Tips for Visiting De Leon Springs State Park in 2024

There is no better way to cool off in Central Florida than by taking a dip in the freshwater springs. Today, I wanted to share one of my favorites to visit, De Leon Springs State Park, and all the cool things to do here.

This state park is located in West Volusia and is easily accessible from Orlando and the east coast of Florida. There are tons of things to do for both young and old, including boat rides, nature trails, and even a breakfast restaurant! In this blog post, I will share all my tips for getting the most out of your visit to De Leon Springs State Park.     freshwater springs de leon springs   

1. Things to Do at De Leon Springs

De Leon Springs is one of the best state parks to visit for a day trip because there is so much to do here! Most springs have swimming and paddling, but this one also has a boat tour, the Sugar Mill and so much to see. You would be hard-pressed to fit it all in in one day, but here are all the activities available when you visit.

Take an Eco-History Boat Tour

For an educational and entertaining boat ride, Captain Frank offers tours of the Spring Garden Run. These are just under an hour long and are perfect for learning about the history of the area and seeing the wildlife, including alligators and osprey.

Tours aboard the M/V Acuera are offered daily and run every hour from 10 AM to 1 PM. Tickets are $14 per person and can be purchased in person or over the phone. Many people put their name in at the restaurant and then take the tour and your place will be held in line while doing so!

de leon springs state park boat tour

Walk the Nature Trails

De Leon Springs is also home to nature trails for all ages and abilities. The half-mile paved trail takes you through a forest with all sorts of trees and flowers. This is ideal for those looking for a short nature walk to admire the fauna and birds.

There is also the 4-mile loop trail, Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail. This is a common place to see deer, turkey, and occasionally black bears. Because of this, you need to register at the ranger station before hiking.

Go for a Paddle

If you like kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding, De Leon Springs is the ideal place to visit. You can bring your own and launch from here. The springs are connected to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, so there are plenty of lakes and creeks to explore. If you need to rent equipment, kayaks and canoes are available starting at $15 per hour.

kayak and canoe rental at de leon springs

Swim and Snorkel in the Springs

Being able to swim in the refreshing water is one of the biggest highlights of visiting De Leon Springs. It is open year-round and the water stays at a constant seventy-two degrees. It is definitely on the chillier side, but a great way to cool off on a hot day!

The swimming area ranges from a couple of feet deep to thirty feet deep, so those who aren’t strong swimmers should stay in the shallow sections. Floats are allowed, but cannot be excessively large. You can also snorkel in this area, although there is not much to see, besides some fish.

Make Pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill Restaurant

By far the most unique thing about De Leon Springs is the Old Sugar Mill restaurant. You can get breakfast or lunch here daily, and even cook it yourself! The tables have a griddle where you can cook your own pancakes, eggs, and bacon.

This is a popular spot, especially on weekends, so get here early if you plan to dine there. You can put your name in and go on the boat or explore the state park while you wait.  My sister and I had breakfast here one day and loved it! The fact that you could add all sorts of toppings to your pancakes was especially fun.

old sugar mill restaurant make your own pancakes

2. How to Get to De Leon Springs

Like most places in Central Florida, you will need a car to get to De Leon Springs State Park. It’s about an hour north of Orlando, straight up I-4. Once you are on highway 17, there are plenty of signs and it is easy to see.

Be sure to arrive early on weekends, as there can often be a line. Once you pay at the admission booth, it is a short drive down to the main parking area. This is within walking distance of the restaurant, boat, and swimming area. The convenience of this spring makes for a great day trip from Orlando or New Smyrna Beach!

sugar mill at de leon springs

3. Day at De Leon Springs Itinerary

If you are planning to spend a day at De Leon Springs as we did, this is the itinerary I recommend following. Ideally, come on a weekday instead of a weekend or holiday. However, this will still work for busy days as well.

  • 9:30 AM – Arrive at the Springs, and visit the Sugar Mill Restaurant
    • Have breakfast at a make-your-own pancake table
    • If the wait is longer than 30 minutes, take the 10 AM eco-boat tour first
  • 10:30 AM – Finish breakfast, explore the paved walking trail
  • 11:00 AM – Take the Eco-Boat Tour
    • Alternatively, if you dd the boat tour already, have breakfast instead
  • 12:00 PM – Go for a swim in the springs and relax in the sun-bathing area
  • 1:00 PM – Rent a Kayak or Canoe and paddle for a couple of hours
    • Experienced paddlers can paddle the four miles to Lake Woodruff
    • For an easier paddle, paddle around Spring Garden Lake
    • Conversely, you could continue swimming or check out the longer hiking trail
  • 3:00 PM – Return kayak or canoe, relax or swim, and get a snack from the gift shop
  • 4:30 PM – Leave the springs, and head to Downtown DeLand for dinner.
sugar mill restaurant griddle table

4. Hotels and Restaurants Nearby

Once you are finished with your day at De Leon Springs, there is still plenty to do nearby. If you want to make a weekend out of it as we did, I recommend staying in nearby DeLand. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott which was within walking distance of all things Downtown. However, if you want to splurge, the DeLand Hotel offers a lovely boutique experience.

As for restaurants, the options are endless. We loved DeLand favorites like The Table., Santorini Greek Cuisine, and Urban Brick. However, even if you just want to stop for a snack or a drink, Trilogy Coffee has an excellent selection and Persimmon Hollow Brewing has all the craft beer you could want. Whether you are just stopping by or spending a few days here, there are plenty of ways to enjoy everything de Leon Springs has to offer.

De Leon Springs State Park

5. De Leon Springs Frequently Asked Questions:

For those interested in visiting De Leon Springs, I have compiled the most frequently asked questions and answered them here. All answers were accurate as of January 2023.

  • How much does it cost to get into De Leon Springs?
    • It costs $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.
  • Can you swim in De Leon Springs?
    • Yes, there is a large swimming area open all year.
  • Are there alligators in De Leon Springs?
    • There are no alligators in the swimming area. They prefer warmer water. Though they may be in the creeks nearby, it would be easy to see if an alligator made its way to the spring and visitors would be warned.
  • Is the Sugar Mill Restaurant still open?
    • Yes! It closed briefly in 2022 due to new management, but is now back up and running.
  • What time does De Leon Springs Open?
    • De Leon Springs State Park opens at 8 AM daily and closes at sunset.
  • When is the best time to visit De Leon Springs?
    • For low crowds, I recommend visiting weekdays when school is in session. However, if you want hot weather for swimming, visit in the summer., Conversely, October through April is perfect weather for paddling, and less of a chance of thunderstorms.
de leon springs sugar mill pancake breakfast

Know Before You Go: De Leon Springs State Park

I hope this blog post enticed you to visit De Leon Springs State Park! There are activities for everyone from swimming to boating and it’s a wonderful way to experience Florida nature. Below, I have included a few other things to keep in mind when visiting.

  • The mill was built in the 1830s, however, it has been a tourist attraction since the 1950s.
  • Visitors are allowed to launch their own boat (up to twenty feet), canoe, or kayak.
  • Snorkeling is allowed in the springs, but scuba diving is only permitted with a class.
  • Dogs are allowed at De Leon Springs, but can’t go swimming in the springs or in the restaurant.
  • Bathrooms and outdoor showers are available, but there are no lockers.
  • Floats are allowed in the swimming area but must be less than 4 feet by six feet or five feet in diameter.
  • 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 De Leon 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 attractions, as well as city guides for Orlando and New Smyrna Beach.

de leon springs hidden gem