Updated: Sep 19
Every Floridian knows there are some genuine places in Florida that are a step above the typical tourist spots. Silver Springs State Park is one of those places that has to be added to your bucket list for experiencing the natural beauty of the sunshine state! Return to native Florida, before building and development changed the layout of the land. This will help you figure out how to visit this Florida gen!
While there are over 700 Springs in Florida, this will help you determine why Silver Springs is in the must-see column for your planning! Underlined bolded text when clicked will open to that link, for your convenience. I make no affiliate marketing agreements; I just want to make planning easier!
Our Florida State Parks never go out of style, they are great ANY time of year to experience. Silver Springs is conveniently located in north central Florida, just east of Ocala, Silver Springs State Park has been a natural landmark destination since the 1870s. This makes it pretty easy to get to from any North or Centrally located areas. It pairs well with other day trips in the area or can truly be its own full day of fun.
Silver Springs State Park
First Impressions/ How to Visit
Silver Spring State Park:
*This is one of the largest Artisan springs in the world!
*There are two different entrances, and both give access to a different side of the park (see map)
*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
*There is no swimming in the spring! Paddle, Kayak, boat, or grab a spot in their glass bottom boats to experience the waterway here.
What will we do at this Florida Gem?
There are 4,000-acres to explore at Silver Springs State Park! While the Springs are a main feature here, 5-miles of Silver River and surrounding sandhill forest offer so much to discover. Options include visiting the Silver River Museum, bicycling, hiking some scenic trails, camping in a tent or RV and one of our favorite, paddling the river! Manatees and monkeys are best seen when you get to see from the river view. If you prefer land, wander among cypress trees and serene gardens surrounding the main spring.
Of course, each time I experience the nature of Silver Springs I feel like wandering!
This is a fun park to hike, and trails can be short or long depending on your preference. I enjoy looking at the wildlife. We have spotted alligators (baby alligators) and huge manatees, which swam right into the loading dock for kayaks. I stood on the ramp and the manatee about swam right to me (no touching of course that is a violation of both State and Federal laws). They do seem unusually friendly and curious, making them sensitive to harm. There is a list of all the native animals below.
Favorite Hikes: All of which are considered "easy", can all be done on the same day:
Silver Springs Swamp Trail 1.8 miles,
Silver Springs River Trail 2.0 miles,
Ross Allen Island Boardwalk .7 miles.
Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center - Located inside of Silver Springs State Park, they serve the Marion County Public Schools on weekdays and are only open to the public on weekends. They share some of the Seminole history, fossils, prehistoric artifacts and have a replica of a Pioneer Village. If you have kids who love learning, there are some awesome things to see here!
Saturday & Sunday: 10 am to 4 pm
Admission: $2 per person, children under 6 FREE
Camping reservations for all Florida State Parks are made online through Reserve America. Visit them at https://floridastateparks.reserveamerica.com/.
There are 10 luxury cabins and a 59-site, full-facility campground.
A Personal Note When Visiting...
Upon the entry, Silver Springs felt like a small city. People are dining, waiting to board boats, and all over the main entrance area. Once on the trails or on the water we felt like we had the place to ourselves!
*Our favorite time to visit is later in the afternoon, or after the afternoon showers (this makes the park much less crowded).
Our teenagers loved climbing trees, stopping to watch wildlife and posing for selfies with the interesting nature photo ops along the way. Our baby loved strolling through and admiring all of the sights and sounds surrounding us.
On a trip to Silver Springs on January 1, 2023, we met friends who were camping in the area for the afternoon. 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. Every time we've gone, it's been a unique experience.
**This is such a fun place to bring a group of kids together. Family fun, quality time and the spirit of exploration will go a long way here. We have best friends that live across the State and it's a good meeting point as well. Can easily bring a cooler and spend a whole day!
Among the wildlife in the park are armadillos, white-tailed deer, wild boars, wild turkeys, foxes, alligators, fox squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, Florida black bears and gopher tortoises. A colony of non-native rhesus macaques monkeys were introduced to the park in 1938 by a tour boat operator. The monkeys are allowed to live in Florida due to their contributions to science. You're more likely to see the monkeys from the water trails than the boardwalks if you are hoping to catch them.
~If you plan to sleep in the area, and are not camping, 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!
~This can be a free day, or a costly day depending on what you want and how you budget.
~You can bring your own paddle board or kayak and load it, ramp is closest to the corner of the parking lot.
~Have an hour? This is an amazing place to spend it! Go walk some trails and admire the beauty of it all.
~Hoping to catch the Glass Bottom Boat Tour? Purchasing your tickets online HERE ensures there will a time slot at your convenience. Times book in advance.
~Silver Springs has been refurbishing different parts of the park, the process is planned to take years, check the website to see if this will impact your plans (for the most part it didn't bother our day or experience, the restaurants were closed, but we had our cooler full and ready!
~I'm pretty good with a map but did not find paths well marked or labeled. I often felt I was wandering in the wilderness to be quickly reunited with a main trailhead.
Wanting to paddle? Paddling – Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs Paddling Adventures make this day easier! They advertise closing at 6 pm. We have been there earlier and they are already gone for the day. Please call first.
Clear water and the frequent turquoise pools formed by dozens of springs in the river will lure you into this serene jungle like waterway.
Rent a canoe - fits up to 3 people
Rent a kayak - single or double options available
Stand up Paddle Boards available for rent.
There is a 2$ or 4$ launch fee for using your own vessel.
You are going with the natural flow of the water, making this an enjoyable not very strenuous activity. The outfitters do provide transportation back upstream.
Other things to do in Ocala:
Ocala National Forest is a jewel of nature nestled in the heart of Florida, spanning over 383,000 acres of diverse wilderness. Snorkel, swim in the springs, hike, or camp!
Ocala Downtown Square & Historic District Address: SE 1st Ave, Ocala, FL 34471, United States
From Victorian-era architecture to charming local boutiques and restaurants, the downtown square is delightful to explore. Shop, eat, wander!
Sholom Park Address: 7110 SW 80th Ave, Ocala, FL 34481, United States
is a picturesque park that offers scenic walking trails, fishing docks, picnic areas, and more, making it a great place to spend a day with family and friends!
Other Springs to Visit:
If you had your heart set on getting in the spring for swimming or a nice float, consider a drive to either Altoona, or Apopka.
Alexander Spring - A great place to bring the floats and enjoy the refreshing pristine water. Don't forget the snorkel and goggles as you can see the spring ledge pretty easily. This is a fun place to plan a family picnic, bring a cooler and let nature do it's thing!
Kelly Park Rock Springs - This is one of the most family friendly springs around as the water is not too deep, mostly averaging 1 - 3 feet, and the current makes it especially fun to float! 72 degrees year-round, the water may cool you on a hot day or warm you on a cooler day! But its always breath taking.
We have also paired Silver Springs with the Prehistoric Devil's Den Spring, as that timed snorkel was in Williston and Ocala is on our way back to Brevard County. We like to make the car ride more scenic and add some fun stops to our day trips! Devil's Den was a different type of Spring experience, where you are in an underground cave surrounded by the limestone walls! A unique experience.
Rain Rain Rain
Florida is known for heating up until the humidity breaks into an afternoon storm. Sometimes these last a mere 15 minutes, and other times bring the wrath of the tropics along with it. While a good rain will clear out many of the visitors, if it isn't lightning, many will continue to explore. Some find shelter to ride out the rain, later to enjoy a much less crowded park. This is one of the Floridian secrets to having a great time - enjoying the calm after the storm!
For more ideas of what to do on a rainy day click HERE.
Silver Springs Affordability meter: 9/10
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 9.
Aside from gas to get there, and our picnic lunch, this day is very economical. I paid $8.00 at the State Park entrance, having a Florida State Park pass gets you in all year for one price, and makes visiting our gems very economical. 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.
That being said, coming in with a family and taking advantage of all that is offered such as renting a kayak, or doing the glass bottom boat tour or eating in their restaurants, I may feel differently. Prices are reasonable, but with a big family it gets easy to drop $100.00 just on the activity. If eating in their restaurant, that would easily be another $100.00. Witha family of 5, costs add up quickly. We do have our own water vessels and my son will often bring his inflatable kayak places where he may want to dip into the water.
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I specialize in helping families spend more time enjoying their quality time together and less time having to figure it all out. My four children have been my test subjects of how to plan a great family adventure for many years and now that my youngest is 18, many of my travels are work related, or grandma related! As time has changed, I've evolved but I still LOVE TO TRAVEL, explore, wander, visit, discover, learn and love. If nature is there, I can find my happy place. I use the term "single" not to emphasize a relationship status but to signify that if I can manage some family fun on a limited teacher's salary with four children, anyone can do it. I am just very intentional in how I spend my time and earnings. I typically seek out budget friendly ways to enjoy my time, but will occasionally splurge for the right reasons :-)
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.
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