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Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy theme parks in Orlando and Tampa to relax and explore one of Florida’s oldest natural attractions, Silver Springs State Park. Silver Spring is one of the largest artesian springs in the world and has tons of activities for locals and visitors to appreciate wild Florida. Silver Springs kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful crystal clear spring water. The park also runs a historic glass-bottom boat tour so passengers can observe local wildlife like gators, turtles, manatees and the elusive Silver Springs monkeys!
Getting To Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is only a quick 1.5-hour drive north of Orlando along Florida’s Turnpike. The drive is just a little longer from Tampa. Use this address to navigate to the entrance of Silver Springs.
Once you arrive in the parking lot of Silver Springs State Park, you can’t miss the beautiful sign welcoming you to the park. This is where all of the activities including events, a
On the opposite end of the parking lot is the Silver Springs kayaking launch ramp. This is where you can drop off your personal vessel or rent one to kayak Silver Springs.
Silver Springs State Park Entry
Upon arrival at Silver Springs State Park, you’ll be asked to pay a fee of only $2.00 per person.
Silver Springs State Park is open from 8:00 AM to sunset 365 days a year.
Best Time To Visit Silver Springs State Park
Like most Florida springs, there really is no wrong time to visit. Each season, however, will have its pros and cons to take into consideration when planning your visit.
Winter Months (November-March)
In my opinion, the winter months are the BEST time to visit Silver Springs State Park. The weather is cooler and there is a smaller chance of afternoon thunderstorms. This means you can get out and enjoy kayaking Silver Springs or a ride on the Silver Springs glass-bottom boat without sweating to death!
There is also a higher chance of seeing the Silver Springs manatees in the winter months since they will swim to the headsprings to escape the colder water of the ocean.
Summer Months (April-October)
Florida in the summer is HOT. Since Florida’s springs remain at 73 degrees year round, these natural swimming holes are the perfect places to cool off!
Silver Springs State Park, however, does not allow swimming. Many decades ago, the headspring was open for swimmers and snorkelers, but today there are a few different reasons as to why the area has been closed off.
The lack of swimming doesn’t stop the crowds from flocking to Silver Springs State Park. There are still a ton of other summer activities including glass-bottom boat tours and kayaking!
Silver Springs Kayaking
Kayaking Silver Springs is like paddling through a jungle! The water is crystal clear with just a tint of blue. The scenery surrounding the paddling trail is lush and full of wildlife. You may even catch a glimpse of the Silver Springs monkeys!
As mentioned above, you will pull into the far end of the parking lot to either unload your kayak or rent one from the kayak shack called “Paddling Adventures at Silver Springs State Park”. You can check out their website here for up to date pricing and other information.
Paddling In Silver Springs State Park
To launch your own personal kayak or paddle board it will cost $4 plus the $2 admission fee for the state park. I also want to mention that inflatable kayaks and paddle board are welcome to paddle at Silver Springs State Park.
If you’d like to rent a vessel from Silver Springs, you can either rent by the day or by the hour. Rentals start at 8:00 AM and the last rental is at 4:00 PM.
Single kayaks start at $15 for one hour, $20 for two hours, or $30 for the full day.
Double kayaks and stand-up paddleboards start at $20 for one hour, $30 for two hours, or $45 for the full day.
Fort King Paddling Trail
The route for kayaking Silver Springs is basically a circle and you are able to start in either direction.
The signs will point you to take a right before passing under the bridge. This option will have you floating through wild Florida with the current for about 1 mile. You’ll then pass through an open gate that is partially submerged in the water before making your way out to more open water. Take a left and paddle against the current until you end up back at the headspring. You’ll see the glass-bottom boats docked along the park’s visitor’s center. Once you are done exploring the headspring, take a left and the narrow channel will dump you at the bridge you passed after you launched.
I found that paddling out to the headspring first was a bit easier. I was able to float with the current when the river opened up. If it’s a bit breezy, this might be a better option so you won’t have to battle the wind while paddling against the current. If you go this way, be sure to look out of that submerged gate which would now be on your right-hand side. You’ll then be paddling against the current in the skinnier channel of the spring which is slightly easier in my opinion.
The entire circle takes approximately 2 hours if done at a slow pace.
Point To Point Paddle To Ray Wayside Park
There is also another option of paddling from Silver Springs State Park to Ray Wayside Park which takes about 4 hours. You must be on the water no later than 10:30 for this activity. The rental company also provides transportation back to Silver Springs State Park for rentals as well as private boat launches.
**I have not done this paddling route yet, but will update as soon as I do!**
What To Bring For Silver Springs Kayaking
- Sunglasses. I’ll never stop recommending these Oakley Sunglasses. I’ve had them for almost 10 years and they are still going strong!
- Hat. I’m sure you have a hat laying around, but if you don’t, here’s one of my favorites!
- Sunscreen. This water-resistant sunscreen is perfect for kayaking!
- Bug Spray. If you don’t do well with some of the harsh insect repellents, try this one!
Silver Springs Glass-Bottom Boat Tours
An amazingly unique experience at Silver Springs State Park is the famous glass-bottom boat tours. The boat tour takes you down along the spring run for views of the Florida wildlife and beautiful landscape. You’ll also get a detailed history lesson on what Silver Springs is known for and see some of the old props from movies that were filmed at the springs decades ago!
Tours run every 30-45 minutes from 10 AM to 5 PM every day.
The cost is $11 for this short tour that explores the wonders of Silver Springs. For guests, ages 6-12 as well as 55 and over the tour is $10 and children under 5 are free.
If you’re interested in the longer 90 minute tour that goes a bit further down stream with even more in-depth history, make your reservations early! This extended tour costs $25 for adults or $20 for kids ages 6-12 as well as guests 55 and over. Children 5 and under are free!
Other Activities At Silver Springs State Park
Aside from the major highlights, Silver Springs also offers five hiking trails with over 8 miles of trails.
Silver Springs also offers picnicking, horseback riding, biking, and camping.
Check back for more information on camping!
Eat And Drink After Kayaking Silver Springs
Silver Springs not only has tons of activities, but they also boast a wonderful ice cream shop and grill just across from the glass-bottom boat tours.
The Spring Side Cafe and Paradise Treats ice cream shop was clean with great food and reasonable prices. The staff was as friendly as can be which made our experience that much more enjoyable. I always will recommend checking out locally owned and operated business and this place absolutely deserves a visit.
Looking For Other Springs In The Central Florida Area?
Check out some of the other springs near Silver Springs State Park.
Rainbow Springs is only 45 minutes west of Silver Springs State Park. This spring is perfect for a day on the water tubing and snorkeling with the current in crystal clear water. Check out my other post for all the details of exploring Rainbow Springs.
Just a little further west is Crystal River and Three Sisters Spring. If you’re looking to see manatees, this is your spring! Though you can spot them at Silver Springs, Crystal River is a well-known refuge for these gentle giants. Check out my guide to swimming with Manatees in Crystal River here.