Blue Spring State Park is an Orlando-based manatee oasis, a slice of paradise and an escape from the busy tourist life. This beautiful state park is a lesser-known hidden gem in Orlando but is jam-packed with things to do.
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The Ultimate Guide to Blue Spring State Park – Manatees & Tubing
I absolutely adore this state park, so much so, I want to keep this little slice of Florida heaven for myself. But today I will share with you everything I learned from my trip here and tips for you to make the most of your visit. From manatee spotting to scuba diving, this park is a perfect way to cool off and escape the crowds in Orlando, Florida.
Where is Blue Spring State Park?
Located just 1 hour’s drive, or 52 miles, from Disney World, this is the best state park near Orlando. Although Wekiwa Springs is a bit closer, this park is much more crowded.
Blue Spring State Park is located along I-4. If you are heading to the state park from Disney World, take I-4 North until exit 111B.
Once you are off the exit, turn left and follow the signs accordingly. The entrance to the state park is well-marked once you arrive.
Keep Reading: 30 BEST Day Trips from Orlando, Florida
Things to do at Blue Spring State Park
Although this may not be the biggest state park, but it is full of SO much to do! My BEST Tip for this park is to ARRIVE EARLY because the park hits capacity often.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the park will offer different activities. From November to March, there is a lot of manatee viewing. During the other months of the year, they open the spring to swimmers and tubers.
Learn more here.
Now let’s get into the best things to do at Blue Spring State Park.
Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
Every year, hundreds of manatees come to Blue Spring State Park to stay warm during the winter months. It truly is so magical to witness this!
The best time to spot Manatees is mid-November – March as there are hundreds of them around this time. During the other months, there is still a chance of sightings too. I visited in early August and there was 1 sighting during the day!
Be aware, that during the winter months, there is no swimming, diving, or boating.
Visit in the early morning, before 10 am for the best views of the manatees here. During this time the manatees are more playful and active, plus you’ll have fewer crowds too!
Tubing and Swimming at Blue Spring State Park
In the summer, this park is home to many adventurous activities, like tubing and swimming in the spring!
The water temperature is a cool 72 degrees year-round! It is refreshing on a hot day and a great way to beat the heat.
Swimming at Blue Spring State Park is open to the public, and free to use once you pay your entrance fee. There are two entrances into the Spring for swimmers, one across from the gift shop and the other just down the boardwalk a bit farther.
Bring your own tube, floaties, and activities to play with in the spring. They allow you to bring your own, and it adds to the experience!
If you don’t bring your own tube, don’t worry, they have tube rentals upon arrival.
Tubing at Blue Spring State Park is a lot of fun. It is a short tubing run, only ⅛ of a mile, but the crystal clear waters make up for the short distance. The run is short and the water current isn’t too strong.
Tube Rentals are located behind the gift shop next to the spring. You can find the tube rental prices as of 2023 in the photo below.
I’d recommend bringing your own tube, as the tube rentals were good, but do add up if you plan to spend a few hours with them.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Blue Spring State Park
This state park is full of wildlife, which makes snorkeling a blast! Bring your own goggles, or purchase some in the gift shop, and you will see all the fish beneath you. This state park has crystal-clear water, so with the goggles, you truly can see everything!
Snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park you’ll find larger fish here, like redfish, bass, flounder, and more. It was my Animal Crossing video game dream haha.
The snorkeling here is in the same area as the tubing and scrubs diving, so it is also a fairly small area, but enough to keep you having fun for a few hours.
Scuba Diving at Blue Spring State Park looks amazing! During my visit, we saw two or three groups of divers enter the caves here. This is a perfect opportunity to earn your Scuba Diving license. You can find more information about scuba diving here.
Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard at Blue Spring State Park
Canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking at Blue Spring State Park are some of the best ways to see it all!
You can bring your own, or rent upon arrival. When entering the park, follow signs towards the boat launch. There is a huge parking lot, and you will find the rentals here.
As of 2023, here are the rental prices.
Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be able to take you around most of the area but are prohibited from entering the swimming area.
What I love about the kayaks here, is you can rent them year-round! It is the best way to see the manatees here because you can get up close to them!
Camping and Cabins
Nearby the spring, you will find 51 campsites at Blue Spring State Park. Camping is a great way to immerse yourself in nature. If you have a reservation, you will be allowed inside the park, even if the park is full.
Additionally, the park is home to a few cabins available for rent.
Hiking and Biking at Blue Spring State Park
While there may not be any mountains or hills nearby, hiking is an awesome way to see the wildlife. This park is home to a few hiking trails.
A majority of the hiking trails are along the boardwalk that hugs the spring, but one will take you out into the forest.
The Pine Island Trail at Blue Spring State Park is a 5-mile trail that is flat and takes you through the forest. This trail can be muddy in the rainy season and sandy in the dry season, so it’s best to pack appropriate shoes if you plan on taking on the challenge!
Biking is also available in Blue Spring State Park and you need to bring your own bike, there are none to rent.
Additionally, this state park is situated perfectly along the Spring-to-Spring biking trail. This trail connects DeLeon Spring State Park to Gemini Springs Park. This 26-mile path is well-maintained and is a fun activity in the park!
See more about the trail here.
One of the biggest draws to this park is the boat tours! Nestled along the St. Johns River, the boat tours offer incredible bird watching, manatee viewing, interesting history, and more. The tours are every day and you can book them here!
I always thought bird watching is a bit boring, but, Florida is home to such a wide range of birds it is fascinating! From Osprey to the Florida Scrub Jay, there is a lot to see. Bring your binoculars for this activity!
Visit the Thursby House
This historic home is located near the kayak and boat launch point. Inside the Thursby House, you will find a museum to tell you a bit more about the history of the land you are on. This activity is a great way to cool off and get out of the sun for a bit.
Last but not least, there is a good-sized playground for children at Blue Spring State Park! This playground is next to the Thursby House and kayak and boat launch point. The playground is in the shade, which keeps in cool during the hot summer months!
Facilities at Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park is well-equipped with many facilities to make your trip comfortable. This includes a gift shop, a mini convenience store, restrooms, and picnic tables.
These facilities are located next to the tubing and swimming area.
Inside the Gift Shop, you will find a variety of merchandise, lots of manatee items, and swimming supplies. You can buy dry bags for your phone, goggles, floats, tubes, and more! The gift shop is a great place to stop if you forgot items at home.
The convenience store is a bit small but can provide extra snacks during your time. You’ll find things like ice cream, chips, soda, and more.
Additionally, inside the convenience store is a small canteen. Here they sell breakfast and lunch items. This ranges from chicken nuggets to pretzels, to corn dogs. You can also purchase alcohol here.
Lockers are available here for purchase to store your valuables.
What to Pack for Blue Spring State Park
When packing for Blue Spring State Park, the time of year will play a part in what you need. Use this list below to help you organize your list!
- Sunscreen: This is essential year-round! The springs do offer shade, but you will also spend a lot of time in the sun. Be sure to pack sunscreen for both your face and body!
- Towel: If you plan to go swimming, pack a towel. This towel can also be used to claim your picnic table or area you want to put your stuff.
- Snacks: Head to the store on your way and pick up some snacks! The convenience store is great to have, but you won’t be able to find all your favorites there!
- Lunch: Along the lines of snacks, pack some sandwiches during your trip, especially if you plan on doing longer and more physical activities. This will also help you save money.
- Waterproof shoes: Although the springs are well maintained, shoes are really useful here! You can use these shoes for more support with the rocks in the spring, and use them to walk around on the boardwalk.
- Waterproof phone case: You’ll want to take photos here. Have a waterproof phone case or dry bag so you can take your phone out in the spring with you!
- A tube (or you can rent one): I highly recommend bringing your own tube with you if you plan to swim alot. The tube rentals are per hour, so this can add up. Pack your own to use it all day!
- Cooler: This is necessary on a hot day! Pack a cooler with ice to store water, food, and anything else you might need. Many groups had coolers during the day, including myself, and it was a life saver! Stop by a store along the way to pick up some ice.
- Water: STAY HYDRATED! This spring can really take it out of you! Drink lots of water during your trip to ensure you are healthy throughout the day.
- Binoculars: There is so much wildlife to see here, binoculars are the best way to observe it all! These are especially handy for those bird watchers, are are definitely good to have for the boat tours.
But, if you need anything last minute, you can purchase most items inside of the gift shop.
Visitor Information about Blue Spring State Park
How many manatees are at Blue Spring State Park?
During the winter months, November-March, you will find hundreds of manatees here everyday! In 2023, there was an estimated 700 manatees! These months you are guaranteed to find them.
In the hotter months and days of the year, you will be lucky to spot a few, but it does happen.
Blue Spring State Park Hours
Blue Spring State Park is open every day from 8 am – sundown. The park will hit capacity on busier days, like summer and weekends. It is best to arrive early, before 10 am to guarantee your entrance.
What is the Temperature of Blue Spring State Park?
Blue Spring State Park water temperature is a cool 72 degrees year-round. This is why the manatees come here in the winter! It’s to stay warm!
In conclusion, this state park is the perfect oasis near Orlando. It provides an awesome atmosphere with so many things to do. The state park should be on everyone’s Orlando bucket list.