Devil's Den & Cedar Lakes Garden & Silver Springs State Park: Bucket List Day!
Updated: 7 days ago
Plan your bucket list day and experience some of Florida’s true gems. This much nature and beauty in one day is a dose of pure appreciation. Florida offers some places that do the soul good, just giving off all of the good vibes like only raw natural environments can.
Now I don’t know about you but when I drive to a location, I want to see as much of that area as possible. The farther the drive to get there, the more I want to see and do.
I am all about quality time. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to rush it, but I don’t want to go back home either. I get out and feel free! The inner explorer surfaces every time!
On this Bucket list day we did 3 amazing stops that were all in their own right a great place.
If you plan a trip to Devil’s Den or Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, it’s so easy to pop over to the other neighboring property. Since Devils Den requires reservations, get that worked out first. It is best to hit the gardens about 2 hours before your reservation, this is a great cushion. Devil’s Den reserves 90 minutes for your adventure, and although it doesn’t seem like anyone kicks you out after the time is up, there isn’t much else to do there once you are done. If you are driving to Williston from hours away, it is great to experience both stops before getting back into a vehicle.
Our third location was basically on our way back home, I will give you some suggestions if Silver Springs State Park takes you too far out of the way, but I still recommend a trip to this park as well. And it could easily be a whole or half day just in this huge State Park. If you are a camper, this could be an excellent itinerary to camp at Silver Springs and venture over to Williston. Devil's Den also has a camp site. Honestly the lure of the monkeys made this a must see for me and as you can't swim there it paired nicely with Devil's Den, since we'd already snorkeled for 90 minutes.
Tips before arriving in Williston:
There are not any real food options. Neither spot has a concession stand. Stop at a Publix or Winn Dixie on your way in and get some subs or salads for your picnic in the park! This really is the way to go, both Devil's Den and the Gardens had picnic benches for an outing.
Bring your own water.
Wear comfortable walking shoes into the gardens, and flip flops or slides into the Den.
Cedar Lakes Woods and Garden Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve:
4990 NE 180th Ave
12$ adults/ 7$ Children (5 - 13) / Under 5 - Free
Swimming is not allowed
Open 9:30 - 5 Thursday - Tuesday (closed on Wednesday for maintenance)
The road getting here is very rural and bumpy, 5 mph.
Free parking, open space style, and you walk right up to the booth/ table to pay.
The trail is a little over a mile looping down and back with some narrow walkways and steps along the way. Not wheelchair friendly, but stroller friendly if there are two people to help navigate through – or roll through and back track as needed. This was an abandoned limestone quarry, and now it’s a beautiful Japanese garden just oozing with nature’s happiness. It was a great place to walk and experience the flowers and plants creating Zen.
A recommended path will snake you around the lakes and down into the main water garden zone. You will get to cross all the bridges and walk each path if you stay on it. There is a perfect place to eat in a pavilion in the middle of the lake, with picnic tables and fans. Heavenly surroundings. Listening to the waterfalls while surrounded by the tranquil turquoise water is a mental reset. Just sitting there and breathing is refreshing, reminding you that such beauty exists. Knowing something this amazing awaits restores the entire hope of my heart. Loop back up the trail with in about two hours at a leisurely pace. We felt like the only ones there on this Thursday, we saw a few people as we arrived and a few as we left but most of the time we had the place to ourselves.
Cross the bridges through pagodas and pavilions in the middle of lakes, ponds, and waterfalls. The orange coy in the aquamarine water is a beautiful contrast. (map /picture below)
** Be careful with Google maps, they were sending us across town for a next-door neighbor drive.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring:
5390 NE 180th Ave. Williston, Fl 32696
*Under 18 needs to have a parent on site – we signed a waiver.
$18.00 per person M-F
$25.00 per person S,S, Holidays
$12.00 per person for snorkeling gear
Just walking through, no Den access - $7.00
I'd seen posts about this place for years and could not wait to get here!
72 degrees may not seem that chilly but on a hot day it’s especially shocking! Perhaps out of the sun and being surrounded by the earth makes this extra secluded/ enclosed appearing to seem even colder.
Check in at the office, and they will give you a wrist band that is good for 90 minutes. One desk collects the money, and the other will give you instructions. They will rent you snorkeling gear if you do not have tour own. The rules are: keep the snorkel on, and don’t block the steps as it is a fire hazard. You can stand on the platform while you get your gear on. You can go up and down as many times as you like in your allotted time. This is not a tour; you enter and exit on your own. Babies wait at the top. People leave their belongings in the car or on a picnic table/ bench. We were almost late and it was no big deal, however the last group of the day goes down at 4, and they close at 5.
Confession: I am very claustrophobic. I can snorkel, but as I hadn’t practiced wearing snorkeling gear in a while I was having severe anxiety wearing the mask and snorkel. I tried to adjust but could not enjoy my surroundings and breathe at the same time. One of my flippers fell off and floated to the top but in the meantime, I was beginning to panic a little. I ended up putting my gear on a step neatly on the side and swimming around freely. I know this goes against the policy, and I was very appreciative no one said anything to me. They do have cameras down there watching, and a worker came and removed a person who had not paid for access. I was just happy there were a few free swimmers and it wasn’t a big deal. There is no lifeguard.
• Must have timed ticket to enter, reserve online
• They market as a snorkel or scuba only site
• Bring your own snorkel gear, or rent theirs.
• Must be at least 6 and a strong swimmer to enter
• No lifeguards or safety monitors in the Spring. Water is 50 feet deep once you are off the ramp or steps.
• Fish and turtles will be with you in the water, no alligators!
• The water is enclosed, providing additional seclusion
• Above, a light hole exposes the walkway and sun above where people can look over, beautiful vines drape down from above.
When we left it was 4:00, the kind woman at the Gardens informed us Blue Springs was open until 7, but I just thought I'd like to check off a place I've been wanting to go to for a long time.
From this location we had a few options.
Nearby unique places to go are:
Micanopy – Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park – Hiking trails and home to wild horses and free roaming bison.
Brinson Blue Springs – $2.00 per person, picnic tables, 3 entry ways into an enclosed spring, great area to snorkel, this is West of Ocala. Typically, open 10 – 7.
Silver Springs State Park – America’s largest Spring, this is one of the more commercialized Springs. Glass bottom boat ride, wild monkeys, and tons of activities here, this Park has two entrances. We went just to walk around and were amazed by the huge manatee and beautiful nature all around us.
We went to Silver Springs with the intention of going to Silver Glen Springs the next morning, and wanting to be in that vicinity.
Silver Springs State Park
We pulled up into the "other" parking lot, the one with the glass bottom boats and wanted to see the spring. The kind worker redirected us to the other entrance. We paid, drove out and went to the other parking lot, a mile down around the corner. There were very few cars in the parking lot at 5:00, possibly because it had just rained or was still sprinkling when we pulled up. We got out and put up our umbrellas not sure if we'd be washed out or it would stop raining. By the time we walked up to the ticket booth, explaining our ticket, the rain had stopped. We spent about an hour and a half walking around.
First, we wandered the boardwalk loop that runs spring side, then we followed the dirt path down to the paddle board rentals. There is a kayak and paddle launch, however we were there following a manatee we spotted in the spring. He was a really big one! Once we got to the end we watched from the ramp as the manatee ate sea grass and rolled around, then he swam right over to us as if saying "hello" I was in wildlife heaven! The ramp area has a separate exit to the parking lot so we took the short cut back to the car. Our visit was brief, but perfect. A nice walk and stretch before getting back in the car for more driving.
We will be back to experience the glass bottom boats and hope to see some monkeys, apparently they hunker down in the weather.
Things to know about the Silver Spring State Park:
*This is one of the largest Artisan springs in the world!
*It's 4000 acres including the Springs and the entire 5-mile Silver River.
*There are two restaurants and a gift shop
*Boat tours run 10 - 6 daily, $12 adults/ $11 youth and seniors
*Canoes, Kayaks and Paddle boats can be rented until 5 pm, $15/ hr.
There are 15 miles of biking or hiking trails which overlap each other or can be done individually - see map below.
*Hollywood has filmed several movies/ episodes on site including Tarzan, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Rebel Without a Cause.
*You may see alligators, fish, birds, turtles, manatee, and monkeys!
*Paved walkways are made for easy strolling and watching the nature as it surrounds you completely
** On a later trip back to Silver Springs on January 1, 2023, we discovered the park to have a great Autumn vibe. The leaves actually change color, which in Florida is a big deal! We also just came out of some deep freezes in the winter weather. Our Florida State Parks and gems never go out of style, they are great ANY time to experience. On this trip we did much the same loop as the first time and covered a little more ground arriving again at 4:00, staying until close at 5:30. When we were down by the kayak ramp, we spoke to some visitors pulling out their boards who said they did see a monkey, an alligator, and a manatee along their paddle. While we didn't spot any wildlife on this day, we found the walk to be perfectly uncrowded and peaceful.
If you do plan to sleep in the area, Ocala has a variety of accommodations.
There are not many food options close by Silver Springs and the restaurants do close fairly early. Bring a cooler with drinks or snacks as desired!
Affordability meter: 7/10
On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this day?
With 1 being utterly unaffordable and 10 being basically free, I rate this adventure a 7.
Aside from gas to get there, and our picnic lunch, this day was very economical. I paid $12/ per person entrance fee at the gardens and $18/ pp at the Den, then $8.00 at the State Park. This day was 100% worth the time and money as the peace of nature nurtures the soul, and it is hard to find a day with higher value and less cost.
Nature has amazing healing properties, get out there and breathe deep breaths!
Inhale the freshly made oxygen while enjoying the vibe of the forest surrounding you.
Be flexible and remember to cherish people over things.
Love yourself more, start exactly where you are today.
Every step of the journey is a memory we will cherish ❤❤❤ Please subscribe, and join the journey! I enjoy sharing itineraries I've tested for your convenience.
Please share your favorite things to do and travels tips with us!
I'd love to hear about your budget adventures!
Thank you so much!
~ Mz. Savvy
The fact that so much natural beauty surrounds us is a gift we must never take for granted. Go see it and believe it. Just knowing such beauty exists in the world helps me to keep my hope alive.
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.
Thank you for subscribing, let's stay connected!