Rock Springs Kelly Park in Orange County is Florida’s summer haven, and there’s no wondering why, with its crystal blue Rock Springs set in acres of lush green parkland! So dust off your backpacks and pull out your swimsuits, get your kids to ditch their screens for all-things green and beat the holiday heat! 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. Read on to find out all you need to know if you are planning on visiting Rock Springs Kelly Park with kids!
Where is Kelly Park?
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Kelly Park is located 17 miles northeast of Orlando, making it the perfect road-trip destination for families. It’s a 30 to 40 minute drive along Kelly Park Road, which you’ll find just off State Road 429. If you’re planning on driving in from within the County, note that the park is just one quarter miles east of County Round 435.
There are bus and train services from Orlando to Apopka too, if you are looking to ditch your car. It’s up to you which service will best suit your family and once you arrive in Apopka, just take a taxi and follow the directions above.
If you’re looking for a place to rest after your journey, there are plenty of lodging options close by Kelly Park. Between five-star luxury resorts and low-cost bed and breakfasts, you’ll have plenty of choices. Days Inn Apopka, Hilton Garden Inn Apopka, Hampton Inn are a few of the top options.
What is Rock Springs?
Springs are magical groundwater oases that are formed when underground water leaks onto the earth’s surface through cracks. Kelly Rock Springs is a natural spring that flows out of limestone reefs that were fossilized 17 million years ago. Out of these reefs, leak a staggering 26,000 gallons of water per minute today. This water runs idly for 9 miles to join the Wekiwa river.
The Rock Springs Kelly Park once belonged to a New Jersey doctor, Howard Atwood Kelly, who adored wildlife and nature infinitely. In 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly donated their land to Orange County in the understanding that it would be a protected area but remain open to the public. From the original 260 acres they donated, the land has grown to comprise over 390 acres of glorious natural surroundings and has since become a welcome abode for generations of families.
What are the Opening Times of Kelly Park?
Kelly Park is open to visitors throughout the year. In summer (March through November), it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and in winter, it closes a little earlier around sundown. Note that the nature trails and the spring-run close an hour before the listed closing time.
The park authorities have taken steps to reduce traffic congestion around the park. There are now two entry slots for cars entering the park at the gates. The first 250 cars are allowed in the morning, with another 50 allowed in at one o’clock. This means the best time to arrive is either early in the morning or after lunch.
Be careful when entering the park because pets and alcohol are strictly prohibited, and you do not want to have to leave and re-enter the park once you are in. It’s a near impossible feat once it reaches capacity! Also, remember to bring your own stuff because there are absolutely no rentals available inside the park.
How Busy is Kelly Park and Rock Springs?
Kelly Park reaches capacity within an hour of opening and even sooner on the weekends, so be ahead of time and make due reservations to avoid disappointments. The spring and the spring-run tend to be busier than the park trails on an average weekday. Visitors are encouraged to make reservations by calling the park directly at 407-254-1902 and leave a detailed message if they reach voicemail.
The summer months, April to June, see the most traffic because this is when locals and tourists alike get busy making a beeline for the respite of the cool springs. The nature trails in the park, on the other hand, tend to get a bit busier during Florida’s mild winters.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Rock Springs Kelly Park?
The cost of entry per car filled with 3-8 members is capped at a reasonable $5, with $1 per head for every extra member. Busses enter at $10 per vehicle, and cyclists, bikers and pedestrians are all welcome at just a dollar per head. Visitors have the option to pay through both cash and card, but are required to bring along a valid photo ID.
As mentioned earlier, there are no rentals once you are inside the park, but don’t worry because you’ll find several stores outside the park that sell all the things you need. While prices are usually reasonable, it’s always significantly cheaper to bring your own floats, tubes and pool noodles along. Just make sure your floats do not exceed five feet in length or width.
If you wish to camp at Kelly Park, you could be shelling out anywhere between $20-$30. Go for primitive or dorm camping to keep it lighter on the pocket. Be sure to make your reservations with care because even if you choose to cancel within 72 hours from your scheduled date, you will still lose an upwards of $10. All cancellations that exceed 72 hours are strictly non-refundable.
Unlike most State Parks, Kelly Park doesn’t have cabins for rent, but it does offer picnic pavilions. Just mail your details to firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations and rates. You’ll find Camp Joy, a summer church camp site, just adjacent to Kelly Park, that offers dormitory style camping. A night at Camp Joy can cost you $25 or more but county residents enjoy a minimum discount on the camp rent. The location offers bunk rooms, swimming pools and large halls to visitors, but you should expect to spend upwards of $75 for this premium camping experience.
All things considered, you can have an amazing time at Rock Springs Kelly Park under $15, by simply cutting down on your miscellaneous costs. It all depends on what kind of family getaway you’re after!
What is the Water Temperature at Rock Springs Kelly Park?
Rock Springs at Kelly park maintains a constant temperature of 68 to 72 degrees year round, making it the number-one spot for swimming in Apopka. It feels slightly chilly immediately after getting in, but you get used to it quickly and then it’s pleasant as can be. Keep in mind that the spring-run sometimes gets narrow with dense vegetation creeping in on either side, so if you’re visiting with children under 6 years, be cautious. Do not leave toddlers unattended in the water even if the spring appears shallow and gentle.
Due to the comfortable water temperature, you’ll find swimming enthusiasts and casual swimmers all year long at the spring pool. Summer days are the busiest, but it’s not uncommon for families to come and spend time together by the spring during wintertime as well.
Can you tube at Kelly Park Rock Springs?
Yes! Tubing is one of the best things to do in the gentle waters of Kelly Park Rock Spring. And if you’re a parent, you will want to take advantage of this and make it a day filled with quality family time together. Who doesn’t love to drift along the water, catch some air and have a bit of lazy fun? You can choose to either bring your own pool noodles, canoes, tubes and vessels or rent them from vendors just outside the park.
The tube-run is quite short, lasting only about 20 minutes in total, at the end of which you get off and walk upstream. There’s a bridge and barrier that will show you where to disembark, and on the other side you will be able to spot some floating kayaks and paddleboards.
Tubing is a perfectly safe activity to partake in at the spring when done with a little diligence. If your kids are not old enough to go tubing by themselves, just carry them in with you and keep them close. The water is shallow and gently moving, so you shouldn’t worry about letting your teens swim here. And older kids should be able to handle walking upstream without much difficulty at all.
Are there Alligators at Kelly Park Rock Springs?
Despite the fact that alligators don’t usually intrude on areas having heavy human traffic, many visitors have reported spotting them in the springs. To avoid any mishaps, it’s better to stay where there are lots of other visitors. But don’t be too worried because park rangers are stationed throughout the premises to help you whenever you need their assistance. As always in Florida, keep an eye out.
Rock Springs Campground Information
Many visitors come to Kelly Park not only for the natural beauty of the park and its unique spring, but also for the memorable family camping experience it offers. The park features a total of 26 campsites in the day-use area, sheltered in the same lush canopy of trees as the park’s other attractions. Each one is comfortably separated, has ample space for your camping needs, and is about 35 to 70 feet deep. The campsites form a neat circle and there are feeder paths that take you to a well-maintained bathhouse. Choose the campsites that are tucked deep into the woods for some of that elusive privacy that’s usually hard to come by at such campgrounds.
All the sites have access to water, electricity, picnic tables, fire rings and sanitation dumps. You can camp in both RVs and travel trailers but only two sleeping units are allowed per site. Note that pets are not allowed at Kelly Park, even at the campsites. While it is a bummer that you can’t bring them along, it’s safer for both your pets and the wildlife at the park.
Remember to bring your own charcoal for your grill and firewood for your campfire, and make sure not to leave any residue on the campgrounds. You can check out the concession store that stands right next to the Dr. Howard Kelly monument for some minimal camping gear in case you forget something at home. However, it’s really the delicious grills and hot dogs at the store that all visitors need to try! Just make sure you buy all your necessary camping gear in advance as shopping for them outside the park can delay your entry. Also, make it a point to make note of the gate code as well as the entry and exit times at the campground.
Kelly Park Resort’s 34-acre sister camping site, Camp Joy, is just a short drive to the east from here. It has two group sites with dorm style bunk rooms and premium halls that are perfect for large families. So, be sure to check that out as well before you finalize your camping plans.
Things to Do at Rock Springs and Kelly Park with Kids
Swimming in the cool spring water is the best way to beat the summer heat. The lazy spring-run is a great place to play for young ones who are only just learning to swim. Whereas, shallow-diving further up along the spring-run is a favorite activity among both teens and adults, due to it being slightly more adventurous than Kelly Park tubing.
Snorkeling in Rock Springs
Go snorkeling with your kids in the quarter-mile tube-run and watch them be amazed at the small aquatic life that peers back at them from its depths!
Explore the mesmerizing springscape on the float of your choice right from the spot where the Kelly Park tube-run ends. Although the park does not have float rentals inside, you are free to launch a paddleboard or kayak from Camp Joy.
Camp Joy kayaking is a favorite among teens and older kids because it splashes through the prime run – the Emerald Cut. For an even more thrilling float, set sailing on the guided glass-bottomed kayaks and behold the turtles, alligators and cottonmouth snakes! If you are paddling out from the launch site and are already worn out, make sure you arrange a shuttle back or else expect to paddle all the way back.
Picnic and Play
This park is one of Florida’s most underrated picnic destinations. Its well-shaded, pine-flanked picnic spots make it a good choice for families with children. A few of the playground features like the jungle gym, tube slides, swings and open space will even let you take a break from the kids. You’ll enjoy the peace and quiet, while they have a blast!
Take short a hike on the walk-way that runs along the spring run. A zigzag boardwalk along the tube run leads you to a dream-like place with fern-rimmed rocks and sparkling water. For an exciting and longer hike, embark on the Kelly Loop Trail on the other side of the bridge along the spring run. On this trail, slash pines, laurel oaks, cabbage palms and hickory tower over a thick grapevine underwood that leads to a cavern.
Family Tips for Kelly Park and Rock Springs
- Be rooster-early on summer weekends and pre-pack all essentials like camping gear, tubes, floats, first aids, diapers and sanitary wear, for re-entry is a privilege.
- Slather on the sunscreen (SPF 30 or more) and carry loads of drinking water to fight the heat.
- If tubing is a priority, get your floats inflated from the vendors outside or carry air pumps with you. And be prepared to carry them about 100 yards from the parking lot.
- Check out the Rock Springs Bar and Grill outside after the kids are down for some fun times if you can.
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