One of the best places to cool off in the Florida heat isn’t necessarily at the ocean. The state has dozens of natural springs, where the water is fresh, clear, and an important part of Florida’s ecosystem. Visit one of the springs to soak in the healing waters, enjoy a picnic in the sun, or watch the manatees seek warmer waters during the winter months.
Blue Spring State Park - Orange City, FL
As the largest spring on the St. John’s River, Blue Spring State Park attracts enough visitors that the park often reaches capacity, so plan to arrive early in the day to secure your spot. There’s fishing, canoeing, and boating along the river, and swimmers and snorkelers enjoy exploring the crystal clear 73-degree water. Swimming is prohibited from mid-November through March because of the West Indian manatees who visit. From the boardwalk overlook, you can see hundreds of them floating in the warm water on cooler days.
Blue Spring is located in Orange City, just outside of Deland, a college town that’s home to Stetson University. It’s also where you can find Cresswind at Victoria Gardens, a 55+ community of over 1,000 single-family homes. Active adults enjoy living at Cresswind because of its small-town feel. There’s plenty to do from tennis to horseshoes to poolside cabanas. The 20,000 square-foot clubhouse often hosts clubs, activities, and social events. Homes can be purchased from the low $200s to the mid $400s.
Rainbow Springs State Park - Dunnellon, FL
Swim and snorkel in Rainbow Springs, go tubing down the Rainbow River or plan an overnight if you feel like camping. Rainbow Springs is the fourth largest spring in Florida, and according to archaeologists, people have been in these waters for 10,000 years. In the mid-1900s the spring was privately owned and used by visitors who spent their winters in Florida. Now, it’s part of the state park system and a popular destination year-round.
Rainbow Springs is in Dunnellon, a rural community known for its natural beauty, horses, and proximity to Ocala and the National Forest. In Dunnellon, you can find Spruce Creek Preserve, a gated 55+ community with 810 single-family homes.
This community has a golf course, a list of social clubs, fitness classes, and courts for tennis and shuffleboard. The villas are between 820 square feet and 1,968 square feet which are priced between the low $100s and the high $100s. The community is surrounded by parks and walking trails, perfect for active adults who love to be outdoors.
Lithia Springs on the Alafia River
Hillsborough County’s premier spring is on the Alafia River. Lithia Springs is great for swimming, snorkeling, and even hiking and camping. The water is a consistent 72 degrees all year long, and lifeguards are on duty in the busy months, from May to August. The Alafia River is right off the spring, ideal for canoes or kayaks. A trail rich in birds as well as cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks winds itself along the riverbed.
Encore at Fishhawk Ranch is also in Lithia and less than half an hour from Tampa. The gated, 55+ community offers potential buyers 240 single-family homes in 14 different models. Wine tastings, holiday parties, and cooking demonstrations are often on the social calendar.
Residents enjoy amenities such as an outdoor lap pool, a fitness center, with plenty of natural biking and hiking trails that skirt the Alafia River, near Lithia Springs. Priced from the high $200s to the mid $400s, Encore at Fishhawk Ranch is one of the most desirable communities for active adults in the Tampa Bay area.
Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida
The natural springs at Warm Mineral Springs are 85 degrees every month of the year, and the waters contain more than 50 minerals. Spend a day soaking in the waters or take advantage of the spa services available at the park. Book a massage, a facial, or a full day of skin and body services. Visitors can pay for the day or buy passes for a week, a month, or an entire year. Residents of Sarasota County can get an annual pass that’s 50 percent lower than what non-residents pay.
If you’re looking to establish residency in North Port, consider Bobcat Trail, a community for active adults who are 55+. There are 557 single-family homes and attached villas. The homes are large, with between two and four bedrooms and 1,450 to 3,340 square feet of living space. At Bobcat Trail, residents enjoy movie nights, potluck gatherings, and pool parties. The homes are priced from the high $100s to the low $500s.