Moving to Ocala a little over a year ago, we were unaware of the hidden beauty and nature that we would be surrounded by. Part of me was sad that we didn’t choose to live closer to the beach or a larger city, but the beauty of Ocala has quickly won our hearts over!
One of the first places we kept hearing about exploring was the Silver Springs State Park. The words “natural spring” was casually used when others would talk about The Springs, but we didn’t fully understand what that even meant! When looking for more information into the Springs we were excited to learn more and experience the crystal clear waters that we saw pictures of in person. We ventured to Silver Spring State Park, which is located in north Central Florida, just east of Ocala. We parked with no extra cost at the main entrance of Silver Springs on State Road 40 and made our way into the main entrance of the park. We arrived early in the day and had no problems with parking or waiting. We had done a little bit of research online before our visit at www.silversprings.com and knew we wanted to go on a Glass Bottom Boat Tour. The entrance fee to the park is $2.00 per person and children 5 and under are free. At the main entrance we were also able to choose our Boat Tour as well as grab a map of the entire Silver Springs State Park.
There are 2 options for Glass Bottom Boat Tours and we opted for the 30 minute guided tour which run every 30-45 minutes, 365 days a year. Adults are $12, children 6-12 are $11 and children 5 and under ride for free. The Extended River Boat Tours are offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and are only offered at specific times. The Extended Tour runs 90 minutes and runs $25 per adult. These Glass Bottom Boats date back to the 1870’s and they were invented at the Silver Springs. The boats are fully enclosed and glass surrounds both the outside and a portion of the bottom of the boat. The top of the boat is also covered and provides shade from the hot Florida sun. The guided tour took us to Mammoth Spring, the river’s head spring.
After experiencing the 30 minute guided tour, we are eager to go back for the Extended Boat Tour and see more of what the Silver Springs have to offer! The tour guide was fun and informative and the wildlife we saw through the glass bottom of the boat was amazing. I would highly recommend you make a Glass Bottom Boat Tour a part of your day at Silver Springs State Park!
Seeing the beauty of the springs through a boat was so inspiring that my husband and I decided that we wanted to go back and experience the springs up close in our kayaks. Each year, on our anniversary, it has been our tradition to go on a kayak adventure together. With the Silver Springs being so close to us and remembering the beauty of the Glass Bottom Boat Ride, we ventured back to the Silver Springs with our kayaks and loaded up to celebrate another year of marriage. If you don’t have your own kayaks or watercraft, no worries, there are rental options at the park as well. If I was a bit more brave and not deathly afraid of anything and everything that moves, swims or breathes, I would love to have rented a stand-up paddleboard or a clear bottom kayak!
After parking and unloading our kayaks, we were ready to hit the water.
Gliding through the water and experiencing the beauty of the park was simply breathtaking.
We made our way down the river toward the main spring and experienced sights of turtles swimming, springs bubbling and even fish jumping. With each paddle there was something new to look at both in the trees and in the water. Wildlife of all kinds are one of the main attractions of the Silver Springs and this day did not disappoint. My favorite (and most scary) part of our paddle was seeing manatee. We had never seen manatee let alone have them swim right under our kayaks. They are incredibly beautiful and gentle.
There are a few different options when it comes to paddling according to your time frame and the distance you’d like to venture through. The park has maps and the staff is very friendly and helpful when it comes to giving direction and information. This day we chose to do a shorter loop that took us a little over an hour. Along the way not only did we encounter manatee, we also saw turtles, alligators and so many different kinds of birds. The park is also known for being home to rhesus macaques, a type of monkey that is native to south and southeast Asia. We kept our eyes out for any monkey sightings, but we were unsuccessful that day.
Our kayak adventure ended with a typical Florida shower that came out of nowhere with sunny skies. At this point we could only laugh as we got drenched with rain to finish out our paddle. It did feel nice and refreshing as the sun was bright and hot that day.
While we have only discovered a small portion of what Silver Springs State Park has to offer, we are excited to go back and do more exploring. The hiking trails and campground are next on our “to do” list. Below is a map of the trails and campground map.
I can only imagine the fun our family would have camping and exploring through the park!
The Silver Springs State Park has so much to offer. Stay and explore for a day or book a campsite and take in all the nature and wildlife!
For more information on Silver Springs State Park you can visit any of the following websites:
Florida is filled with so many natural springs and parks. I would encourage you to do some research on what park might be the best for you and your family to visit!
The world is yours to explore!
Written By; Susan Wilke