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July 5, 2021
With more than 900 natural springs, about 40 of which are open to the public, Florida is the perfect state to explore via its waterways. What better way than by hopping into a tube to drift alongside your family?
Here are our picks for the best places to go tubing in Florida and we’ll start with Florida’s natural springs and rivers:
Wekiwa Springs converges with Rock Springs, a crater-edged creek within Kelly Park, to form the headwaters of the 17-mile-long Wekiva River leading to the St. Johns River. Rock Springs Run is a brisk 67-degree stream adored by tubers and kayakers. Be sure to bring your own float or rent one for about $7 at the roadside concession before entering the park. It’s okay to use a pool noodle or a float that is less than 5 feet in length.
This is a shorter tube run that can easily be enjoyed multiple times throughout your visit. Pack a picnic to enjoy during a break from the water. Plan for a drive of about 1 ½ hours from Tampa.
You can also launch a canoe or kayak from Kings Landing to twist your way amongst alligators, birds, turtles, otters and rarely seen monkeys. Like Orlando-area theme parks, Kelly Park can get packed, so arrive early before park capacity is met.
Considered the crown jewel of tubing destinations, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located about 2 ½ hours north of Tampa, just beyond Alachua. Ichetucknee is actually a cluster of nine springs that collectively gush well over 200 million gallons of brisk water every day. Named as a National Natural Landmark, archaeologists discovered two Indian mounds and a village site on the grounds.
The 72-degree spring-fed water is crystal clear so you can see all the way down to the white sandy bottom. You’ll discover fish, turtles and more. Ichetucknee Springs is described as a peaceful place where stress simply drifts away. To experience it, bring your own tube or rent one from either the park stand or an outside vendor. Tubing is accessible from the south entrance.
FYI: the park limits the number of daily visitors (so arrive early) and imported items such as potential trash such as food and disposables.
Park entry: $6 per car, plus an option for $5.50 tram service or $7.50 shuttle service
Archaeologists believe that people have been using Rainbow Spring, Florida’s fourth largest spring, for nearly 10,000 years. For about 30 years starting in the 1930s, the site, with its 250-foot-wide pool, was a privately-owned family amusement park with gardens, waterfalls, a zoo and even a rodeo space. Eventually, the land was restored and preserved, earning a National Natural Landmark designation.
Situated about 1 ½ hours north of Tampa, this spring amazes visitors with unusual sand boils, lush aquatic plants and brilliant white limestone, paired with remaining man-made park elements including waterfalls and azalea gardens.
Those looking to tube should access the tube-specific entrance. It’s about nine miles from the main headsprings entrance. (Tubing is not allowed within the headsprings area of the park.) Once inside, rent a tube ($20) and catch the shuttle service. You’ll then embark on a two-hour leisurely drift. For a longer float, start outside the park at KP Hole.
Note: Tubing is offered on weekends only through Sept. 28. Tubing is not available November through March.
Park entry: $5 per vehicle
Just over 2 hours from Tampa, Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. John’s River, spewing 104 million gallons of water every day. The stunning 73°F waterway is famous for its population of manatees, which migrate south during the winter.
Outdoor enthusiasts can rent tubes and launch off of a gravel bank. Florida State Parks suggests you “enter the water at the upper entry, swim to the spring boil and float back down to the main swim dock.” The float run is just an eighth of a mile.
You may also want to dive within the circular spring to explore the vertical cave; take a boat cruise on the St. John’s River; and enjoy a plethora of park amenities, such as birding and hiking. Rest up overnight in a cabin or tent.
Park entry: $6 per vehicle
Maybe you’d prefer to float down a lazy river at a theme park with quick access to restrooms, snacks and plenty of family-friendly fun! Here are some of our favorite spots to go tubing at Florida theme parks:
Grab a tube and float along the Rambling Bayou, a half mile long lazy river that takes you through the water park among the water slides and beautiful landscapes.
Buccaneer Bay is Florida’s only natural springs water park! In addition to the water slides and real mermaids there’s also a natural lazy river that circles the water park. Tubes are available for rent on site. Plan to arrive early because the park often fills to capacity, especially on weekends.
The Build-a-Raft Lazy River circles 1,000 feet around the water park. Be on the lookout for floating bricks to add to your LEGO tube. You need a separate admission ticket to go to the LEGOLAND Florida Water Park—it’s worth the ticket upgrade!
If you’ve got a trip planned to Walt Disney World this summer, a cool escape is Disney’s Blizzard Beach! There are waterslides for all ages and thrill levels and of course, the Cross Country Creek Lazy River, which stretches 3,000 feet through the park!