Float Along This Lazy River Near Orlando

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There are tons of springs scattered across the sunshine state and a few of these natural gems are less than an hour from Orlando. One of the most popular springs in central Florida, Blue Springs State Park is known for the high volume of manatees that seek refuge in the winter months and its crisp, crystal clear water to cool off in during the summer months. Paddling, tubing, swimming, and snorkeling are all popular activities at Blue Springs. Kayaking Blue Springs in Florida is the perfect addition to your Florida vacation or even a quick afternoon on the water for the locals.

Looking downstream while kayaking Blue Springs
The crystal clear water of Blue Springs.

Getting To Blue Springs State Park

Located about an hour from Orlando, Blue Springs State Park is very close to the city’s theme parks and attractions which makes it an easy way to get out into nature during your Florida vacation.

Blue Springs has been a state park for decades and with it’s increased protection of the manatee, it now hosts hundreds of them every winter as they seek refuge from the cold waters of the ocean. The park opens at 8:00 am every day, but it’s very important to arrive early.

This is a popular destination and will definitely reach capacity during weekends and holidays, especially in the summer.

Use this address to navigate to the entrance of Blue Springs State Park.

Looking for a place to stay near Blue Springs State Park? Check out the Alling House Bed & Breakfast for the cutest place to stay!

Looking towards the headspring while kayaking Blue Springs
Looking towards the headspring of Blue Springs.

Blue Springs State Park Entry Fee

The cost to enter Blue Springs State Park is $6 per vehicle that has 2-8 occupants or $4 per vehicle with a single occupant.

It is only a $2 charge for pedestrians, bikers or extra people in the car with someone who holds an annual pass to the Florida state parks.

Visit the Blue Springs State Park website for more information about their hours, fees or the park.

Entrance to Blue Springs State Park
Entrance to Blue Spring State Park.

Best Times For Tubing And Kayaking Blue Springs

As with most springs in Florida, there really is no wrong time to visit. For kayaking Blue Springs, however, there are a few things to consider. 

If you’re interested in a few other Florida springs, check out my other post highlighting the best springs in the state.

The main dock for swimming and tubing at Blue Springs
The main dock where tubers will exit after their float.

Winter Months (November-March)

As the temperatures cool down, the manatees will seek refuge in the warmer spring water at Blue Spring. Due to the high volume of manatees, Blue Spring State Park will close off the spring run.

Therefore, any swimming activities, tubing, and kayaking are all prohibited close to the spring. You are still able to view the manatees from the walking path above the spring, but it is not possible to enter the water near the spring during this time.

You can, however, still rent a kayak or launch from St. John’s River Cruises (more on that later). You’ll be able to paddle around the outskirts of the spring and potentially even see some Blue Spring manatee! The water might not be as crystal clear, but it is still beautiful!

Florida Manatee
A curious Florida manatee.

Summer Months (April-October)

During the summer months, it is possible to kayak Blue Springs. You’ll be able to paddle along the spring run from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and enjoy the crystal clear water.

At 11:00 am the spring is off-limits to kayakers and only reserved for tubers and swimmers. As mentioned before, weekends and holidays can be very busy. Be aware that you will be sharing the spring with tons of other swimmers and tubers.

Kayaking Blue Springs must happen before 11 am according to this sign floating in the spring.
Kayaking is prohibited after 11:00 AM due to the high volume of tubers that flock to Blue Springs.

What To Bring While Tubing And Kayaking Blue Springs

Your Blue Springs packing list might vary depending on what activity you choose, but for the most part don’t forget the following:

The headspring of Blue Springs State Park
Looking down at the headspring of Blue Springs from the boardwalk.

Kayaking Blue Springs in Florida

When you arrive at Blue Spring State Park you’ll first pass the ranger station at the entrance. From there you’ll follow the road straight until you arrive at a large parking lot with pavilions at the far end.

Do NOT turn right since that will take you to the other parking lot which is where you would park for tubing or swimming. Just past those pavilions are the kayak rentals and launch area.

Crystal clear water while kayaking Blue Springs
A great look at how clear the water is at Blue Springs.

Renting A Kayak At Blue Springs

If you are putting in your own kayak or paddleboard at Blue Springs then all you need to do is walk down to the water and launch.

If you are renting, there is a small building located near all of the kayaks. You’ll be able to find someone from St. John’s River Cruises to help you rent a kayak.

Rentals are available from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm.

Canoes start at $14 for an hour or $34 for the entire day.

Single kayaks will cost $17 an hour or $42 for the entire day. 

Tandem kayaks are $22 an hour or $52 for the entire day.

Check here for more up to date pricing.

Kayaking Blue Springs is possible with rentals from St. John's River Cruises
Kayak and canoe rentals at Blue Springs State Park.

Other Activities At Blue Springs State Park

Aside from kayaking, visitors to Blue Spring State Park are also able to enjoy the water while swimming or tubing. Remember that the spring is only open to water activities during the summer months (March 15th through November 15th) due to the influx of manatees in the area during the winter.

The headspring of Blue Springs State Park
You can see the boardwalk in the back that overlooks the headspring.

Tubing Blue Springs

Bring your own tube to float down the spring run which is less than a quarter of a mile. The walk from the main dock to where you would put in your tube is about 5 minutes. It is a very short walk.

You are also able to rent a tube and other swimming gear at the concession stand just near the main dock.

Tubes are $5 for the first hour and $2.50 for every hour after that.

You can also rent the tube for the entire day for $15.

Boardwalk along Blue Springs
A short 5 minute walk for tubers to start their float down Blue Springs.

Swimming and Snorkeling

Prices for the equipment you might need for swimming or snorkeling is the same as above. $5.00 for the first hour and $2.50 for every hour after that otherwise it’s $15.00 for the entire day.

The gift shop has flippers, goggles, and snorkels available for rent. Small lockers are also available for rent at Blue Spring State Park for $2.00 or $3.00 for the larger locker.

Gift shop and concession stand at Blue Springs State Park
Concession stand on the right and the camp store on the left. Tubes and other gear are available for rent at the camp store.

River Boat Tour

St. John’s River Cruises also offers a 2-hour guided nature tour on their pontoon boat in case kayaking isn’t for you.

Tours are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $18 for children. Kids under 3 are free.

Check here for more information on their tour, times and prices.

St. John's River Cruise pontoon boat
St. John’s River Cruise is a 2-hour tour of the area by pontoon boat.

Blue Springs Manatees

This is probably the part you are wondering the most about! Manatees at Blue Springs State Park are very common in the winter months. Once the weather starts cooling down in mid-November, the manatees will retreat from the colder waters of the ocean to the warmer waters of the Florida springs.

Most springs will close off their runs to paddlers and swimmers to give the manatees a safe refuge for the season. Though you might not be able to get into the headspring, you’ll still be able to paddle around the outskirts.

Manatees will come and go from the spring so there is still a huge chance you’ll have an encounter with a manatee while paddling.

The boardwalk that is used for tubers in the summer is opened to guests during the winter as well. This is a great place to get a view from above the spring and watch as all the manatees huddle together in the warmer water.

Manatee swimming just under a kayak
Manatees are more likely to come closer if you simply sit and wait for them to come to you.

Remember to leave no trace and never touch, feed or harass the wildlife!

If you are looking for a chance to swim with manatees, there is only one place in Florida where it is legal to do so. Read my post on swimming with manatees at Crystal River here!

The bank of Blue Springs Run looks like a jungle
Blue Springs is surrounded by what looks like a jungle!

Eat And Drink After Your Paddling Adventure

So far I have yet to try any of the local restaurants or bars in the area after kayaking Blue Springs. I won’t suggest a place I haven’t personally tried. The good news is, I’ll update this post as soon as I get a chance to test out some of the recommended establishments in the area! Check back and hopefully, I’ll have the perfect spot for you!

Just before entering Blue Springs
The water just outside Blue Springs isn’t as crystal clear, but still beautiful!

If you are interested in some other springs surrounding the Orlando area, check out Rainbow Springs or Weeki Wachee Springs for an amazing paddling adventure!

If you have any questions or comments drop them below or reach out to me on my Facebook page or Instagram.

8 thoughts on “Float Along This Lazy River Near Orlando”

  1. What beautiful photos of a beautiful spot! This is such a comprehensive write-up — strong work. If you enjoy Blue Springs in the sunshine, you should try it in the evening during their Firefly Festival (which should start just about any day now!). The park stays open late and the fireflies put on an unforgettable light show. It is so amazing. Steve and I went twice last year!
    Because it is an utterly natural phenomenon, they can’t predict the start and end dates, but if you watch the Blue Springs website, they will announce it.

    Love your blog.

  2. We love the springs and don’t get out there enough. We are in North Central Florida so close to lots of Springs. I haven’t been to Blue Springs, looks so beautiful To be in nature, get a little exercise, take pictures, and swim with those peaceful creatures, makes for the best day ever.

  3. This looks awesome! I want to check out the springs around Florida. I haven’t been to any of them even though I live in Sarasota. This is definitely getting added to my list.

  4. I would love to see the manatees!!! What an amazing place to go kayaking, that water is so clear and beautiful! I’m not really a Disney World person, so this would be a great alternative when I visit Orlando

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