Get ready to discover the most incredible springs in Ocala! As a Florida resident, I’m truly blessed to have so many beautiful freshwater springs right in my backyard. Ocala alone contains over 600 pristine spring-fed lakes and rivers – an aquatic wonderland! I’ve yet to explore every one, but I’ve made it my mission to experience the best these natural treasures have to offer.
After extensive research and chatting with fellow water lovers, I’m sharing my picks for Ocala’s top 12 springs perfect for swimming, snorkeling, paddling or just soaking in the scenery. I’ll provide insider tips from locals on the optimal times to visit, how to avoid crowds, and those secret spots only longtime residents know about.
#1 Silver Springs
Silver Springs is an iconic Florida attraction, which means huge summer crowds. For a more peaceful experience, take the river trail first thing in the morning when mists shroud the water and birds sing overhead. Pack a picnic lunch and head to one of the backwater tributaries dotted with secluded shell beaches that most tourists don’t realize exist.
Insider Tip: One of my favorite hidden gems is the peaceful Monkey Creek – rent a kayak and you might spot wild monkeys along the banks!
#2 Rainbow Springs
While Rainbow Springs does get busy, some simple tricks can help you beat the crowds. Arrive at mid-morning when the sun illuminates the spring floor, causing the sand to shimmer in rainbow hues – this natural phenomenon has to be seen to be believed! Next, don your mask and snorkel and swim out to the boil for a front-row view of the colorful show. End your day floating lazily down Rainbow River on an inner tube, soaking up the natural splendor.
Insider Tip: For nearly private access, reserve one of the state park’s rustic cabins, and you’ll have Rainbow’s crystal waters all to yourself both before and after regular hours.
#3 Alexander Springs
Alexander Springs stays busy thanks to its family-friendly amenities, but I’ve got the inside scoop for a more secluded experience. Pack a lunch and arrive early to claim one of the shaded oak groves fringing the swimming area – you’ll have space and privacy to relax after exploring the spring. For a real treat, take the lightly-traveled Little Creek Trail to reach remote swimming holes with picture-perfect views. Trust me, the hike is worth it!
Insider Tip: Locals know the wooded peninsula behind the snack bar makes a perfect picnic spot with calm waters for the kids to play safely.
#4 Juniper Springs
Juniper Springs holds a special place in my heart thanks to childhood camping trips with my family. Before swimming, be sure to visit the CCC Museum to learn about the fascinating history of the Civilian Conservation Corps and their work in the forest. When you’re ready for a dip, pack a snorkel and explore the underwater vents churning up sand.
Insider Tip: For a magical experience, join the Evening Canopy Crawl tour – you’ll end with s’mores under the stars!
#5 Salt Springs
Salt Springs can get motorboat traffic on busy weekends, but visit midweek and you’ll have the run nearly to yourself. I love wading out into the main basin, feeling the sand bubble beneath my feet from the freshwater vents. Pack a fishing rod too – nothing beats a shoreside lunch of just-caught fish! For more solitude, launch kayaks at Salt Creek and drift peacefully through unspoiled natural beauty.
Insider Tip: Early morning is best for spotting herons, egrets, and other birds amid the golden marsh grasses.
#6 Silver Glen Springs
Silver Glen Springs is a favorite local spot thanks to ample space and tranquility. Arrive in the late afternoon when most day-trippers have departed, giving you lots of elbow room to swim, snorkel, or wade out into the crystal waters before an evening picnic. As the sun sets, launch an inner tube near the swimming area and drift slowly among the cypress knees and Spanish moss – magical!
Insider Tip: Locals know to take the Lake George Loop Trail to reach secluded waterfront picnic spots away from the crowds.
#7 DeLeon Springs
Nothing beats a lazy morning at DeLeon Springs, especially on weekdays before the tour buses roll in. Spend a few hours flipping flapjacks at your personal griddle – just don’t overdo it! Afterward, walk through the butterfly house at the botanical gardens before taking a reviving dip at the swimming area. Don’t miss the scenic overlook deck tucked away behind the restaurant either!
Insider Tip: Arrive right at opening time for the best flapjack experience with zero wait. You’ll have the place nearly to yourself!
#8 Blue Spring
As one of the largest springs, Blue Spring can get packed with manatee crowds in the winter. But some simple strategies let you enjoy nature sans throngs of tourists. Come at dawn to watch the mist rise above the water, seeing (and hearing!) manatees surface before the crowds. Or better yet, join a ranger-led kayak trip for a close encounter with these gentle giants. Expect a moving experience!
Insider Tip: Explore the outer loops of the Blue Spring Wilderness hike for a peaceful walk among thousand-year-old cypress trees.
#9 Wekiwa Springs
Escape the summer crowds at Wekiwa Springs by taking the Florida National Scenic Trail to Miami Springs – a lesser-known Ocala Springs swimming hole with pristine vistas. Pack a picnic to enjoy the waterside before looping back on the Pine Plantation trail through shady forest. For a special night, join a moonlight paddle – you’ll glide across the glassy waters surrounded by the sounds of nature.
Insider Tip: Hit the trail early to spot Florida wildlife like sandhill cranes, turtles, and even otters if you’re lucky!
#10 Madison Blue Spring
Madison Blue is a first-magnitude spring pool that seems custom-made for swimming and snorkeling. Come equipped to fully explore the caverns and limestone formations hidden below the crystal waters. For more adventure, tube down the aqua-blue spring and run into the tea-colored Withlacoochee River. Top off your day camping at peaceful Cherry Lake campgrounds.
Insider Tip: Follow the nature trail around closing time for the chance to spot white-tailed deer and other woodland creatures.
#11 Volusia Blue Spring
Volusia Blue Spring is located within the St. Johns River system and is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling and birdwatching. A wooden boardwalk loops around the spring basin, providing scenic views and wildlife sightings. Launch a canoe or kayak and paddle along the St. Johns for more secluded spaces to enjoy this tranquil setting.
Insider Tip: Early morning is best for birding, you may spot herons, egrets, osprey, and even bald eagles fishing.
#12 Poe Spring
Poe Spring is one of Ocala’s lesser-known gems, providing a more isolated wilderness experience. A hiking trail leads you to the crystal clear spring pool rimmed by limestone outcroppings. Have a picnic on the grassy banks before taking a refreshing dip in the cool waters. The wooded setting makes this a wonderful spot for wildlife viewing and photography.
Insider Tip: Look for the wooden sign on CR 314 to find the trailhead leading to this hidden swimming hole.
Recap: Best Springs In Ocala
The springs near Ocala Florida provide a ton of options for water-based recreation and relaxation. From massive boil springs to secluded forest pools, each has its own unique personality and charm just waiting to be explored. I hope my guide gives you a helpful starting point to discover Ocala’s aquatic wonders for yourself. As you continue your adventures, please share any hidden gems or local secrets I may have missed – I’m always looking to expand my list!
FAQ’s about Ocala Florida Springs
What springs can you swim in Ocala?
Many of Ocala’s springs offer excellent swimming opportunities, including Silver Springs, Rainbow Springs, Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, Silver Glen Springs, and Deleon Springs, among others. These springs have designated swimming areas with lifeguards, facilities, and nearby amenities.
How many springs are in Ocala?
There are over 600 documented freshwater springs within Ocala and the surrounding region. This includes both large boil springs as well as smaller seeps and vents that feed the many rivers, lakes, and waterways in the forests and parks.
What are the major springs in Ocala National Forest?
Some of the major springs located within Ocala National Forest include:
- Juniper Springs – A beautiful clear spring with a swimming area, the largest within the national forest.
- Alexander Springs – A large and popular recreation spring with a swimming beach, picnic areas, and hiking trails.
- Salt Springs – Provides a large saline spring that feeds into Lake Kerr.
- Silver Glen Springs – Spring descendents into Lake George with a swimming area, diving, and boating.
- Hopkins Prairie – An ecological site with small boiling springs feeding a marsh habitat.