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Florida has a reputation for great beaches and it’s easy to see why. Yes, they’re golden and the seas are blue and warm but Florida isn’t all about the coast. Head inland and to the north for something rather special: Ichetucknee Springs.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a huge Florida State Park and National Natural Landmark towards the north of the state of Florida. At the heart of it is Ichetucknee River. This 6 mile long river flows through shaded hammocks and wetlands and it fed by natural springs that maintain a pretty warm temperature of about 22 degrees celsius all year round. So, when it’s hot outside (as it tends to be in Florida) the waters are extremely refreshing.
People tend to come to Ichetucknee Springs for one reason and one reason only: tubing.
There are several places you can rent tubes from but the original is Ichetucknee Tubing Centre. The owner will be able to tell you all about the history of the area (as she did us) and give you plenty of information on where to head next, how to get to the springs and probably where to get the best meal nearby too.
You can rent the cheapest tubes for just $5 a day (which was what we did). There are slightly fancier options for $7 which come with seats and a hole to put a drink in. Or get a double seater for $10 a day.
The staff help you tie it onto your car and they’ve got plenty of years of experience. I don’t think there’s a car out there that they couldn’t manage to tie some tubes to! If you’re in a group you can also get some string from them so that when you’re out on the water you can tie your tubes together so that someone doesn’t speed off ahead or fall behind.
From Ichetucknee Springs it’s a quick 5 minute drive to the south entrance of the park. It costs $6 to enter the park and if you go early on in the season there probably won’t be a guard there so remember to be honest and put your $6 in the envelopes provided.
From here you can pay about $3 for a tram to drive you to the starting point (called Midpoint) and pick you up at the end. Or, you can take the picturesque, short walk through the forest.
When we visited the springs on a very hot (34 degree) Sunday in early April, I’d thought the springs would be packed. Surprisingly (but happily) the springs were very empty which made it all the more enjoyable. I’ve heard that the river gets packed in summer and I’d imagine it’d be hell so maybe only go here if you’re visiting Florida in spring.
Floating from Midpoint to the end takes about 2 hours depending on how much you push and kick yourselves down. It’s nice and shaded thanks to the tree canopy above so just sit back and relax. Don’t go too fast or you’ll miss spotting the turtles, fish (and maybe manatees which apparently like to swim in here too in the colder months).
Once you’ve reached the end you can do it all over again. Or, simply leave your tube in the designated area and it’ll be picked up by your rental company.
I challenge you to have as much fun as this for only $11 (less if you’re travelling with someone else and split the park entrance fee)!
- The springs get very busy on summer weekends. I’ve read that sometimes people are refused entry to the park as early as 10am so plan to get there early in summer.
- Entrance to the park costs $6 a day for cars
- Tube rental starts at $5 a day. Or you could bring your own if you have it
- Bring lunch, water and suncream