Weekend exploring the Central Florida Springs
Happy April fellow Floridians and fans of Florida! As summer approaches and summer vacation inches into a reality, I thought it only appropriate to share one of my favorite weekend getaways, a weekend roadtrip to the Central Florida Springs! While I myself went on this trip during the fall, it is an ideal trip during the summertime due to the spring's 72 degree year round temperature!
okay, let's get planning...
Day 1: Dunnellon, Florida
Our first stop: Rainbow Springs State Park, a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. It is Florida's fourth largest spring and one of my very favorites! You can rent kayaks and canoes from inside the park. Additionally, tube rentals are available from April until October. Check out this website for more details.
Eats: After our kayak trip down the Rainbow river, we made some must see stops before heading to our hotel for the night. Our first stop was to the local U-Pick farm called The Pickin' Patch which is open from the end of September until the end of October. Other stops included pies at Front Porch Restaurant (say yes to the Banana Cream Pie pictured below) and dinner at Stumpknockers on the River. Other good eats include: Blue Gator Tiki Bar and Swampys Bar and Grille.
Stay: Check out VRBO for house rentals on the Rainbow River.
After a full day on Rainbow River, my husband and I drove to nearby Crystal River (about a 20 minute drive from Dunnellon) and stayed at The Plantation Inn at Crystal River. While this place has mixed reviews online, it was reasonably priced, which prompted our decision to stay there. All in all, I was very pleased with our stay and would certainly recommend it if you prefer to stay in a hotel and are able to snag a deal!
Day 2: Crystal River and Cedar Key, Florida
Our first stop of the day was a kayak trip to around Crystal River, King's Bay, and my favorite spot, Three Sister Springs. We ended up renting our kayaks at the nearby rental center called Kayaks and Beyond. For more details click here.
After several hours of kayaking around the various springs and Kings Bay, we were hungry! As such, we decided to drive 15 minutes south to Homosassa to try out The Freezer Tiki Bar (pictured above.) This place was absolutely awesome and a MUST for seafood lovers and those looking for cheap local eats/drinks. After our trip to the tiki bar we stopped by Homosassa Springs (eh, pass) and traveled north to Cedar Key (about 50 minutes north from Crystal River)
Cedar Key was an absolutely charming destination and well worth the detour. However, if you only have a short time to check out Cedar Key make sure to spend your time grabbing some famous clam chowder at Tony's Seafood followed by happy hour and spectacular sunset views at The Low Key Hideaway Tiki Bar (pictured below.)
Crystal River, Florida: Plantation Inn at Crystal River
Cedar Key, Florida: Low Key Hideaway
Day 3: Ocala National Forest and Mount Dora
Day three can be jam packed into one day (we live in south Florida so we were able to explore along our route home) or can be enjoyed as a separate weekend adventure.
Our first stop of the day was to Silver Springs State Park. To me, this park encompasses the charm of old Florida and makes you feel as if you've time traveled back into the 1950's when parks like this one were at their peak. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and/or taking a ride on the world renowned glass bottom boats. For more information visit here.
After visiting Silver Springs we headed East on the I-40 until reaching our next destination: Juniper Springs (pictured below) where you can choose to take a dip in the designated swim area or, if you arrive early enough, set out on the Juniper canoe run (some difficulty for inexperienced kayakers.)
After Juniper, we drove south to Alexander Springs Recreational Area to dip our toes in the perfectly clear spring water followed by a short 1 mile hike along the Timucuan Trail (also pictured below.)
Our last stop on our weekend adventure was to Mount Dora, Florida. This town is full of old Florida charm and is a great destination for those looking to shop or grab a meal before the journey home. Be sure to stop by the Mount Dora Lodge (pictured above) located in the heart of downtown.
Eats: Mount Dora, Florida: The Goblin Market, Copacabana, PizzAmore
Stay: Ocala National Forest: camp at Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs Recreational Area