What is more synonymous with summertime than tubing? You may be familiar with the incredible swim-ability of the springs, but many are attached to a river. Remember that the water for the springs comes from the underground aquifers, bubbling up through the limestone tunnels at the springhead, joining the flow of the river. Here are several places where you can float down the crystal blue Florida highways.
Only 45 minutes north of Orlando is the legendary Kelly Rock Park. Many people find themselves here, taking a break from the heat of the theme parks to enjoy some cool refreshing fun. Because Rock Springs is so close to Orlando, it is the first spring many will go to while on summer vacation. It is suggested that in the summertime on weekends, if you want to get in, you will need to be in line by 5 am. As this is neighborhood highway, with people also headed to Wekiwa Springs and King’s Landing, make sure to stay on the far-right side when lining up. The park opens at 8 am, in the summertime it closes at 8 pm, and in the winter closes at 6 pm. Once in line, if you receive a pink ticket, this is the voucher you will need to be able to enter the park after 1:00 pm. There is a limited capacity at this spring, and once it has been reached, that is it for the day. It doesn’t matter if cars leave later, once the total number of patrons has been reached, which is 300, that is it for the day. They do update the website and voice message, letting you know when capacity has been reached. You can call 407-254-1906 for these updates. This is again why it is very important to get there early. It costs $3.00 for a car of 1-3 people, $5.00 for a car of 3-8 people, and $1.00 for people on bikes or walking. You can rent tubes from a local vendor, Ron's Tube Rentals. You will do so before entering the park. It costs $9.00 to rent a tube for the day. If you bring a tube, it must be less than 5 feet in length. There isn't an airing up service, so if you bring one make sure to bring an air pump. There are lockers available for use, but only a limited amount. You will purchase a lock for the locker at the concession stand. While there is beautiful scenery to take in as you float Rock Springs Run, the float is only about 25 minutes long. When you finish the float, it’s only a quick stroll back to the main area.
Blue Springs is known for its manatee visitor in the winter and fireflies in the springtime. Check out other blog posts to learn more about those subjects. But in the summertime, grab your floaty and get ready to ride. Now this tubing trail isn’t one of the longer ones, but it’s still a nice float. You can bring your own tube or rent one. To rent a single tube it costs $7.00 for the first hour, and a double tube will be $9.96. There is a place to air the tube up, but it does cost $1.00 per tube or $2.00 for larger ones. To rent and air up your tube you will visit the Gift Locker/Blue Spring Camp Store down the boardwalk path a little from the Thursby House. Continuing down the wooden bridge path, it is just a short stroll to the drop-in point for tubing. The current is moderate in strength. You can swim with your tube to the right toward the springhead, or float to the left. The float from Blue Springs Boil toward Blue Springs Run is about 25 minutes long. Tubing at Blue Springs is a very popular summer activity, so getting there earlier in the day gives you a better chance of not having to wait in line. The early bird gets the float.
Rainbow Springs becomes Rainbow River. A perfect river with a great current for tubing. You won’t drop in at the springhead/state park but down the way. To tube you will go to the S.W. 180th Avenue Road, Dunnellon entrance. No reservations, it runs on a first come first serve basis. For tubing the river, it will be $24.00 plus $2.00 for the park entrance fee plus tax. The $24.00 covers your shuttle ride and any tube rental. You are not excluded from this charge if you bring your own tube. If you are bringing a tube, just make sure it doesn’t have a diameter larger than 60 inches, and the tube must be donut shaped. This is to be mindful of all the tubes being transported on the tram. Also, there is no place to air up your personal tube, so make sure to bring an air-pump. Everyone will be required to wear a life jacket while tubing for safety. If you need a lifejacket, you will be provided one, as it is included in the $24.00 payment. There are restrooms and changing rooms to use before hitting the water. You will be shuttled 2 miles upstream, then float back to where you parked your car. It takes about 2 hours to do the float. If you are camping at the state park, you will be able to take the tram back to the state park. If you are wanting to head up to the state park and swim or walk around viewing the man-made waterfalls, just make sure you save your receipt proving you have already paid the park entry fee.
The Ichetucknee River is fed by nine springs, which means this river has got some flow. According to Travel Channel, it is Florida’s best tubing river. There are some rules if you are bringing your tube. It cannot exceed 60 inches, and it cannot be filled with glitter. If glitter accidentally escapes the tube and gets into the water, it can be harmful to wildlife and vegetation. If your tube needs some air before hitting the water, they can puff it up for $1.25. To rent a tube you can visit the General Store at the South Entrance. To rent a regular tube for the day the cost starts at $7.50 and a double tube starts at $15.00. Prices increase if you want additional accouterments such as a headrest or a mesh bottom. Reservations are always the best way to guarantee your rental and time frame. Liability waivers are required to be filled out before you float. You can complete your waiver forms online ahead of time. Visit itchetuckneesprings.com to make your reservation and complete your waiver. If you are worried about your keys getting wet, they offer a key holding service for an additional $3.00. Life jackets are available for rent but are not required. To pop on the river, you will go to Dampier’s Landing or Midpoint Dock. To get to Midpoint Dock, you can follow the walking trail, which is only a little more than half a mile from the General Store. Midpoint Dock is upstream of Dampier’s Landing, which is back near the General Store and the south parking lot. The float from Midpoint to Dampier’s Landing takes about an hour. The last take-out is another hour float down the river. You can use the tram or follow the ½ mile trail back to the south parking lot. If you want to take advantage of the tram services, you can purchase a wristband at the General Store for $7.50, and children under the age of 5 ride free. The tram service runs from 8 am to 6 pm. The north section of the river is off-limits for tubing. To keep the water of Ichentucknee pristine, plastic bags and bottles, food, coolers, pets, speakers, and fishing gear are prohibited.
Another very popular spring to float, cruise from Ginnie Springs down the Santa Fe River. If you bring your own and need to fill up with air, it is free. If you need to rent, you can do that at the Ginnie Springs General Store, which is the first large building you see. A single tube rental costs $7.00 a day and $14.00 a day for a double. Life jackets are free of charge to guests. They are not required, but if you aren’t confident in your swimming abilities, it is recommended. To get to the water and the fun faster, go ahead and fill out the general waiver on the Ginnie Springs Outdoors website before you go. You will enter the water at Beaver’s Landing, then it's about an hour float down river to the exit point at Twin Spring. From there it is about a 15-minute walk back to the parking lot via the trail.
Weeki Wachee Springs
While this isn’t a long luxurious river, you can float a lazy river at Weeki Wachee’s Buccaneer Bay. Spoken about in the Weeki Wachee blog post, Buccaneer Bay is a waterpark built over the Weeki Wachee springhead. To visit Buccaneer Bay, it is $13.00 for adults and $8.00 for children ages 6-12. With many activities, such as viewing the iconic mermaid show and propelling yourself down waterslides, there is also a lazy river. To the left of the sandy beach area is where you can see people settling into their inner tubes, floating carefree as refreshing spring waters push them along. The lazy river area is roped off from the swimming area, and while floating you must stay on your tube. To enjoy the lazy river, you can rent a tube from the concession stand. Note: Tubes are not allowed in the swimming area. We suggest checking the size requirements ahead of time so you don't run into any issues.
Here is a general list of things to bring, but remember each park has different regulations.
An Innertube | Air-pump | Life jacket *if you have one* | Sunscreen | Swimsuit | Long-sleeved layers | Hat | Sunglasses | Waterproof bags | Go-pro | Reusable water bottle
*Sign any waivers you can ahead of time*
So grab your float and let the Florida Springs show you how to keep it chill this summer!