Yesterday we were finally able to make it to Itchetucknee Springs, which is located in Fort White. It's about a 2.5 hour drive from where I live in the Daytona Beach area. I had been wanting to go to this spring for a couple of years, after several people telling me about their tubing experience there. I was glad that I was finally in the area and able to check it out.
We arrived at 8 in the morning to try and beat some of the traffic, since it was a Saturday, and I knew it would be busier on the weekend. As we were paying to get into the south entrance, the woman was radioed from the north entrance, where they already had 627 people in line! Wow!
There are two entrances for Itchetucknee Springs. The spring that you swim at is at the North Entrance. For tubing, you can go to either entrance, depending on how long you want to tube down the lazy river. You can choose from tubing three hours, 1.5 hours, and around 45 minutes. If you are going to do the three hour, then you go to the North Entrance. For the other two, you go to the South Entrance.
If you start at the North Entrance and plan to tube the whole three hours, you can get off at the midway point or next one down, so you don't go the whole three hours. We chose to do the 1.5 hour tube, because we also wanted to have time to swim in the springs before having to head back to another appointment we had elsewhere.
To access the 1.5 hour lazy river tubing and the 45 minute one, you go behind the concession stand at the South Entrance. For the 45 minute one, you take the short trail directly behind the concession stand. Just walk down there and get in from the dock. For the 1.5 hour one you can take the tram, that will drop you off at the dock, or you can take the walk back there. The walk back there is around 15-20 minutes long. It's a dirt path, but we decided to walk it and we did it barefoot. It was a great walk that took us about 20 minutes. We saw deer and it was beautiful back there.
Once you get to the dock, just put your tube in and start floating! You can get out at one of the other docks, and walk or take a tram back, or you can wait until the end and get out at that dock. Then take a tram back to where you started. Once done with the tubing, we took the tram back, and got in our vehicle and went to the North Entrance, so we could go swimming in the springs.
Tube rental: Note that if you are not taking your own tubes, you can rent them to take in. They do not rent them inside the park. You have to rent them before you enter the park. There are several places near the entrances that offer tube rental. They have tubes ranging from $4 (children's tubes) and up (see pricing in the picture below). We rented some that were $5 each for singles and one for $10 that was a double. There are a lot of options to choose from. Don't worry about if you don't have room in your vehicle or you have a small vehicle. They will tie them on your vehicle for you. Plus, you don't bring the tubes back to them. Once done tubing, there is a tube return where you just leave the tube. Makes it really simple! You can use the twine they use to tie them down when tubing. We tied our tubes together, so we could all float together. If you are using your own tubes, you can take your own twine or rope to do this.
The swimming area at Itchentucknee Springs is beautiful! Then again, I'm a sucker for the natural springs in this state. There are two springs that you can swim at, but the official website said the Blue Hole Spring has a strong current and is only recommended for experienced swimmers. While my kids know how to swim, I didn't want that additional worry, since they had that warning, so we went to the main Itchetucknee Spring. The spring is kind of small, but it was beautiful! You cannot take any type of food or drinks down to the spring, but you can take your chairs if you want. There is a short walkway up to an area with picnic tables and grills, where you can leave all of your things. We just left food in the car and took our chairs and bags (towels, snorkeling gear, etc.) down to the spring area.
The water is the usual 72 degrees that our springs have in Central Florida. Many people don't care for the chilly temperatures, but I personally love the cold spring water. I love it! The water is refreshing, crystal clear, and beautiful! We snorkeled around for a while, checking out the spring head, fish, and just hanging out in the water. We had a great time.
The park also offers several hiking trails. We are avid hikers, but don't hike as much during the summer (hiking season is generally November-April). After doing the 20-minute one through the woods we didn't want to hike more. Our time was limited there, so we wanted to spend it in the spring.
Two thumbs up for Itchetucknee Springs! The tubing is wonderful. It's relaxing, beautiful, and so enjoyable. The spring is also beautiful and refreshing. I'd love to go again.
Tip: If you go, be sure to take a water proof case that you can wear around your neck or tie to your tube that you can put your car keys in. Otherwise there is a $3 charge for them to hold your keys for you. Plus, with the waterproof bag you can always take your camera, like I did.
To get official information about Itchetucknee Springs, visit their site here.
Here are pictures from our visit to Itchetucknee Springs: