Jacksonville is geographically fortunate enough to have the Atlantic Ocean hugging its east side and the St. Johns River running through the middle. For a different swimming experience altogether there are a variety of options just a short trip away.
High Springs, 85 miles from Jax
Sitting on the Santa Fe River, Ginnie boasts seven springs ideal for swimming, snorkeling and cave diving. For those wanting to stay dry there are canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards all available for rent. Make a weekend out of it by utilizing one of the area campsites. 8 AM to sunset. Adult prices starting at $14.02.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Fort White, 84 miles from Jax
The Ichetucknee River is six miles of crystal clear waters flowing from nine springs. Take a swim, snorkel around or dive in the 50-feet-deep Blue Hole. Canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for rent, or hop into a tube and float down the original lazy river. After the ride is finished, simply hop onto a tram to get back to the start. 8 AM to sundown. $6 per vehicle.
Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, 110 miles from Jax
Home to the largest spring on the St. Johns River this state park offers an array of water activities including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, tubing, canoeing and kayaking. Outside the water, pitch a tent, take a hike or lay out a picnic. While they’ve headed to cooler waters for the summer, during the winter the spring is home to a handful of manatees. 8 AM to sunset. $4 for a single occupant vehicle or $6 per vehicle with 2-8 people.
Way down upon the Suwannee River sits Bob’s River Place. Bob’s is a private property turned public swimming hole with water slides, rope swings, jumping platforms and floating rafts. All these activities come with the warning of swimming at one’s own risk, since there are no lifeguards, but the danger seems to be a large part of the fun. 11 AM-6 PM, weekends only until after Memorial Day. Entry fees start at $8.
Juniper Springs Recreation Area
Ocala National Forest, 105 miles from Jax
In the heart of Ocala National Forest sits Juniper Springs, which features a large swimming hole with both a shallow area and deep waters with platforms for jumping. There’s also the Juniper Run, a seven mile canoe or kayak paddle along the creek’s crystal clear waters. While the run smooths into a leisurely float, the beginning can be a bit of a obstacle course with its narrow passages and fallen trees. 8 AM-8 PM. Day use of the park is $5 per person.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee, about 170 miles from Jax
Situated inside this state park is Buccaneer Bay, Florida’s only spring- fed waterpark. Built around Weeki Wachee Springs, the park features four water slides, a kiddie pool and a sandy beach with amenities such as volleyball courts and picnic areas. For those looking to relax take a lazy float in the river that flows around the swimming area. Outside the waterpark, canoe or kayak around the turquoise waters. While in Weeki Wachee one must check out the underwater mermaid show—it’s not something you see everyday. 9 AM-5 PM. Adults $13, children $8.
Spring Park Swimming Pool
Green Cove Springs, 35 miles from Jax
Last year this spring-fed pool received a facelift to enhance the outfall of the spring and add a new two-story pavilion and water splash feature. Catch a glimpse of the spring itself—but save the swimming for the pool. 11 AM-7 PM, Tuesday-Sunday. Entry fee $2-4.
Williston, 95 miles from Jax
An underground spring situated in a cave, Devil’s Den’s waters are more than 50 feet deep. An opening at the top lights up the cool, turquoise waters while prehistoric formations loom overhead. Snorkeling or diving gear is required for entry. 9 AM-5 PM. Prices start at $15.