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Blue Spring State Park - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

For a relaxing day and a change from the theme parks why not visit Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, just north of Orlando. About a ninety minute drive away but a world apart, this picturesque spot is so much more than swimming and canoeing; it’s a place that plays a crucial role in the survival of one of Florida’s most endangered species - the manatee.

We visited at the end of March and were lucky enough to be able to see the manatees in their natural habitat, so much different to seeing them in captivity at Sea World or the Living Seas in Epcot. Mothers with their babies, basking in the shallow waters, waiting for the temperatures to rise before returning to the waters of the St. Johns River. During the cooler months, from mid November to late March, the manatees leave the colder waters of the river for the safety and comfort of the 72-degree spring. An observation platform provides an excellent viewing area, although we were allowed to walk down to the water’s edge and were only yards away from these amazing creatures.

We walked along the boardwalk to the end of the spring where children were swimming in crystal clear water. We heard a rustling in the bushes and when we looked around it was an armadillo searching for food. We stopped to watch the fish jumping out of the water and found the hairiest, biggest caterpillars we had ever seen in our life!

After eating our picnic under the shade of the trees we decided to go on the two hour narrated boat trip. Our boat, called the Native II, was designed especially to ply the shallow waters of the St. Johns River. Its engine, so smooth and quiet, enabled us to hear the sounds of nature as we cruised down the river. Our Captain kept us entertained throughout the journey pointing out wildlife that we would have otherwise missed. Turtles, birds and of course the ubiquitous alligator. A Great Blue Heron high up in the trees feeding her young and then a manatee with its head just above the water feeding on the vegetation. We stopped and backed up many times so that everyone on the boat had an opportunity to take photographs.

If you prefer to drive your own boat there are kayak rentals or even take the “Up Close and Personal” 2 ½ to 3 hour kayak guided tour. These tours depart from the beach at 9.30 each morning. If fishing is your hobby you will find an abundance of freshwater fish but you will need a Florida freshwater fishing license if you are aged 16 and older.

If you wish to discover and experience the real Florida I can think of no better way than to start at Blue Springs State Park. We had a wonderful day and we hope to return there again sometime in the future.

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