The sunshine state, Florida has many reasons to entice you to visit and not just the beautiful weather. It’s a veritable playground of beaches and theme parks with a surprising dose of museums, culture and art too. However, when you tire of Mickey Mouse and yearn for nature, Florida delivers some stunning swimming holes along with the perfect climate for you to enjoy them. Have a read through our top picks of almost tropical locales for you to dip your toes into while taking a break from the tourist trail.
Here are the best swimming holes in Florida:
1. Wakulla Springs, Tallahassee, FL.
Located near Tallahassee, Wakulla Springs takes the title of being the world’s largest and deepest fresh water spring. The 69-degree water is refreshing in the summer’s heat and certainly doable when it’s cooler too. Generation after generation have enjoyed this summer playground, and it’s easy to see why. There are plenty of facilities including picnic areas, showers, restrooms, large grassy areas to laze by the water and shade provided by cypress trees. There’s a 22ft high dive and observation tower from which you can plunge into the depths below. The park opens every day but will close when thunderstorms threaten so do check the weather.
2. Silver Glen Springs, Ft McCoy, FL.
This stunning spot in Ocala National Forest boasts impossible greenery and shimmering blue water. Oak, cedar and pine trees fringe this playground which is fed by 65 gallons of water daily. The spring bowl is free from boat traffic making the crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and cooling off. You’ll share the water with striped bass, so bring your mask and snorkel if you are a fish spotter. There are picnic tables and bar-b-que pits so pack for the day to revel in this jewel of a swimming hole. It can get very busy and sometimes rowdy so choose your time to visit appropriately.
3. Fanning Springs, Gainesville, FL.
Fanning Springs crystal clear water is a lovely 72 degrees. You can arrive by boat along the Suwannee River or by car along the US 19/98. Either way, you can enjoy the waters, wander along the boardwalk, play volleyball or simply relax at the water’s edge. For parents with small children, there is a designated area for you safely to enjoy the water too. The area abounds with wildlife so take the time to explore beyond the waters, and you might see deer, hawks, woodpecker, and owls. Manatees sometimes visit the waters too, but you have to be very lucky to catch a glimpse.
4. Juniper Springs, Astor, FL.
What sets this place apart are the hundreds of tiny bubbling springs which, along with the big gushers, feed this oasis. Framed by palms and oaks and home to a range of wildlife, Juniper Springs has been a popular recreation site for many years. The swimming area is quite pool-like with wall surrounds, and it’s very deep. It’s fully equipped with picnic areas and grills, showers, and restrooms. There’s a store too, but it closes just after lunchtime. If you stay, hire a canoe and enjoy the 7 mile Juniper Run and enjoy watching the prairie wilderness slip by.
5. De Leon Springs, Volusia County, FL.
Taking its name from Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon who is purported to have visited on his quest for the fountain of youth, this 30ft deep swimming locale has been carefully maintained and features concrete poolside’s rather than rustic banks. This has made the pool accessible by stairs, a ramp and also a swimmers lift. Adults and strong swimmers must accompany children and weak swimmers at all times for safety. Oak trees shade picnic facilities, grills, and a playground. Don’t forget to check out the 600-year-old cypress tree along a half-mile paved track.
6. Wekiwa Springs, Apopka, FL.
Being close to Orlando this place makes a great swimming getaway and pleasant and relaxing change of scenery, but it also means it gets busy so do arrive early. Once the parking lot is full, you’ll be queuing one-in-one-out to get in. The pool itself is 105 in diameter and around 5ft deep, and there is a swimmers lift for easy access too. There’s a grassy lawn to relax on, picnic tables, grills, volleyball court and playground too. There’s plenty of hiking trails and a canoe concession if you fancy a paddle too.
7. Ichetucknee Springs, Fort White, FL.
There are two swimming areas here. The first is at Ichetucknee Spring and the second is Blue Hole Spring. The latter can experience current and is quite deep so only suitable for strong swimmers. That said the main attraction is here is tubing down the river, you can rent or bring your own to float for over 2 hours downstream. Watch the river banks slip lazily by and enjoy spotting wildlife and drinking in the beautiful scenes. Don’t forget to buy your tickets for the shuttle journey back to your car. The area is well looked after to make sure it stays family friendly.
8. Troy Spring, Banford, FL.
This 70ft deep hole has an old-fashioned air about it but don’t let that make you think it’s not well kept or well worth a visit. In the shallow waters, you’ll find the wreck of a Civil War-era steamboat. The steamboat was scuttled in 1863 to save it from enemy hands and today provides a unique swimming hole feature. Bring your mask and snorkel and you’re sure to be rewarded with turtle sightings. The water draws not just swimmers but scuba divers, canoers, and boaters alike. You’ll find facilities for picnicking as well as trails for exploring.
9. Madison Blue Spring, Lee, FL.
A crystal clear oasis reflecting the surrounded pines, this spot is idyllic. Swimmers can enter the water down the wooden steps to float and revel in the surrounding beauty. The hole is 82ft wide and 25ft deep and fed by a spring that bubbles through the limestone. Numbers are limited to available parking spots which nicely regulates the number of people there so as not to be overcrowded.
10. Alexander Spring, Astor, FL.
This pool is large and enjoys a gentle depth incline; visitors describe it as a tropical lagoon. The water is super clear and experiences a temperature of 72 degrees. There’s a beach like shoreline as well as stairs to provide access to the water. Bring your mask or goggles and watch the fish skitter around the rippled sandy bottom. There is a separate swimming area outside of which fishing and canoeing are permitted. Grills and picnic areas are provided and there is a small shop too.
11. Rainbow Springs, Dunnellon, FL.
Rainbow Springs has a dedicated swim area which even prohibits inflatables other than life preservers or noodles. The depth ranges from 5-18ft with just a small area where children can safely enjoy wading. Tubing is popular in this area too, and the entrance for this can be found one and a half miles south of the campground. The two-mile float takes 2 hours to complete, and a shuttle service will return you to your car. The state parks visitor numbers are tightly controlled, and the park will close once capacity is reached so do get there early.
12. Buccaneer Bay Water Park, Weeki Wachee Springs, FL.
While not a swimming hole in the idyllic and rustic tree fringed fashion of yesteryear, this spot is ideal for wearing out those water lovers who are far too full of energy. It is Florida’s only spring fed water park and features flume rides, tube rides, and supervised children’s pool. There’s a river cruise and even a mermaid show and plenty to keep the kids occupied.
13. Ginnie Springs, Gilchrist County, FL.
Renowned as one of Floridas clearest springs and located on the Santa Fe River, Ginnie Springs attracts every kind of water enthusiast. The area is well maintained, and you should expect sundecks as well as stairs to offer easy access to the water. While it’s popular with scuba divers, you can still enjoy the underwater sights with your mask or goggles. Look for bass, mullet, catfish and turtles. Tubing is also popular; get in at Devils Spring, float for an hour, get out at Twin Spring, walk back 15 minutes and repeat. You can rent tubes or bring your own, and there’s even a free air filling station.
14. Blue Spring, High Springs, FL.
From November to March there is no swimming allowed to ensure the protection of the manatees. Outside of this time you can enjoy the sparklingly clear waters whether swimming or tubing or launching off the high board into the 24ft deep water below. There’s a sandy beach which is ideal for small children and a boardwalk alongside the spring run too.
15. Devils Den, Williston, FL.
Certainly not your quintessential swimming hole, Devils Den is an underground spring in a dry cave. It’s certainly a unique experience available only to snorkelers and scuba divers. The bowl shaped pool under the caves roof reaches depths of 55ft and is 120ft wide. It’s a swimming hole on your journey to the centre of the earth. This place does get busy but is certainly worth it for the inimitable experience alone.