By April Shellhammer, Library Specialist
June 5, 2023
Go deep inside Florida’s hidden treasures, that you never knew you wanted to explore!
No, this isn’t an article about bars or restaurants; I’m talking about the incredible natural wonders right in your own backyard! Whether you’re an avid diver, nature lover, or someone who wants to go outside the typical local attractions, you’ll find something to check out other than books from your beloved library of course!
Blue Springs! I grew up in the Orange City area, so this was the perfect place to drop in for a quick swim or dive. Obviously, it’s known for the manatees, which are great, but the environment and wildlife are all top-notch. You can canoe through the St. John’s River or ride a tube or free swim down from the boil down to the swim dock. Afterwards it's the perfect place to sit in the grassy area to enjoy a picnic.
As far as the diving goes, it’s awesome! A rocky, sloped descent to a depth of about 120ft, and pretty clear and visible waters. The springs floor has a “popcorn” type of effect where the outflow of the spring is so strong, it tosses the big rocks around like popcorn! It isn’t too spacious, but that encouraged me to go finless- which is my favorite!
The next great diving spot would be Ginnie Springs! Located in north Florida, near Gainesville, this is an excellent spot for all things outdoors! Although it is not an official Florida State Park, it is worth experiencing. An excellent spot for camping, swimming, and of course, diving; with rentals, trainings and equipment all on site! My local dive shop had a “Galaxy Night Dive,” where they place (non-harmful) pigments in the water to create a bioluminescent effect underwater. There are big rock ledges to sit on, tubing, paddle boarding, and for the more adventurous, this park has some cave diving spots as well. Great for a weekend trip with the family!
Another great place to visit for the afternoon is Ichetucknee Springs State Park, located about an hour North of Gainesville. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL crystal-clear water, and a long tube run perfect for a hot summer afternoon. Tons of nature to explore with three nature trails and host to many different bird breeds for all you ornithologists. As far as diving, there is the stunning Blue Hole Spring for cavern and cave divers only. I, luckily, am cavern certified and have gotten to experience this beautiful sight. There are several varieties of fish, as well as turtles, to admire, and with the high water flow, visibility is constantly clear. Great place for a day trip, with food concessions for sale in case you forget to pack a lunch!
Honorable mention: De Leon Springs
This amazing state park is packed full of rich history and fun. There is a large swimming hole, separated from the main water to avoid any interactions with the rugged wildlife, and plenty of places to lay out and sun yourself and delight in a picnic with the family. This spot is an honorable mention since you can only dive the spring with an instructor, but is worth a visit, especially if you live in the Central Florida area. Connecting to the St. John’s River, it offers boat tours, fishing, paddle boarding, and canoeing. The main attraction, though, would have to be the Sugar Mill Pancake House. A place to create your own delicious pancakes and enjoy some quality family time! For something lighter, they also offer sandwiches and snacks. Perfect for a quick afternoon outing, and to learn about some of Florida’s fascinating history!