personal tubes, or you can rent one there at the concessionaire store. We like to be a little extra and take a ginormous glittery unicorn float along with some single tubes for each person. Even our dry bags get a small float. If you do decide to bring your own, be prepared to either take a portable electric pump, or you’ll have to blow them up at the inflation stations. *Relationship saver tip: if you bring your own tube, be sure that you have tested it at home (*you will thank me later).
You’ll also want to take a long rope to tie the floats together – it’ll serve as fun family time when you are docking on the rocks to see turtles, nonetheless, Mom will be at peace knowing that the kids can’t float away. Did I mention you will see some wildlife? Don’t panic though, we’ve only seen birds, turtles, manatees, snakes, and some fish.
Take the tram – trust me!
I recommend you purchase the wristband, which takes your float along with your family to the launch zone, and brings you back to where you started once you are done. The wristband for the tram service is $5.50 plus tax per person. Small children are complimentary.
Now that we have our tubes and wristbands – what’s next?
Being that the north end entrance was closed during our visit, we began from the mid-point launch and it was a great experience. Therefore, I would recommend this option for your first time at the river. It will take you approximately two hours to float down to the last take out where a tram will shuttle you back.
Mid-Point Launch Path
What to bring?
You will need a waterproof case for your phone and a dry bag to hold any items you want to bring – keep it simple Mom, you don’t want to bring too much! The bag should be for your phone, keys, sunscreen, bug spray, and any necessary items. Remember to apply sunscreen and bug spray before you begin. If you have small children that don’t know how to swim, a life vest might be a good idea. You may also want to bring goggles and a snorkel mask in case you want to explore. If you want to bring water, it needs to be in a plastic tumbler. Food and alcohol are not permitted, therefore, be sure to eat a good hearty breakfast before your adventure.
So, what’s next?
Sit back, relax, and have fun! Prepare yourself to enjoy one of Florida’s hidden treasures, which is sure to offer your family a change of pace. Disconnect from technology, remove yourself from distractions and keep your head high enjoying your children and our Earth’s natural beauties.
Shopping Cheat Sheet
Tubes a.k.a. Float (consider your swimmers when making a decision on buying floats with the bottom covered or not)
*Portable Electric Air Pump (stays in the car)
*Life Vest (non-swimmers)
*Snorkel & Mask
Non-Disposable Water Bottle
Change of clothes (stays in the car)
Have you ever been tubing with your kids? What is your favorite river to tube down? We’d love to try out some other rivers next summer, what’s your recommendation?
Looking for more Springs adventures? Be sure to check out Ginnie Springs, Santa Fe River Tubing Adventure.