Attraction of the Week: Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park, located near Ocala in central Florida, is a unique road trip attraction for anyone traveling through this quaint, rural area of Florida. Silver Springs, which has been attracting visitors since the 1870’s, is Florida’s oldest tourist attraction. The park is most well known for its’ famous Glass Bottom Boat rides, which have been in operation for over a hundred years.
These narrated rides will take you on a journey across one of the few remaining uninhabited springs in Florida. Silver Springs happens to be one of the largest Artesian spring formations in the world, producing over 500 million gallons of water a day. The water is crystal clear, so you can see all different sorts of fish and turtles from the transparent bottom of the boat. A bit hard to take quality photos due to the speed of the boat, nevertheless, here is a sample of what you will see. Note: It is much more spectacular in person!
An alligator sighting or 2 is not uncommon! Keep your eyes peeled!
In addition to gators, lots of unique birds and tortoises are commonly seen.
The scenery surrounding the park is gorgeous with beautiful shady Spanish moss and cypress trees. Below are a few glimpses of the wonderful scenery you will experience on your ride.
A few other unique sights along the way…
The tours are pretty short (only 30 minutes), however, extended 90 minute tours are available on a limited basis (times listed below). Tours are fun and educational; your tour guide will point out different formations and unusual sightings in the water. You will even see a few sunken statues left over from a movie filming. Various movies have filmed at the springs including the Tarzan movies, Legend, and Creature of the Blue Lagoon.
The nature trails surrounding the springs are very scenic and peaceful. Lots of shade coverage comes in handy during the hot, humid summer months. In addition, you will find relaxing Adirondack chairs scattered about if you feel like taking a break to enjoy the wonderful scenery. Make sure to make room in your schedule for a peaceful walk before or after your book tour.
Aside from boat rides, the park offers hiking trails (bobcats, Florida Black Bears, and coyotes, and armadillos are just a few of the native species you may come across), equestrian trails, kayak and canoe rentals, guided kayak tours, a seasonal waterpark, and a few nature paths. During the summer season, various concerts and events take place.
Silver springs is conveniently located only 70 miles from Orlando and 90 minutes from Tampa, making it a great day trip destination for locals or tourists residing in or visiting either of these areas. Winter visits are ideal due to the cooler temperatures and sunny skies.
Admission is a bit pricey when you consider parking ($8) plus another $11 per person for the boat ride. However, most attractions in Florida are pricey, and a trip here is much less expensive than any theme park. Make a whole day out of it: bring with a picnic lunch, wear gym shoes to hike a few trails, and bring with your camera to take some great photography.
Parking & Pricing Information
Parking is an $8 fee. Glass Bottom Boat rides are $11 for adults, $10 for seniors and kids, and under 5 are free. Boats leave every 30 to 45min from 10am-5pm (last boat at 4:30). Extended 1.5 hour tours, priced at $25 per adult and $20 for seniors and students, run Friday-Monday at 10:30am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. All rides are first come, first served.