Today we spent the day at Ginnie Springs. Before going there we researched the area online. We were driving 2.5 hours to get there and meeting my sister, who was coming from Tallahassee. Before going we had considered both Ginnie Springs and Poe Springs. After reading so many amazing reviews online for Ginnie Springs and finding very little information about Poe Springs, we decided to go to Ginnie Springs.
One of the important things to note about Ginnie Springs is that it is not a state or county run park. Rather, it is run by a business. Because of this I could see a lot of differences in the way the places was run, and those differences were not for the better. For starters, it costs $12 per person to get into the place (for adults, $3 for children over 6). This is a lot more expensive state or county parks. (Update: the price as of June 2019 is now $15 per adult, $4 per child ages 6-12).
Granted, it was a holiday weekend. I'm sure that I would have liked everything a lot better had it not been. If I ever go back it will be during the week and not over a holiday.
What I loved: The nature aspects of Ginnie Springs is wonderful. The spring is absolutely beautiful and offers the same 72 degree water as the other springs in the state. It's beautiful! There is a river that you can tube down, you can snorkel, swim, scuba dive into caves, etc. There is no lifeguard on duty. The grounds offer a lot of space. There is a bathroom/showers, volleyball area, children's playground, a small restaurant, and a supply store.
What I didn't like: This place is party central for all the nearby University of Florida college students. It was insanely packed with college students. It was crazy! At Ginnie Springs it seemed like "anything goes." In the five hours we were there we saw one "staff" member walk by one time. Period. There are people drinking alcohol everywhere, including in the springs. There were SO many people in the springs on tubes passing around big bottles of alcohol! Many that appeared to be minors passing alcohol around as well.
And there's more...
At most parks there is a dedicated campground and then there is everything else. Here anything goes! There were tents set up everywhere you looked. There is no order to it at all. Tents were literally set up on the side of the dirt road where you drive through the place. No order whatsoever. Loud music everywhere, people peeing on the trees (seriously, we saw this), partying at their vehicles, people diving off the railings that had "no diving" signs and slippery rocks below, cars fishtailing in the parking lots, etc. It was chaos! We left around 4:00 p.m. and it was only going to get crazier as the hours went on and all the alcohol took its toll on people.
With so many people it was not a quiet and relaxing nature place by any stretch of the imagination. Ginnie Springs is not a family friendly place as far as I'm concerned. Not when you consider all that is taking place. The spring itself is beautiful and the tubing is great. But the business-like approach has turned this place into a lucrative nature center with no rules and one where anything goes. It is party central for college students.
Also, it is important to note for those who have children that there are very few places where kids can actually touch the bottom when in the springs. The majority of it is very deep and the kids can't touch. I even had a difficult time touching in most areas. There are a few areas where you can reach bottom, but not many. For those who are tubing down the river there is also a safety risk of boats. The river is not just for tubing, there are boats near those tubing (like bigger fishing boats and such).
Perhaps going during the week would provide a different experience. I sure hope so. I wouldn't mind going back on a day during the week to see if it were calmer and not so over-run with partying. I hate to think that such a beautiful place has been turned into a place where people really just want to get drunk instead of enjoy all that nature is providing. While the springs were great, the overall atmosphere of Ginnie Springs was not only unimpressive, but at times was downright eyebrow raising.
Be sure to also read my review of Poe Springs here, which is 10 minutes down the road.
Here are some pictures from our time spent at Ginnie Springs today: