If you are looking for a freshwater spring that’s great to visit no matter the temperature, Blue Springs State Park is one of the best options. This freshwater spring is a popular attraction to visit all year with swimming in the summer, paddling in the winter and year-round manatee sightings! Located in Volusia County, it is easy to get to from both Orlando and the east coast of Florida.
This post contains everything you need to know for taking your own Blue Springs State Park Day Trip. I have included tips for seeing the manatees in the winter, recommendations for beating crowds, and other fun facts I have learned after many visits here. Read on to find out why Blue Springs should be on your Florida Bucket List!
1. Things to Do at Blue Springs State Park
First things first, Blue Springs State Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. You can find all sorts of outdoor activities to enjoy here, from hiking to kayaking. Here are the main things to do at Blue Springs State Park.
Swimming and Snorkeling in the Spring Run
In the summer, taking a dip in the 72-degree spring is a delightful way to cool off. There are a couple of entry stairs where you can enter and swim around.
I definitely recommend bringing or renting a tube, because it gets pretty deep fast and it can be nice to float around. Many also enjoy bringing goggles or snorkels. This allows you to check out the entry to the spring head and see aquatic life around the springs.
Kayaking, Canoeing, and Paddleboarding
For those who rather paddle than swim, Blue Springs is one of the best springs in Florida for just that! You can kayak, canoe, or paddleboard the Blue Spring run and the St. John’s River. It is free to launch your own from the boat ramp, or you can rent kayaks or canoes starting at $20 per hour.
Blue Springs Adventures operates guided kayak tours, segway tours, and nature cruises. This is the best way to learn more about the local nature and have a guide point out cool things along the way. Kayak tours are the most popular and cost $65 per person for a three-hour tour.
If you are scuba certified, Blue Springs State Park has a deep cave you can scuba dive to. Open water certified divers are permitted to 50 feet depth and must always scuba with a dive buddy. This is an incredible place to explore an underwater cave and see the sea life that resides there.
If you aren’t ready to cave dive yet but want to learn about scuba diving, Florida Dive Company offers a discover scuba class here. Here you can learn how to stay buoyant, perform safety checks and get some exploring time in the clear spring water. If you have been on the fence about getting dive certified, this is an affordable way to see if you will like it!
The manatees of Blue Springs State Park are an international sensation that draws thousands of visitors. There is even a YouTube channel that livestreams the park year-round! Though you will usually see a few manatees any day of the year, they really flock here once the temperature drops.
If there is a cold day (below 70 degrees Fahrenheit) in the forecast, head to Blue Springs State Park early. You will most likely see over a hundred manatees all huddled together in the spring run. You cannot go swimming or paddling in the runs these days but can take a boat tour, paddle in the St. John’s River, or go for a hike after seeing the manatees.
There are a couple of nature trails to explore while at Blue Springs State Park. I recommend everyone take the 0.4-mile boardwalk that goes around the springs. This provides some of the best views in the park!
However, for more adventurous hikes, you can take the 3.6-mile Pine Island hiking trail. This follows much of the river, as well as takes you through the oak forest and open scrub. This is great for birders as you will see scrub jays and other Florida birds. It can get flooded when the St. John’s River is high, so be sure to check the conditions before you go!
The Thursby House Historic Site
For a vision of Old Florida, visitors can access the preserved Thursby House which is now a museum. Built in 1857, this shows what life was like for European Settlers in Florida. There are a few exhibits inside the house. It is not worth visiting on its own, but cool to walk through during your day at Blue Springs State Park, especially for history buffs.
Have a Picnic
In addition to doing any of the activities mentioned above, I also recommend bringing a picnic lunch. There is a lovely picnic area with a playground and plenty of grace space to enjoy. They even have grills if you want to cook your own food! There is a concession stand here, but I prefer to bring my own food and make an experience of it.
2. How to Get to Blue Springs State Park
Getting to Blue Springs State Park is quite simple from Orlando or the east coast. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the center of Orlando up I-4 and US-92E. For those coming from Titusville through Daytona Beach, it will take about an hour’s drive. Most follow 95 to FL-44 W.
If you are coming from the gulf coast, the drive is much longer. Expect it to take between two to three hours, depending on where you are coming from and the time of day. Most will take I-4 to Fl 429-N and the traffic can be a lot worse in the morning.
3. Blue Springs State Park Day Trip Itinerary
If you are planning to spend a day at Blue Springs as we did, this is the itinerary I recommend following. Ideally, come on a weekday instead of a weekend or holiday. However, this plan will still work for busy days as well.
- 8:00 AM – Arrive at the Springs (7:30 AM if you are visiting on a summer weekend) and park
- 8:30 AM – Take a nature walk on the boardwalk
- 9:00 AM – Rent kayaks or paddleboards for a tour
- Alternatively, wait for the 10 AM boat tour
- 11:00 AM – Go for a swim in the springs
- 12:00 PM – Have lunch and relax in the picnic area
- 1:00 PM – Check out the museum or nature trails
- 2:00 PM – Swim and float in the springs
- 4:30 PM – Leave the springs, and head to Sanford for dinner
4. Where to Eat Nearby
After a day trip to Blue Springs State Park, I recommend heading to Sanford for a bite to eat. It’s a half-hour drive on the way back to Orlando, which is where many visitors are coming from. Here, you can check out the riverwalk area and enjoy local shops and restaurants. Some of my favorites include Henry’s Depot, The District Eatery, and Hollerbach’s German Restaurant.
Alternatively, if you are heading back north, DeLand is a great stop for dinner. This is about 20 minutes away and also has a charming main street. We love DeLand favorites like The Table, Santorini Greek Cuisine, and Urban Brick.
5. Blue Springs State Park Frequently Asked Questions
If you are interested in visiting Blue Springs State Park for the day, I have put together the most frequently asked questions I get about these attractions. These answers are accurate at the time of writing (December 2022) and I will update them annually.
- How much does it cost to visit Blue Springs State Park?
- Admission is currently $6 per vehicle (up to eight people) or $4 for a single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle. If you are not entering by car, pedestrians cost $2, as do passengers of cars with more than eight.
- What time does the park open?
- Blue Springs opens from 8 AM to Sundown every day.
- When can you see the manatees at Blue Springs State Park?
- You will see the most manatees on cold days in the winter season, which is typically December through March.
- Are there alligators?
- There are no alligators in the swimming area. They prefer warmer water. On the rare occasion an alligator does make its way into the swimming area, the authorities close it until the alligator has moved away.
- Can you swim in Blue Springs State Park?
- Swimming is allowed, as long as there are no manatees in the swimming area. In the winter when large amounts of manatees flock to Blue Springs, the swimming area is closed. It is usually too cold to swim during this time anyways.
- Can you camp there?
- Blue Springs State Park has a campground with 51 campsites. Campsites must be reserved in advance.
6. Know Before You Go: Blue Springs State Park
I hope you learned a lot about Blue Springs State Park from this blog post! This is a gorgeous park to experience the natural beauty of Florida. People of all ages will have a fun day here any time of year. Below, I have included a few other things to keep in mind when visiting.
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are allowed at Blue Springs State Park, but proper certification must be shown as proof.
- Dogs are not allowed at Blue Springs State Park, with the exception of the campground. They can not go swimming in the spring run.
- Bathrooms and outdoor showers are available, but there are no lockers.
- Floats are allowed in the swimming area and can be rented through Blue Springs Adventures.
- Picnic tables and grills are available and you can bring your own food. However, alcohol is not allowed.
- There is a restaurant and a convenience store with food and sundries available.
Have you been to Blue Springs State Park? Let me know what you enjoyed there if you have! For more information regarding things to do in Central Florida, be sure to check out my list of favorite springs, as well as city guides for nearby Orlando and New Smyrna Beach.