5 Great Swimming Holes in Central Florida

Paddling day at Wekiwa Springs.
Paddling day at Wekiwa Springs. Russ Sanderlin
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With thousands of miles of coastline, Florida is known for its white sandy beaches on both the Atlantic and the gulf. But look a little further inland and there’s more than meets the eye. You don't have to drive more than an hour far to cool off in the water when there might be a sweet park with a cool spring or swimming hole right here in our neighborhood. Here are some of our favorites to cool off around Orlando.

1. Wekiwa Springs State Park

There's nothing quite like Wekiwa Springs.
There's nothing quite like Wekiwa Springs. Katy Warner

One of Orlando’s hottest swimming holes is about 20 miles from downtown Orlando. The spring itself is a short walk from the parking lot and the water’s crystal clear. The parking is up on a hill, giving you a killer view of the spring as you’re walking down the grassy hill. Claim a spot on the hill with your blanket and hop in that spring.

2. De Leon Springs State Park

Underwater at Ponce de Leon Springs
Underwater at Ponce de Leon Springs Alan Cressler

Ponce De Leon, the Spanish conquistador, has a lot to do with Florida’s history and that’s probably why there’s a state park named after him. De Leon Springs is a little further away in Volusia County, which offers plenty to do. The spring itself is massive, and right by the spring is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, a tasty restaurant that serves up delicious pancakes.

3. Alexander Springs State Park

The many colors of Alexander Springs.
The many colors of Alexander Springs. Alan Cressler

The center of the state of Florida holds some awesome state parks with a spring at the center. What’s great about these places is that you can even go for a little day hike on the Florida Trail, turn around and head right back to the spring to cool off.

Alexander Springs State Park in Ocala is right along one of my favorite sections of the Florida Trail. The entire section of the trail near the state park is shaded by the tree canopy and the trail’s fairly wide. Go for a hike in the morning and cool off in the spring in the afternoon.

4. Blue Spring State Park

Spring at Blue Spring State Park.
Spring at Blue Spring State Park. Florida Hikes

One of the best-known springs in Central Florida is Blue Spring State Park. The park is right along the St. Johns River, making it completely accessible by boat. The crystal-clear water from the spring feeds right into the St. Johns River and the swimming area is massive. Most people see the first boardwalk for the water and go straight there. Follow the board walk a little further toward the spring and you might have a swimming area all to yourself on a busy summer day.

5. Salt Springs State Park

Sitting on the Dock at Salt Springs.
Sitting on the Dock at Salt Springs. Susan Sharpless Smith

When you dive down into a spring, you usually don’t expect to see any little freshwater creatures in the spring. With all the water rushing up along the underwater rock walls, it’s got to be tough to live down there, right? Wrong!

As you’re swimming down into the spring at Alexander Springs State Park just watch what and where you grab. Don’t pay attention and you might end up grabbing a giant plecostomus. They’re those little sucker fish that you see cleaning the algae off the glass of a fish tank in a doctor’s office. The major difference is the ones in the wild are massive, like three or four feet long massive. Don’t worry about them, just watch where you’re swimming and they’ll stick to their job of cleaning algae off the rocks.

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