There’s nothing more invigorating than a dip in a cool, blue spring on a sultry summer day. And there’s no shortage of springs in north Florida, which has one of the highest concentrations of first-magnitude freshwater springs in the world. Why not combine a trip to one of Florida’s natural springs with your stay in a Florida Hostel.
IchetuCknee Springs, just north of Fort White in Columbia County, is always a winner. Information: (386) 497-4690; www.floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings/. But if you don’t like crowds or want to try something new, check out these hidden gems:
In the depths of Troy Springs just outside of Branford, you will find the remains of the Civil War-era steamboat Madison, which was scuttled in the spring run in 1863 to keep it from being captured. Swim, snorkel or scuba dive in the crystalline blue, 70-foot-deep spring waters, or paddle a canoe or kayak across the spring mouth to get a glimpse of the wreckage. The park has picnic tables, restrooms, a walkway and a riverside dock for canoeists and boaters on the Suwannee River. Located off County Road 425, 1.3 miles north of U.S. Highway 27. 674 N.E. Troy Springs Road, Branford. Information: (386) 935-4835, www.floridastateparks.org/troyspring.
Hart Springs outside of Bell in Gilchrist County is one of the largest spring-fed swimming areas in the state. The county-owned park features a half-mile boardwalk through the pristine cypress hammock, a volleyball court, boat rentals, RV and tent camping, covered picnic areas, and two air-conditioned pavilions for family gatherings. 4240 S.W. 86th Ave., Bell. Information: (352) 463-3444, www.hartsprings.com
Juniper Springs, with its clear blue waters and generous swimming area, is one of the hidden gems of the Ocala National Forest. Visitors can camp, swim and canoe at the site, which also offers canoe rentals, restrooms, concessions, a visitor center, museum, picnic facilities and showers. Juniper Springs is five miles west of the junction of State Roads 19 and 40 on the north side of State Road 40. Information: (352) 625-0546; www.floridaparks.com/floridafederalpark.
Rainbow Springs State Park, the state’s fourth largest spring, is southwest of Ocala and feeds into the scenic Rainbow River. You can swim or paddle in the cool spring waters, picnic in the park, take a hike or go birding along the nature trails. Information: (352) 465-8555, www.floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings.