Although I used to visit Rainbow Springs State Park a lot in my University of Florida days it had been almost eight years since my last visit.
Last time I was here I took Jeremy for his first “real Florida” adventure, canoeing down the Rainbow River. He was amazed by the turquoise tint of the water and fell in love with the natural beauty of Florida.
Florida almost had him completely under her spell, until a ten-foot gator sauntered off the bank and disappeared below the surface of the Rainbow River. I had never seen Jeremy paddle so fast. Of course, that was the last time I convinced Jeremy to go canoeing with me in Florida.
Jeremy wasn’t with me on this trip to my sunny home state, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying some of my favorite natural beauty spots of North Central Florida. I’m excited to show you just why you’ll also love Rainbow Springs and the “real Florida”.
7 Reasons You'll Love Rainbow Springs, Florida
1) Canoe, Kayak Or Paddle Board The Rainbow River
The most popular activity at Rainbow Springs State Park is renting a canoe or kayak and getting out on the stunningly turquoise Rainbow River. You can even rent clear kayaks for a unique glass bottom boat experience. Come early though, with limited supplies they go quickly.
Tip: From April through September, you can also tube the Rainbow River.
2) Take A Dip In The Unique Water Of Rainbow Springs
Just look at that water! Have you ever seen anything more inviting?
Though our springs stay a comfortable 72°F year-round, it’s still a little chilly for a Floridian until summer. In the winter months you can practically have the pool to yourself, especially in the mornings.
Florida Springs Headed For Tragedy
I’m heartbroken. The state is failing to protect our delicate natural springs from corporations. For example, BlueTriton (formerly Nestle Water) received permits to pump out nearly 1 million gallons of water a day from Ginnie Springs to sell as bottled water, 30% more than environmental scientists say it can handle.
OurSantaFeRiver.org explains the situation further.
In protest, we are donating members of the Florida Springs Council, a non-profit coalition leading the legal battle against these damaging permits. We are also boycotting Blue Triton brands, including Deer Park and Zephyrhills bottled water.
We encourage you to get informed on the issue and support the fight to protect Florida’s most important natural resource.
Now back to your regularly scheduled program…
3) Search For Wildlife
It wouldn’t be natural Florida without our beloved wildlife. It’s common to see otters among the reeds and turtles sunning themselves on logs. As the water is crystal clear you can also see all the fish.
Alligators are also around. Though you’re more likely to see them down Rainbow River rather than near the spring. Like Floridians, they think 72°F is chilly too.
Tip: Rainbow Springs has several boardwalks and lookout points to check out the wildlife from the shoreline.
4) Stroll Through The Tropical Gardens
Though summer is a popular time to visit Rainbow Springs, March treats visitors to a multicolored tropical paradise when the azaleas bloom. Plus, if you’re not one for crowds, screaming kids, or blistering heat, early spring is the ideal time visit.
Don’t worry the flowers and foliage are beautiful most of the year. March just happens to be my favorite time.
5) Stroll Through The Park's History
Back in the 1960’s Rainbow Springs was an actual attraction, complete with expansive gardens, glass boat rides, and even a zoo. The park ran until 1974.
Towards the back of the park is the old zoo. It’s nice to see the small cages and fencing being taken back by mother nature as vines wrap tightly around the wire mesh.
6) Enjoy The Waterfalls
Who knew Florida had waterfalls? These are more remnants from the days of being an attraction. Created from the natural springs, there are four waterfalls to find among the foliage.
7) Take A Hike In The Woods
Just beyond the retired zoo is a 1.73-mile hiking trail which leads off into the palm tree lined forest. It’s a lovely way to spend an hour.
Black bears (and of course snakes) live in these woods. So you’re always better hiking with a buddy in Florida, even on short trails.
As I prepare to pack my bags and head back to North Carolina I can’t help but be a little homesick for Florida already. Is it possible to be homesick before you even leave?
I hope I’ve convinced you to check out Rainbow Springs so you can fall in love with the real Florida too.
What natural attraction has a special place in your heart? Let me know in the comments below.
For more posts on Florida check out:
Where To Stay For Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs State Park is located at 19158 SW 81st Pl Rd, Dunnellon, Florida 34432. The park is approximately 1.5 hours away from both Tampa and Orlando, making it a convenient day trip from either location.
- The Rainbow Springs Campground is just outside the state park but is a favorite of locals and those passing through.
- If you’re staying more than a few days check Booking.com or Airbnb for house rentals right on the river. There’s no better way to spend your time.
- Alternatively, the nearby Comfort Inn makes an affordable and convenient option.