One of the best aspects of living in Florida is exploring the varied and unique environments around us: from white sandy beaches to the swamps of the Everglades to crystal-clear freshwater springs, this state has so many opportunities to get in touch and up close with nature. With over 700 springs to choose from, figuring out which one to visit could be daunting.
Ginnie Springs – a little more than a 3-hour drive northwest of Melbourne – is one that delivers beautiful surroundings and an unforgettable experience.
I recently took a weekend trip there and wanted to share some tips and anecdotes for Space Coast residents making the drive. Ginnie Springs is located in North Florida, less than an hour from Gainesville. If you are not into camping, I recommend staying in town near the college. This way, you can try some of the local favorites, like First Magnitude Brewery and the famous pizza spot, Satchel’s.
Whether you are camping or just spending the day, I recommend arriving at Ginnie Springs early, especially if it’s a summer weekend. The park opens at 8 AM but arriving earlier will help you avoid the long line for admission. Entry to this privately-managed park are $14 for adults spending the day, and $22 for adult campers. (Discounts are available to both kids and seniors.)
The main appeal of Ginnie Springs is a float down the Santa Fe River.
This is your chance to experience a lazy river as it was meant to be – in all of nature’s splendor and so much better than a water park! When we visited, we parked as close as we could to Beaver Landing and then enjoyed the hour-long float down to the Twin Spring exit. It’s only about a fifteen-minute walk back to the car and we were able to float down three times before the afternoon clouds arrived!
Most people bring tubes for floating, although you can rent them at the General Store. There is a free air station for inflating tubes, but the lines can get pretty long. I recommend bringing a pump that you can plug into your car to blow up the floats. Make sure you test it beforehand to avoid the hassle we experienced: realizing ours was broken when we got there, leaving us no choice but to queue up for the air station.
You can easily make a day out of floating down the Santa Fe. There’s plenty to see – from the abundant wildlife, to towering Cypress trees, to day trippers jumping off ropes into the Springs – you’ll enjoy a bit of everything that makes Florida wild and wonderful. We packed a picnic lunch to eat in between rides down the river and a floating cooler for drinks during the float.
There are options for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding on the river with available rentals, or you can bring your own. Cave diving and camping also can be booked at the Springs. Costs vary so check the website before you go for details and requirements.
Other fun activities include snorkeling and scuba diving. The main river is not always very clear, but there are sections of the river perfect for seeing everything from fish to fossils! We swam around in the Devil’s Ear spot and, although it was freezing, the water was beautifully clear!
Regardless of how you spend your time at Ginnie Springs, it is definitely one of the most unique experiences you can have in Florida! It does get very crowded and a bit rowdy in the summer, but that’s because it’s the only place around for a refreshing and leisurely float! Eco-tourists into paddling or scuba diving may want to stick to the off-season for optimal nature viewing. For everyone else, plan a trip during the warm summer months for a true Florida experience!