Thanks to Florida’s natural underground aquifer, about 800 billion gallons of water flow through limestone to bubble up to form more than 700 of the natural springs in the Sunshine State every single day. That’s the largest collection anywhere on earth!
The water’s temperature never goes above a crisp, refreshing 72 degrees, and through that crystal clear water, you can see entire ecosystems thriving: aquatic plants, gorgeous rock formations, and wildlife like manatees and turtles.
These freshwater springs near Tampa offer something for everyone, so you are bound to have an amazing time!
Unfortunately because of Tampa’s geography, there are no natural springs in the city’s immediate vicinity. While each of these springs will require you to get in your car, the drive will be absolutely worth it. Any of these sites make a perfect day trip from Tampa!
When you visit natural springs near Tampa, try not to get overwhelmed by the recreation offered: tubing, diving, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, photography, and even glass-bottom boat tours. Let’s not forget that springs are a perfect place to see Florida’s native wildlife, especially manatees!
The views are always spectacularly beautiful, so hop in the car, set your GPS, and head out to the most beautiful springs near Tampa. We promise you won’t regret it!
Let’s explore these Tampa springs!
12 Best Natural Springs Near Tampa You Must Visit
Natural springs are beautiful escapes, perfect to unplug from reality. If you want a little whimsy in your adventure, have no fear! At the closest springs near Tampa only 56 minutes away, you can meet a real, live mermaid!
Okay, mermaids are make-believe, but the swimmers that don the incandescent fins only add to the beauty of Weeki Wachee. Paying homage to the yesteryear of Florida tourism, you’ll get lost in the magic of their underwater dance.
Weeki Wachee is also a great destination for families! The springs are also home to Buccaneer Bay, the only water park fed by a first-magnitude spring.
While swimmers can bask in the beautiful blues and greens of the Florida natural springs, divers can explore the freshwater cave system, confirmed in 2007 to be the deepest in all of North America.
In addition to the perfect day trip, the natural beauty of Weeki Wachee makes a beautiful backdrop for events hosted within the state park, such as weddings and family gatherings, with a range of indoor and outdoor pavilions.
With such an enchanting name, it’s no surprise that Rainbow River is home to a variety of natural wonders. Only 1 hour and 36 minutes away, Rainbow Springs is one of the best springs near Tampa for tubing.
Its history spans back centuries when native Floridians regularly visited these sapphire waters, believed to have magical healing powers.
Whether you choose to believe that or not, you undoubtedly will bask in this natural Florida spring’s beauty with endless experiences and amenities. At the headspring of the river is a gigantic swimming area with white sand and limestone underneath your toes.
Rainbow Springs also has some of the best hiking trails in Florida! Walk through man-made waterfalls and natural gardens, a popular destination for Florida birders.
Campgrounds along the river have kayaks and canoes for rent, so you can see the tall oaks that line the riverbanks. Areas of the river are dedicated to tubing down this natural lazy river.
Jump off of docks or swing off of ropes tied to tree limbs. You will share the water with turtles, basking in the sun on logs while herons and ibis flutter by.
Entry to Rainbow River State Park only costs a few dollars so it is a great budget spring near Tampa.
Three Sisters Springs
Just about 90 minutes north of Tampa Bay, Three Sisters Springs is actually part of a large network of about 40 natural springs called Crystal River. It is one of the best kayaking springs near Tampa.
Three Sister Springs originates in King’s Bay before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Only accessible by boat, these springs near Tampa have earned their nickname as a “water lover’s paradise” with a multitude of activities and wildlife to see.
If you head to Three Sister Springs, you can spot wild manatees at the Florida Manatee Festival! This is one of the few places you can still swim with these magnificent creatures.
The festival usually runs during a weekend in January, one of the best times to see manatees. At this time, manatees migrate from rivers to natural springs to keep warm during the winter months. While they’re here, jump in the water and celebrate!
If you don’t want to jump in the chilly waters, you can still enjoy other in-water recreation! Try launching a glass-bottom boat or kayak to get an uninhibited view of the springs!
Kelly Park/Rock Springs
The free-flowing springs at Rock Springs at Kelly Park are a bit cooler than their counterparts, usually topping out at a chilly 68 degrees, making this destination perfect for the hottest of Florida summers.
It can get confusing, so let’s clarify. Kelly Park is the name of the nature park. Here you’ll find over 7 miles of hiking trails to enjoy! Rock Springs is the name of the swimming springs near Tampa whose headwaters are found in Kelly Park.
Tubers will love floating through mangroves and looking at the fish and turtles sharing the water with them. You can also take a canoe or a glass-bottom boat down the river until it opens up into a swimming area.
Campers can also enjoy the grounds with lots of RV parking, pavilions, and nature trails. This is one of the best springs in Florida for quiet picnics with the family or a loved one!
Admission to Rock Springs is just a few dollars per vehicle.
With natural wonders just 1 hour and 33 minutes away from Tampa, Wekiwa Springs makes the perfect escape. One of the most unique state parks in Florida, you can beat the heat in its relaxing emerald waters!
Right next to Rock Springs in Kelly Park, Wekiwa Springs is Orange County’s longest-running tourist attraction. With miles of hiking trails waiting to be explored on foot, bike, or horseback, you’ll understand why it’s been beloved by locals since the early 19th century.
Through the dense hammocks, you can take a canoe passing the purple blooms of pickerelweed. When exploring the spring vent which feeds the Wekiwa River, you’ll see a variety of Florida wildlife.
When you jump in the spring to swim or snorkel, be advised there is no lifeguard on duty. These swimming springs near Tampa are 4 feet at their deepest, so no jumping or diving is allowed.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the concession stand. Guided trips and shuttles are also available if you’re looking for a more organized outing.
Located just north of Ocala in Central Florida, Devil’s Den is actually underground. Only 1 hour and 49 minutes away from Tampa, Devil’s Den is the most prehistoric of Florida’s springs, a perfect spot for divers and snorkelers alike.
Visitors walk down a wooden staircase into a cavern that appears to open up into an ethereal world. Divers can descend up to 54 feet in the springs (120 feet in diameter) to look through the clear, aqua water which is always 72 degrees, making it one of the best springs in Florida.
The grounds of Devil’s Den also have cabins and RV parking with a heated swimming pool, charcoal grills and picnic tables, nature trails, and pavilions with lawn games for the whole family to enjoy!
Each person needs a mask, snorkel, and fins to swim in Devil’s Den. You can either bring your own or rent them.
Admission does not cover the equipment rental cost. Currently, all visits must be reserved in advance and are limited to 90 minutes.
Gilchrist Blue Springs
Florida’s newest state park, Gilchrist Blue pours 44 million gallons of fresh water out of its second magnitude spring before flowing out in a shallow spring close to the Santa Fe River. The waters, lying along floodplains in the area, boost and support a wide variety of ecological habitats.
If you drive about 2 hours and 25 minutes away from the city, you can swim in some of the best clear water springs near Tampa along with a wide variety of native fish, turtles, and invertebrates that call this set of natural springs in Florida home.
It is recommended that visitors arrive early in the morning, as capacity is limited, and you will be turned away! Patrons can participate in snorkeling, swimming, and paddling at the main springhead and on the spring run.
With so much to offer and so much wildlife to see, it’s no wonder that Gilchrist Blue Springs is one of the best springs near Tampa. This hidden Florida gem truly deserves its new state park status.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
Along the Santa Fe River lies a true slice of pure Florida. Ginnie Springs boasts some of the clearest waters of all the natural springs near Tampa to swim, only 2 hours and 16 minutes away.
Made up of a group of seven springs and caves, Ginnie Springs a must for any serious cave divers or snorkelers.
Visitors can enjoy tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming in addition to campgrounds with picnic tables, grills, and volleyball courts! If you want to stay longer, there is a rental cottage available.
If you decide to snorkel or paddleboat down the Florida springs, the clear water may reward you with a view of bass, catfish, mullet and if you’re lucky: turtles.
In scenic Ocala National Forest, Juniper Springs is tucked away in a subtropical area of palm and oak trees. Just under two hours away, Juniper Springs is one of the best springs around Tampa.
The main springhead is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, paddling, bird watching, and picnicking. Hikers can easily spend all day traversing the statewide Florida trail that winds through the area with information about the sub-tropical foliage.
The seven-mile Juniper Springs run is considered to be one of the most beautiful and scenic routes for kayakers in the entire state of Florida. There is even a haul-back service offered for your canoes and kayaks if you want to experience it all over again–without the hassle.
Considering the historic campgrounds and RV parking among the amenities available, it’s easy to turn a lazy day at one of the best springs near Tampa into a relaxing evening for the entire family in the heart of nature.
About 2 hours from Tampa, Silver Springs State Park outside of Ocala is a beautiful escape from the city. For over a century, tourists and locals alike have been coming here to enjoy nature and relaxation.
The glass-bottom boat tours here are really popular and a great way to experience the clear water. You will be able to spot a variety of wildlife and maybe even some Native American and Spanish artifacts. The standard tour is thrty minutes or there is an extended tour available on the weekends.
If you want to learn more about the history of the area, you can visit the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center. The exhibits bring to life Florida’s geology, paleontology, and archaeology.
Of course, swimming and paddling are fun activities at the park too, along with hiking, birdwatching, and bicycling. There is also a replica pioneer settlement called Cracker Village where history comes alive.
The park also has a great campsite, a restaurant, and a sweets shop where you can get handmade fudge, ice cream, and more. It’s certainly one of the tastiest springs in Tampa!
North of Gainesville, eight major crystalline springs unite to form the Ichetucknee River, one of the best springs near Tampa. Only 2 hours and 30 minutes away, pack up the car and get ready for a gorgeous day out!
If you want a relaxing day, you can canoe, kayak, or go tubing in the upper region of the area of the state park, where the pristine waters will gently carry you down the Ichetucknee River. Scuba divers and snorkelers can find a bit more adventure through the waterways.
Hikers can choose one of three hiking trails, with entrances at the north of the river. There is the tame Blue Hole trail that leads to the Blue Hole Spring, the largest in the park, or the intermediate Tressle Point trail, a self-guiding trail that looks on areas where in the past phosphate ore was mined.
Found just over 2 hours from Tampa and north of Orlando, Alexander Springs is a gorgeous area to explore and relax. This is one of the best first-magnitude springs in Florida.
The consistent 72-degree water is super clear and perfect for watching small fish swim around you. This is also the only place where you can scuba diver in the Ocala National Forest.
You will have a great time swimming under the maple, sweetgum, and cabbage palm trees. There is a great sloped beach perfect for all ages.
When you are not playing in the water, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy. The Timucuan Trail brings you through the forest in a loop of just under a mile. You can also go canoeing and birdwatching. There are canoes available to rent.
There are also plenty of amenities to make you comfortable including restrooms, hot showers, picnic tables, and campsites.
Silver Glen Springs
Silver Glen Springs is about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Tampa. It is also very close to Alexander Springs, so you could visit both in a day if you wanted.
The quaint, aquamarine waters of Silver Springs are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
A variety of freshwater and saltwater fish call this spring home, along with manatees seeking solace from the cold, winter waters of the Saint Johns River. Make sure never to approach manatees, let them come to you!
Hikers traversing the Spring Boils Trail will be able to spy many smaller springs bubbling up and feeding into the streams that empty into Lake George. Fishing, with a suitable freshwater license, of course, is permitted downstream of the swimming hole area.
Also located in Ocala National Forest, this beautiful Florida spring is also a notable archeological site! Those with a keen eye will be able to spot a variety of fossilized snail shells embedded in the middens along the shores.
Visitors are encouraged to arrive early in the day, as capacity is limited! You do not want to miss out on one of the best natural springs in Tampa.
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