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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,
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.
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.
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,
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!
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
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:
- Sunscreen is an absolute must! Even though this spring run is partly covered, it’s still Florida!
- Hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes and face. Again, this is Florida! Try my all-time favorite brand of sunglasses!
- Bug spray will help if you are kayaking, but tubers and swimmers can probably skip this one!
- Water bottle, preferably a reusable one. Try my favorite Camelbak!
- Waterproof casing for your phone or camera. Trust me, you’re going to want to take pictures. Try this one, super cheap and gets the job done!
- If you need a snorkel set, check out this one.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!