Blue Spring State Park’s crystal clear spring makes it an ideal getaway from the hot and humid Florida summers. It is the place to visit for that quick, cool recharge over the weekend when the state’s theme parks just aren’t cutting it anymore! If you instead choose to plan your visit for the winter months, you’ll get to catch a glimpse of the manatees that come to visit during that time.
And like most state parks, this natural oasis also offers a variety of outdoor activities for every kind of recreational enthusiast – young and old! Blue Spring State Park with Kids has lots to offer!
Keep reading to find out what else Blue Springs State Park offers families in its 103 acres of adventure-filled outdoors, because it’s a lot! 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.
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Where is Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring state park is located to the west of Orange City in Florida, 35 miles north of Orlando, and there are many ways to get there. For a family road trip, ride smooth on the US-17 from DeLand or Sanford to reach Orange City. Once on French Avenue, keep on the lookout for sign boards that direct you towards Blue Spring State Park.
Tip: Make sure you don’t accidentally follow the directions for Blue Spring State Park Avenue – it’s a common mistake most day-trippers to the spring make!
Those who don’t want to be stuck behind the steering wheel will be happy to know there are train and bus options. To catch a bus, hop on the line 102 bus from Lynx Central Station – Sunrail to Fern Park Transfer Center 102. From Fern Park Transfer Centre take line 103 and get down at Sanford Seminole Center Superstop 103. From there, you’ll be able to take an Uber directly to Blue Spring State Park.
The hourly operated trains from Church Street to DeBary are another option to consider, especially if you’ve got kids who are fans of trains. From DeBary, you’ll be able to take a 20 minute taxi ride right to Blue Spring State Park.
Some hotels have been built around Blue Spring State Park because tourists visit the park all year round. Hontoon Landing Resort and Marina, Alling House Bed and Breakfast and the budget friendly Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orange City are some top-rated stays near the park that are worth checking out if you’re planning on stopping nearby.
What is Blue Spring State Park
State parks are designated natural preserves that are managed at the sub-national level. Many of these parks are home to endangered plants and animals, and small areas of these parks are opened up for tourist recreation. At Blue Spring State Park, you’ll find the Volusia Blue Spring, a first magnitude spring, which is the central attraction. It is the largest of its kind on the St Johns river and is known for its clear, calm and gem-blue waters, just as its name suggests.
Blue Spring State Park was not always a state park. The spring and the large acres of land that surround it were once privately owned by an early European settler by the name of Mr. Louis P. Thursby. Under the Thursbys, the area became a hotspot for postals, tourists and passengers until the railways connecting the spring to Orange City came through. After the winter froze the orange trees to death in 1890, the family resorted to tourism to keep the lands and business flourishing. They saw potential in the location’s scenic beauty as well as the hunting and fishing potential the spring offered.
In 1972, the State’s department of Environmental Protection took over the area in order to save the manatees. Since then, Blue Spring State Park has become a popular holiday destination for a variety of crowds, but especially for traveling families. The location has so much in store that every member of your pack, no matter how young or old, will have something to look forward to!
What are the Opening Times for Blue Spring State Park?
Blue Spring State Park is open from 8 a.m through 6 p.m. all throughout the year. However, water recreation around the spring and the spring run is closed to visitors during the winter months as part of the park’s manatee protection efforts. During this time, visitors can watch the warm springs from a distance and see the manatees come to bask in the warmth. Alternatively, kayak in the lagoon, St Johns and Snake River.
Arrive early to avoid parking related inconveniences, as the park reaches capacity during weekdays and weekends. If, for some reason, you plan to arrive after sundown, give them a heads-up because unwanted delays are a major bummer when traveling with kids!
How Busy is Blue Spring State Park?
The park almost always reaches its full occupancy during the week, and even more so on the weekends. This is due, in part, to the park’s proximity to Deltona Beach. Many locals end up winding up their weekends here, so expect double the crowd if you’re planning a weekend visit.
The summer months, starting from the beginning of May, see a steady increase in traffic right up until August, which is when the park reaches its maximum capacity. Winter tends to be a tad less busy, but not by a lot!
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Blue Spring State Park?
Parking is capped at $6 per vehicle and all reservations at $6.70. Just make sure to make your reservations with care as they are strictly non-refundable. Pedestrians are welcome at the entry cost of $2 per person.
If you’re considering staying the night at the park, a single campsite will cost you around $35 overall. Expect to be shelling out an upwards of $100 if you’ve got your heart set on renting out a cabin.
Taking a relaxing dip at the cool springs (or seeing the manatees from a safe distance) all that’s on your mind? You’ll be able to call it a day well-spent with not much over $12. Save your energy for your swim by parking your vehicle at the main-lot which is located nearer to the summer swimming area. Canoes, paddleboards, snorkels and kayaks can be rented on site. Just remember to return them on time to avoid any extra charges.
Indulging in water sports will cost you anywhere between $30 and $40, which when compared to the cost of visiting one of Florida’s theme parks, is simply a steal. All in all, a day at the park should not cost you more than $35 if you keep additional charges to a minimum.
What Is the Water Temperature at the Springs at Blue Spring State Park?
If you’re through with sweating it out in the Florida heat, jump right in and feel the spring rejuvenate you from within. It maintains a constant comfortable temperature of 72 degree Fahrenheit year round, making it perfect for swimming. It is also the main reason why manatees seek out the spring during the winter months.
Can You Tube at the Blue Spring State Park?
If you are looking for a new and exciting family-activity that’s relaxing, requires no skill, and is suitable for all ages, there’s nothing better than free-floating tubing.
Tubing at Blue Spring State Park features the shortest tube-run among all the springs in Florida, but is also arguably one of the best. In fact, the tube-run takes all of 15 minutes from start to finish, ensuring that kids with notoriously short attention spans don’t get bored. Plus, it is slower and gentler than most other springs as well, making it totally safe to carry your baby in with you.
You can rent tubes at $5 from the gift shop at the start of the spring trail. If you’re bringing your own, ensure that your tube complies with the height restrictions for tubes enforced by the park (6’x6′).
Are there any Alligators at Blue Spring State Park?
Yes, there are alligators at Blue Spring State Park. However, the spring is generally safe on account of it being so busy with human activity. In fact, the park has had zero animal attacks thus far and even sightings of alligators are rare.
Keep an eye out for the ‘Caution’ signposts on the boardwalk leading to the spring, and keep your little runners close. If you do happen to spot an alligator, don’t panic. Maintain your distance and call out to one of the camp rangers who will be more than happy to assist.
Blue Spring State Park Campground Information
Blue Spring State Park’s campsite is located in the northeast region and offers easy walking access to Blue Spring. It features 51 single-family camping sites (both primitive and with electric hookups) and 6 cabins for rent. The campsites are equipped with drinking water, flush toilets, hot-baths, dumping stations, gaming accessories, playground and picnic spots. Bathhouses and have a single washer and dryer.
For other add-ons and extras like canopies, additional tents, camp-fire aids, BBQ grills, picnic essentials, sleeping bags and more, visit the camp store. It is not required to book your campsite in advance but it’s always helpful to do so, especially during the winter when the park fills up with tourists who are there to see the manatees.
Blue Spring State Park also offers the Bedtime Story Camper Lending Library of picture books for campers aged four to nine.
Things to Do at Blue Spring State Park with Kids
When the weather is too hot, cool off at Blue Spring State Park. The gentle springs are a nice place for beginners to learn to swim while beating the heat. And don’t worry if anyone forgets their swimsuit because you can buy them at the camp store for a fair price.
Blue Spring State Park offers a range of water sports like canoeing and kayaking that are perfect for keeping older kids and teens engaged. The still blue waters and scenic spots make it an idyllic location to try family-friendly water activities like pedal boating and snorkelling for the first time. Bring your own equipment, or rent a kayak or canoe at the park. It’s also possible to buy life jackets from the gift shop at the trail front. If you don’t feel in the mood to do the work yourself but are still keen on getting into the water, you can opt for a kayak or canoe tour instead via Blue Spring Adventures.
Blue Spring State Park has a thriving wildlife population during both the summer and winter months. Spot the Blue Spring manatee during the colder months lounging in the spring sauna, paddle through the clear blue springs to see some wading birds, eagles, kingfishers, anhingas and ospreys attracted by the fish in the springs. Keep an eye out for the endangered Florida scrub-jays which come flocking to the protected habitat of the park. There is also a good chance that you will see armadillos on the ten-minute trail to the spring head. Consider taking an ecotour if you want to learn and teach your kids more about all that you see.
Blue Spring State Park offers a variety of trails in and around the spring’s wilderness. Take the half-mile boardwalk that runs parallel to the spring run for a level 1 hike or opt for the Pine Island Trail that begins from the lower parking area all the way to the St. Johns river to really amp up the adventure. This 7.3 mile trail tunnels through ancient oaks and the restored scrub, giving families much to explore and photograph!
Blue Spring State Park has laid out exclusive rider-friendly trails inside the springscape. Its newest addition is the Spring to Spring Trail that starts from the east of the drive into the Park. You’ll be able to see cyclists riding towards you as you drive in on the other side of the fence.
Ride straight 7 miles into the wild, uninterrupted by any crossings, in this rather hilly bike trail through oak and scrub canopies. If you are camped, choose the bike gate that offers access to the trail from the campground. This trail eventually connects the Blue Spring to three others in Volusia county. The paved bike trails are also excellent for runners and speedwalkers.
It’s hard to miss the “FVA” signs marking the forest paths and woodland trails of the Florida Volksmarching Association in the upper campground area. What is volksmarching you ask? It is a form of mass walking activity that originated in Germany, and it’s good fun for groups of friends and families alike. These group walkathons through the wilderness are especially great if you love to make new friends and enjoy exploring nature in larger groups, so stay updated on when these events take place!
Check out The Thursbys’ Cabin
While you are at Blue Spring State Park, go check out the historic home of the Thursby family. It was built in 1872 and has a place in the US National Registry of Historic Places. The architecture and decor of the log cabin speak of the local history of the land, making it a wonderful slice of Americana.
Family Tips for Blue Spring State Park
- If you’re taking your kids camping or hiking, consider bringing a first aid kit, 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.
- Use a broad spectrum SPF every day, and use the waterproof variety if you’re swimming. They have changing rooms for visiting before and after your swim, in the restrooms by the swimming area. There is a gift shop and camp store too.
- Carry tons of diapers, toilet paper, napkins, extra towels and hand sanitizers for any unprecedented bathroom emergencies.
- The items you need for your outdoor family adventure should be packed in waterproof bags that can be accessed easily. A map, a GPS, snacks and a drinking water bottle are all essentials you should have with you.
- Insects are a problem in hot weather. Carry some child-safe bug repellent to protect yourself and the kids.
- Be sure to remember that state parks protect endangered species, so try to enjoy your time together without disturbing the park’s wildlife.
- The camp store is fully stocked and the deli has hot dogs, sandwiches and other snacks. You can also organize rentals here too.
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