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Orlando is home to one of the world’s largest theme parks, a destination for water adventure and family entertainment. Many a childs’ fantasy and the Superbowl MVPs yearly go-to, this Central Florida travel destination is a city known best for its amusement parks, Disney characters, and luxury accommodations.
But this magical kingdom has a lot more to see than princesses and pirates. Not as well-known as Miami snorkeling destinations, the Florida peninsula offers hundreds of natural springs, home to some of the best snorkeling spots on the east coast.
Water, water is just about everywhere in the sunshine state, and just a few hours from Disney World, Florida’s main attraction, you’ll find equally magical places to snorkel. Here are 10 you won’t want to miss.
Note: A spring’s magnitude is determined by the volume of flow per unit time. First and second magnitude springs are the two largest, and most of Central Florida’s best snorkeling springs are in first or second magnitude springs.
Address: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka
Drive time: 29 min
A stone’s throw away from Orlando is Wekiwa Springs, 1 of 600 springs in the state of Florida. Opening at 8 a.m, snorkelers are welcome to explore the clear, cool, 72-degree water of the state park.
Explore the second-magnitude spring that pumps out 43 million gallons of water per day.
Cost: $6 per vehicle.
Address: 2100 W French Ave. in Orange City
Drive time from Orlando: 48 min
An oasis just 45 minutes north of Orlando, Blue Spring is one of Central Florida’s most popular snorkeling destinations. A designated Manatee Refuge, Blue Spring is open for snorkelers to explore the 72-degree waters during all seasons except winter, when the spring waters provide a safe refuge for manatees.
A first-magnitude spring, Blue Spring discharges 100 million gallons of water each day.
Cost: $6 per vehicle
Address: 49525 County Road 445, Altoona, FL 32702
Drive time from Orlando: 1 hr 6 min
Enjoy the spring-fed turquoise waters of Alexander Springs all year long. 72-degree clear waters welcome visitors to swim, snorkel, dive and canoe in the first-magnitude, broad, shallow spring basin, ideal for snorkelers of all ages.
Check out bluegill and other sea life, then hike, bike, and kayak along the spring run. Located on the eastern side of the Ocala National Forest, Alexander Springs offers overnight camping as well as picnic areas.
Cost: $6 per person.
Address: 109 West Silver Springs Boulevard | Ocala, FL 34475
Drive time from Orlando: 1 hr 19 min
Along the edge of the Big Scrub of the Ocala National Forest, you’ll find Silver Glen Springs where snorkelers are likely to see hundreds of fish congregated near the first-magnitude spring boil, enjoying the cool and refreshing water.
About 65 million gallons of 72-degree water is discharged daily from two large vents. And if the sun is shining, rainbows spread across the floor of the crystal clear waters.
The surrounding recreation area and waterway offers paddling, picnicking and hiking.
Cost: Weekdays $8 per person, Weekends $11 per person
Address: 13851 N. Hwy 19, Salt Springs, FL 32134
Drive time from Orlando: 1 hr 28 min
Home to an abundance of marine life and aquatic vegetation, snorkelers are sure to come across some unique habitats. Slightly salty waters are filled with striped bass, mullet, small fry, needlefish and blue crabs. The 72-degree waters pump approximately 53 million gallons of water per day.
Cost: $6.50 per person per day
Address: 498 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, FL 34429
Website : discovercrystalriverfl.com
Drive time from Orlando: 1 hr 38 min
Never snorkel alone at Crystal River where manatees make the best companions. Join USCG licensed Master Captains on a snorkel tour where you’ll swim among the gentle underwater giants. Snorkel through the spring-fed ecosystem and get up close and personal with the charmingly friendly manatee.
*Note: While people- friendly, it’s best not to touch the manatee.
Cost: From $66.00
Address: 19158 S.W. 81st Place Road in Dunnellon
Drive time from Orlandi: 1 hr 46 min
The fourth-largest, and oldest (10,000 years old) spring in Florida, snorkelers can expect to see a variety of Floridian fish, turtles, and manatees in the sapphire-blue waters.
Note: Snorkeling is only allowed in the buoyed swimming area, but snorkelers can venture out from the campground or from boats.
Cost: $2 per person
Address: 5390 N.E. 180th Ave., Williston
Drive time from Orlando: 2 hrs.
A 10,000 year-old prehistoric spring, 30 minutes from Gainesville, Devil's Den, known for its steam-rising stream, is a popular snorkeling destination.
Cost: Admission is $15 per person on weekdays and $22 per person on weekends and holidays. Snorkeling equipment rental is extra.