The Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka is Orange County’s longest-running attraction and has proven to be a haven for locals and visitors long before Disney came into the picture. A cool respite from the Floridian heat, the blue-green Springs are one of the best ways for kids to have fun within nature and one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area.
So what are you waiting for? Step away from the fun madness of theme parks, pack your swimming gear and head to this natural swimming pool for a wonderful time with the family. Here are our tips for visiting Wekiwa Springs with kids.
Where is Wekiwa Springs?
Off Interstate 4 at exit 94, about 20 minutes north of Orlando is where you will find Wekiwa Springs State Park. From there, you’ll need to take SR 434 West to the Wekiwa Springs Road, turn right and travel around 4 miles to the park entrance. The Springs is within walking distance from the entrance of the park.
Just plug “1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, FL 32712” into your GPS if you’re planning to make the 30 minute drive by car. But if you want a break from being behind the wheel, book a taxi from Orlando.
The line into the park rivals that of Space Mountain and the gates often shut early because of the limited parking. After the 250-car capacity is reached they temporarily shut down entry. This is why it’s important to get there early in order to get a prime parking spot, especially if you’re carrying your own canoe or kayak. It’s quite the long haul down to the boat-launch path.
What is Wekiwa Springs?
Wekiwa Springs is derived from the Creek Indian word “Wekiwa,” which translates to “bubbling water.” The spring, along with the Rock Springs Run, feeds into the flowing waters of Wekiva River.
Designated one of the Outstanding Florida Springs, Wekiwa Springs is nestled within 7,800 acres of a semi-tropical forest and is a sight for sore eyes. The crystal clear waters of this second-magnitude spring is set at the bottom of a grassy slope on the open-wooded hillside. It forms the headwater of the Wekiva River, a tributary to the St. Johns River.
The Springs are the perfect spot for soaking up the Central Florida sun or hopping into cool waters for an afternoon swim. Float blissfully in a pool formed by a 35-foot-long fissure in a limestone shelf that releases 43 million gallons of water a day.
Although it was first discovered in the 1860s, it was the hotel and bathhouse at the spot in the 1890s that put it on the map in Central Florida. Eventually, a community of about 100 people called Clay Springs caused the place to evolve and become a popular venue for large picnic gatherings. Families with young children would spend the day at the springs and then enjoy a moonlit ride back home.
The state of Florida later developed the land into the park you see today. It now remains the perfect getaway destination for exhausted parents, attraction-weary travelers and adventure-seekers alike who are looking for a place to unwind in the lovely Sunshine State.
What Are The Opening Times For Wekiwa Springs?
So while the Florida State Parks are technically open from 8AM till sunset 365 days a year, the rangers at Wekiwa Springs State Park start closing access once it reaches capacity. So getting there by 9AM at the latest is your safest bet to avoid getting turned away at the gates.
The annual family pass at $120 for families (6 people) can help you save some money when you visit any of the Florida state parks regardless of the daily entrance fee price. Foster parents or those who have adopted a special needs child can apply for the free State Parks Pass, which can be used for the whole family.
How Busy Is Wekiwa Springs?
Wekiwa Springs is the local hangout to beat the heat, and gets quite full pretty early on in the year. Park visitation tends to increase in May and continue through late August, so getting there as early in the morning as possible, especially on weekends, is the only way to avoid disappointment.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Wekiwa Springs?
The entry to the park is at $6 per vehicle (2-8 people) and you can buy a single-use day pass online. But keep in mind that this doesn’t guarantee your entry into the park. If it’s full, they will ask you to return at another time instead.
Rent some kayaks, canoes or paddleboards onsite to engage tweens and teens, or you can even try camping at the park for a weekend. Rentals stop at 6:30 PM from June to September, and at 3:30 PM from October to May. Make sure you return the rentals on time, or you will be charged extra.
On average, a day at the springs can cost you from $6 for just swimming to upwards of $65 for paddleboards for an entire day. If you opt for canoeing or kayaking it will cost you around $20-25.
Weekend overnight trips at the campgrounds will include costs for utilities like water and electricity. They will likely cost you upwards of $30 per night.
What is the water temperature at Wekiwa Springs?
With a near constant 72 degree temperature year round, the clear blue waters of Wekiwa Springs are a cool comfort on a hot Florida summer day. Since swimming in the springs is open from 8 AM till the park’s closing time, it makes good sense to take the kids to burn off some pent-up energy while you get some much needed R&R. The best part? None of the madness of running around and waiting in long queues under the Florida sun for thrill rides worth only a couple of minutes. It’s just you, your family and nature, making it the perfect solution to a hot day.
A quick reminder that there are no lifeguards on duty, so an adult swimmer should always accompany kids. But don’t let this turn you away, because the waters make for a rather easy swim.
Plus, with the help of flotation devices, even little ones who haven’t yet taken to water like a duck can have a fun and safe time at Wekiwa Springs. Note that the water being shallow means jumping and diving into the water is not allowed.
The spring’s swimming area is just over a half-acre in size with an average depth of four feet, so teenagers can try their hand at snorkeling to observe the hidden treasures on the sandy floor. Consider renting an underwater camera to take cool shots of your kids in their element!
Can You Tube At Wekiwa Springs?
If you are looking for a new and exciting family-activity that is relaxing, needs no skill and is suitable for all ages, we have just the thing. Free-floating tubing in the Springs!
Since there is no river run, there isn’t any actual tubing at Wekiwa Springs. However, the big swim area with its calm waters makes the perfect spot for beginners trying tubing for the very first time. For an actual tube run in a river, the Kelly Park and Rock Springs Run is just 15 minutes away.
Good quality gear and ropes, age-appropriate tubes, and basic first aid knowledge will ensure a fun-filled and safe tubing experience for the entire family at Wekiwa Springs. While perfect for kids above age 5, toddlers who are just learning to swim are better off using closed flotation devices to float in shallow calm waters.
Are There Alligators At Wekiwa Springs?
Signs greet visitors about “alligators and other wildlife may be present” and warn them to “swim at your own risk,” so do be watchful for alligators.
While it is highly unusual for these toothy beasts to wander into the swimming sections, there are definitely a few you’ll observe in the canoe sections. So make sure that you always stay in the swimming area of the springs and keep an especially close watch on your toddlers.
Wekiwa Springs Campground Information
Camping with family can be challenging, but is also so rewarding and fun. Wekiwa Springs State Park camping offers everything you need to provide your littles with the best first-time camping experience they could ever have.
With everything from backpack camping, horse camping, canoe camping, RV camping, youth camping and group camping, you’ll have no shortage of camping options to choose from to ensure your family is absolutely comfortable.
For nature-enthusiasts who love their privacy, primitive camping areas at Camp Cozy or Big Fork, which are accessible only by canoe or kayak are the place to be. Accommodating upto 10 people, they provide a fire pit with a grill, benches and a picnic table.
Wekiwa Springs campgrounds with facilities
And for those who need some creature comforts, there are 60 Wekiwa State Park campgrounds which have water and electricity services, a fire ring with a grill to make BBQ and picnic tables all around. There are two accessible restrooms with showers and they allow recreational vehicles up to within 50 feet.
Parents of campers aged four to nine can request picture books from the Bedtime Story Camper Lending Library. With stories about local Florida wildlife like insects and black bears, these books will entrance your little one and enrich their camping experience even more.
Things To Do At Wekiwa Springs With Kids
The oldest theme park, Mother Nature, comes to life at Wekiwa Springs with wildlife-spotting, hiking trails, fishing, and so much more for kids to experience.
Wekiwa Springs Kayaking and Canoeing under Green Canopies
Point out and explain the roles of wild fauna like basking alligators, white-tailed deer and adorable fox squirrels in our ecosystem, while paddling along the Wekiva River. Always make sure to inspect the kayak, equipment, and life jacket before you begin. A waterproof bag with a large hat, towel, sunscreen, and other essentials is a must, and don’t forget to carry plenty of drinking water!
Learn at the Nature Center
Get some hands-on interactive education about the park’s natural residents like snakes, gators and turtles at the Nature Center.
Horse about with Equines
If you’ve got a long-faced companion, don’t hesitate to bring them with you on your trip out to Wekiwa Springs! Your kids will love taking a horseback ride down the trail at Tram Bed, and then ending the day all together at your equestrian campsite.
Hiking the Trails
Wekiwa Springs State Park features A variety of trails to meet your needs. There are four trails readily available for hikers and two multi-use trails. The routes will let you get up close and personal with the flora of Wekiwa Springs, and if you are lucky, you might even encounter some wild turkeys!
As a reinvented version of the classic game of treasure hunt, Geocaching utilises GPS coordinates to help you explore different parts of the park and find geocaches. Join the Operation Recreation GeoTour and watch your kids put their thinking caps to have a great time!
A 9-mile off-road biking trail is the perfect place for a race, with the winner getting gloating rights. Don’t forget to take your binoculars to make stops at the most flora-rich spots and catch glimpses of birds and other wildlife.
Family Tips For Wekiwa Springs
- Consider carrying a first aid kit which has some bandages, meds and a Swiss knife. Make it a point to get contact numbers of staff and rangers from the Rangers Office in case of emergencies.
- Be sure to apply plenty of sunblock periodically throughout the day, and use the water-proof kind if you are going swimming. There are restrooms by the swimming area with changing rooms for visiting before and after your dip.
- Bring Ziploc bags to keep your essentials safe. Fill one with a map or compass and a working GPS system. Use another to carry snacks, and a separate plastic cover to store wet clothes separately. Do not forget to carry a water bottle – even, multiple if you can!
- A large blanket, a cooler and a picnic basket filled with yummy homemade food is the best for tiny hungry tummies. However, don’t worry if you forget anything because there is a convenience store close by for stocking up on snacks, forgotten items and souvenirs.
- Bug spray! Hot weather brings swarms of nasty insects, so carry some child-safe repellent to protect yourself.
Further Family Guides to Natural Springs near Orlando include:
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