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Beat the Heat in the Top Lakes & Rivers in Florida
Stay cool in any season by visiting some of the best lakes and rivers in the state of Florida. With thousands of miles of unique waterways to explore, set out on a fun adventure in intrepid waters. Over in the north-central zone of Florida, head to High Springs, Ginnie Springs, and Blue Springs Park for the ultimate haven for swimming, diving, kayaking, paddling, and floating along the Santa Fe River.
Nearby, embark on more river adventures at Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White, Florida. Enjoy the crystalline spring-fed Ichetucknee River for fun in the water with no motor boats, just canoes, kayaks, and tubes. Canoe and kayak rentals are available inside the park’s north entrance.
Located in downtown Orlando, walk along the .9-mile circular path around Lake Eola to watch the graceful swan boats and majestic fountains, take an electric gondola boat ride, or just meet up with friends. Although the lake is the main focal point, visit the zoo, equestrian racetrack, and pier on the grounds of the 43-acre park.
With remarkably clear waters and multiple wooden docks, Vortex Spring draws divers to the northwestern Florida community of Ponce de Leon.
Lake Eola Park
Located in downtown Orlando, was developed in 1888 from land donated from a variety of families. Eola Lake was formed from a natural 80-foot sinkhole, similar to many of the state's lakes.
Throughout the years, there has been a zoo, an equestrian race track and even a dance area with pier, built on the 43-acre park site.
In 1912, the original signature park fountain was built, followed by a second fountain installed in 1957. It was renovated in 1988 and continues to be an area landmark. While in Orlando, be sure to visit the park for an enjoyable day outdoors.
Park visitors enjoy strolling the grounds, especially on the path around the lake. Rent one of the swan-shaped paddle boats or an electric gondola boat, for a fun time on the water.
Bring lawn chairs to listen to one of the concerts held in the Walt Disney Amphitheater and gaze at the beautiful fountain lights.
Ginnie Springs Outdoors
On your next visit to Florida, plan a trip into the north-central region and check out Ginnie Springs Outdoors. A short drive from nearby Gainesville, Ginnie Springs Outdoors is a top vacation destination, especially during the spring and summer. Enjoy some of the clearest and most pristine springs in all of Florida – you can dive, swim, scuba, and even snorkel around.
Relax and enjoy a gentle ride as you tube down the Santa Fe River, just one of the many ways to explore and enjoy Ginnie Springs Outdoors. Naturally occurring at 72 degrees, the waters at Ginnie Springs Outdoors make for pleasant and memorable aquatic adventures. Discover any of the seven fresh-water springs located around the 200 wooded acres at Ginnie Springs.
Newnans Lake Conservation Area
Covering over 6,500 acres, the Newnans Lake Conservation Area is located just east of Gainesville. Visitors to the area enjoy hiking along the trails, fishing and canoeing in Newnans Lake, horseback riding, bicycling, and picnicking.
Bring along your small boat, for launching at the ramp for fun on the lake. Be sure to bring your camera to capture a picture of the fox, deer, otters, and snakes that live in the area. This northern Florida park protects the diverse wetland and upland natural communities, which helps protects the water quality within the Ocklawaha River basin.
Poe Springs Park
Pumping in an average of 45 million gallons of freshwater every day, Poe Springs Park is located in the north-central Florida community of High Springs, near Gainesville. The springs serve as an ideal way for a family to get in the water without fighting big crowds.
The cool, refreshing, shallow water is perfect for small children and just as inviting to mom and dad. The surrounding park also features a well-groomed landscape, complete with covered picnic areas, soccer fields, volleyball courts and a softball field.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a National Natural Landmark, the historic Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is set in the southeastern Florida Panhandle.
Located near the city of Crawfordville, Wakulla Springs State Park features fishing, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, nature viewing, and more.
Activities include the Wakulla River Boat Tour – including the 30-minute Glass-Bottom Boat Tour – visiting the Waterfront Visitor’s Center, biking, hiking, and exploring the historic Wakulla Springs Lodge.
North Peninsula State Park
Home to two miles of unspoiled beach, and a host of rare animals including indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, and Florida scrub-jays, tNorth Peninsula State Park is ideal for swimming, fishing, bird-watching, or just getting some sun on the east Florida coast.
This park is located along A1A between Flagler Beach and Ormond Beach. Operated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, North Peninsula State Park also neighbors the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park.
Washington Oaks Garden State Park
Encompassing 424 acres of land, the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park preserves the beautiful scenery Florida's northeastern coast. The park is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River – just north of Palm Coast along Oceanshore Boulevard.
Park visitors are encouraged to stop by the Washington Oaks Visitor Center as well as the Washington Oaks Historic District – a 20-acre winter residence. View native wildlife and enjoy excellent views of nearby scenery, including a Florida barrier island, coquina rock, tidal marshes, and towering oak trees.
One of the largest swamps in the United States, Cypress Swamp is located near the Everglades National Park within the south Florida region near Miami.
Cypress Swamp is popular with Florida swamp trompers, who prefer to hike the swamp during the wet season. It is known for its magical mystique as it is home to many forms of life, including the cypress tree for which it is named.
Visitors can visit year round, however, depending on the season guests should be prepared to get their hiking boots wet. Wildlife includes everything from snakes to birds to the occasional 'gator, making it well worth the soggy socks.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
Located about 15 miles east of DeFuniak Springs, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park is an outdoor recreation area primarily featuring Ponce de Leon Springs. The springs, which give the park its namesake, maintain a 68-degree temperature all year round and produce 14 million gallons of water each day.
Apart from taking a refreshing dip in the clear, cool springs, visitors of the Panhandle attraction enjoy abundant outdoor recreation – featuring two self-guided nature walks, seasonal guided walks, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Anglers can also cast out fo catfish, largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and panfish.
Providing public access to nearly two and a half miles of the Intracoastal Waterway, the Jupiter Riverwalk is located in the south Florida community of Jupiter.
Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park
A popular destination in the southwest Florida gulf coast, Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park sits at Wiggins Pass in Naples alongside the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors to this park enjoy sun-bathing, walks on the beach, and prime snorkeling opportunities.
On land, visitors can hike, bird-watch, and take on a picnic in paradise. The park is open all year-long, with hours from 8 a.m. to sundown. However, the gates close when park reaches maximum capacity in the popular winter months.
Lake Manatee State Park
Stretched across three miles of shoreline, Lake Manatee State Park sits on the lake that shares its name.
Located just outside of Bradenton in Manatee County near Tampa, Lake Manatee acts as a reservoir for both Manatee and Sarasota counties. This lake is not only functional, it also offers an array of outdoor activities facilitated by the Florida State Park system.
Lake Manatee is open year-round to visitors looking to fish, kayak, canoe, and enjoy an easily accessible boat ramp.
For those planning to spend time in the great outdoors in the Tampa and West Central region of Florida, Lake Manatee State Park boasts hiking trails, playgrounds, picknick spots and much more for the entire family to enjoy.
Myakka River State Park
Located nine miles east of downtown Sarasota in west central Florida, Myakka River State Park features 37,000 acres of wetlands, marshes, and cypress domes. Guests enjoy taking on the park's system of hiking and walking trails or embarking on boat and canoe tours.
Wildlife watchers love to catch glimpses of a Roseate Spoonbill, alligator, anhiga, sandhill crane, deer, red-shouldered hawk, and more. Don't forget to visit the Canopy Walkway, a suspension bridge and tower provide awe-inspring views above the forest canopy.