The one constant in summer is the heat. While the weather can be unpredictable, rain or shine, you can bet it’s going to be warm. And sure, those sun-spitting rays feel nice in small doses, but when the summer heat rolls in, there’s nothing better than finding fun-filled ways to cool off. Thankfully, Suwannee County is home to several beautiful – and refreshing – natural springs and we’ve gathered up some of the best spots to help keep you cool.
The first stop on our list in the heart of “Springs Country,” Little River offers fun for the whole family with several shallow areas for the kids to swim as well as snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities.
Located on the Suwannee River, Little River Springs in O’Brien is a 125-acre county park remarked for demonstrating the visual contrast of the clear, 72-degree spring water against the nearby tea-colored Suwannee River.
Those more adventurous and certified in diving can also explore the spring’s underwater cave system, which is more than 1,200 feet long. The park also features two walking trails idyllic for nature lovers looking to spot deer, squirrels, and plenty of colorful, song-singing birds.
Other amenities at Little River, which has an entrance fee of just $5, include three handicap-accessible pavilion areas; grills to help amplify your packed picnics, two overlooks, portable restrooms, and paved sidewalks.
Whether you’re looking to splash in the springs, take a bike ride on the trails, or explore the wonders that exist deep below the water; Little River Springs has something for everyone.
Following the Suwannee River roughly 13 miles north of Little River brings river chasers to Royal Springs Park, where visitors can get a rush of adrenaline by jumping off the platform into the cool spring water or take a more relaxing venture into the kid-friendly shallow end of the pool, which measures 200 feet wide and dips down to 42 feet deep.
This five-acre park, which features a natural spring surrounded by exposed limestone, a spring run, and a few short waterfalls visible when the Suwannee River level is right, provides a scenic backdrop for picnics, swimming, diving, snorkeling, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
Other park amenities include a public boat ramp, picnic tables with grills, and portable restrooms. Admission to the park, the hours of which are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April through October and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November through March, is free year-round and a must-visit stop on your summer spring-hopping journey.
Renamed in 2011 to honor the late world-class explorer, diver, cinematographer, photographer and springs advocate Wes Skiles, Peacock Springs State Park attracts cave divers from all over the world who descend on the north Florida park eager to explore nearly 33,000 feet of surveyed underwater passages. Renowned for being one of the longest underwater cave systems in the continental United States, cave divers, who must show proof of scuba certification, can dive into the deep blue beyond through one of two designated areas: Peacock Springs and Orange Grove Sink.
For those who prefer to keep closer to the surface, swimming and snorkeling are also popular activities. The 1.2-mile shaded interpretive nature trail allows hikers an above-ground adventure of tracing the path taken by the cave divers directly below their feet. Wildlife viewing is also possible throughout the trail and around the spring. Keep your eyes peeled, you may spot a playful otter or two.
What’s more, Peacock Springs is pet-friendly and well-behaved dogs who are kept on a 6-foot, handheld leash are welcome to walk the trail and explore the park apart from the springs. Two picnic pavilions, a portable restroom, and a changing room are also available. At just $4 per vehicle, Peacock Springs State Park is a unique and inexpensive adventure located in Live Oak.
Want something special to remember your Florida State Park adventure? Ask one of the Park Rangers for a Junior Ranger kit, take the pledge, and receive your official Junior Ranger badge. Complete six core activities in the booklet to collect a Junior Ranger patch. Check off more activities to earn passport stamps and turn in your finished passport to earn a Junior Ranger pin.
Nicknamed “the shortest river in the world,” Falmouth Springs is what’s known as a karst window, which is when an aquifer is directly exposed to the surface. Activities that can be enjoyed at Falmouth consist of biking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and, like all of the spots on our list, wildlife viewing.
The last spot on our list is Suwannee Springs, which is noted for being one of Florida’s original tourist destinations. That’s right, step aside from theme parks, these springs have both charm and history.
In the late 1800s, the spring pool was enclosed to create a bathing area for a nearby resort hotel to promote the spring’s so-called “healing waters.” While the architecture around the springs has changed throughout the last hundred years – wooden hotels, bathhouses and private cottages fading away – the springhouse still stands as well as a few private cabins that pay homage to what the area once was.
While they aren’t bathing in the springs anticipating cures for illnesses anymore, tourists still visit the pet-friendly Suwannee Springs to partake in biking, fishing, picnics, swimming and wildlife viewing. Hiking and horseback riding trails are also available in addition to a 40-foot pool area.
When exploring the park, don’t miss walking across the nearby abandoned Suwannee Springs Bridge – also known as The Bridge to Nowhere – which has become a tourist attraction of its own. Covered in colorful graffiti and decorated with love locks, this bridge, which crosses over the Suwannee River, is an Instagram-worthy spot with notes, messages and drawings waiting to be discovered.
From underwater caves, kid-friendly swimming holes, breathtaking springs and kayaking adventures, Suwannee County’s natural springs provide family-friendly activities that range from relaxing to thrill-seeking. Whatever spring you decide to visit this summer, they’ll keep you cool all summer long. Who knows, maybe that’s the – real – secret behind the area’s acclaimed healing waters: relief from the heat one swim at a time.
Hayli Zuccola has been a freelance writer for the last eight years for both digital and print publications across north central Florida. She enjoys traveling, finding the best food spots and spending time with her pets. You can find her latest adventures on Instagram @hayztravels.
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