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A Cruise on the St John's River - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Activities

If you enjoy exploring more natural parts of the world and fancy a change from the theme parks the I would recommend a day out to the north of Orlando taking in the Blue Heron river cruise from Hontoon Landing. The cruise takes 2 hours and leaves at 11 am. And 2 pm. On the way you go very close to the entrance to Blue Springs National Park and so combining the two is a very practical option.

It is about 80 minutes from the Champions Gate area to Hontoon Landing with the majority of the distance on the I4 but you do see some of the small Florida towns on the last section of the journey.

Hontoon Landing is a small fishing resort and marina set on a beautiful stretch of the St Johns River. This is on of only 5 rivers in the world that runs from South to North and it reaches the coast at Jacksonville. We were amazed at its size and the variety of wildlife that that it supports.

The boat is a purpose built passenger boat with a very knowledgeable captain. It is worth taking a pair of binoculars to view the many varieties of bird that you will see. The captain stops and drifts as soon as he spots an animal or bird of interest and he read the signs so well that it sometimes took a while for us to spot what he was drawing our attention to.

We saw quite a number of alligators just warming themselves on the shore and there were also quite a few manatees that we could spot coming up for air, but it was hard to see them clearly as the water is quite murky. You get a better view at Sea World but it good to glimpse them in their natural environment. There were quite a few manatees playing in the area where the Blue Springs meets the St Johns River.

The area used to be very important for logging and the area was practically cleared of cypress trees which were the main building material in the area. To help get these massive tree trunks out canals were built so that they could be floated to the main river and delivered along its route. The cruise goes along some of these canals and on one of them local people have hung many small bird houses. I’m not sure the birds appreciate them though!

There are many interesting birds, mainly water birds of course. However, we also spotted a bald eagle on top of a tree and that was quite a special moment as we were quite close.

We really enjoyed this day out and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in birds or wildlife.

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