If you’re wondering where to find the best Florida springs near Tampa, you’re already ahead of the crowd — dipping in gorgeous Florida springs makes for one of the state’s most iconic and memorable experiences.
While Florida may be known for its world-class beaches and endlessly sunny days, there’s a world of beauty waiting to be enjoyed among the state’s best freshwater springs near Tampa. And some of the best ones in all of the state happen to be within an easy day trip for fun with friends or family from Tampa and St. Petersburg, too.
Natural beauty abounds at Florida’s best springs near Tampa
Whether you’re a thrill seeker or a lazy river enthusiast, there’s a little something for everyone at the best springs near Tampa. And you can reach most of them in two hours or less from town.
As a general rule, Florida springs get particularly packed during the summer months, so it’s best to head to them in the morning before the heat of the afternoon kicks in. Our favorite time to make a splash snorkeling or swimming in the best springs near Tampa is actually during the winter, when crowds are scaled down and you can have some serious beauty spots often almost entirely to yourself.
Most of these springs offer tube rentals in the area, but we suggest bringing your own, if you have one, so you can just head right to the put-in point and get floating. Check out our list of the best springs in Tampa.
Springs near Tampa with epic tubing: Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~2 hours 30 mins (164 miles)
One of the most popular state parks in all of Florida, Ichetucknee Springs State Park also happens to be one of the best springs near Tampa and is a favorite among residents and tourists alike for its lush canopies of trees and pristine waters.
This park is home to a whopping eight springs that intersect to make for the extremely popular six-mile-long Ichetucknee River run. Whether you enjoy it by canoe, kayak, or tube, the fact that it has been designated a National Landmark means it’s sure to impress.
Once you enjoy the river, don’t miss out on a quick snorkel session in the Blue Hole. With water consistently 72-degrees, it’s a spot enjoyed during every season. Just don’t forget your mask and fins!
No tubing is allowed inside Rainbow Springs State Park so bring your best swimming skills to cool off.
Springs near Tampa with no tubing allowed: Rainbow Springs State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~1 hour 50 minutes (95 miles)
The best tip we can offer about Rainbow Springs State Park is to get here early. A beloved local spot, this park reaches capacity regularly on weekends and holidays and often has to close the entrance during peak times, sometimes already by the early morning hours.
While tubing is allowed down the renowned Rainbow River, rafts, tubes and balls aren’t allowed into the actual state park itself. Tubers can/should enter on S.W. 180th Avenue Road and check online to see the hours and dates when tubing is allowed.
A scuba diver’s view looking up from the spring head at Ginnie Springs (image courtesy of Ginnie Springs).
Springs near Tampa that scuba divers love: Ginnie Springs
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~2 hours 30 minutes (156 miles)
At Ginnie Springs the motto is “life is better at the springs,” and we couldn’t agree more! With seven springs to explore — all with waters around 72 degrees — this is a tubers’ paradise. Masks, fins and snorkels can all be rented at the Ginnie Springs Store.
If you’re hoping to snorkel, plan your trip here for the summer and early fall, when waters are the clearest. You’re sure to see turtles, catfish and mullet finning through the water alongside you.
The closet natural springs you can visit near Tampa are found at Lithia Springs Conservation Park.
Springs near Tampa within just a half-hour drive: Lithia Springs Conservation Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~30 minutes (20 miles)
One of the true hidden gems of Florida and one of the best spring in Tampa within about a half-hour drive of the city, Lithia Springs Conservation Park is an oasis where you can enjoy a day floating in crystal-clear water surrounded by palms.
Requiring just a $2 entry fee, Lithia Springs offers an inexpensive way to spend a day admiring the state’s natural beauty among friends and family. Though the actual spring can get quite deep, there’s a large shallow area where families like to play with their young kids.
This is the best Florida spring to visit if you’re looking for a quick dose of nature without getting too far out of Tampa proper.
During winter’s coldest spells, manatees flock to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
Springs near Tampa loaded with manatees: Three Sisters Springs at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~1 hour 21 minutes (80 miles)
Closed until November as part of a habitat restoration, Three Sisters Springs should definitely be at the top of your list for weekend getaways during the winter months. Home to a healthy population of manatees, the spring here attracts visitors in drovers during the winter season.
Here you can observe these gentle giants as they take refuge in the warm water in the wintertime, and this is the only place in North America where you can legally swim with manatees during organized tours or on self-guided adventures. Several local outfitters in Crystal River offer trips to snorkel with the manatees. When there’s a cold front, you’ll see them in greatest numbers.
Morning boat trips tender to offer the best encounters, too, so set your alarm and wake up early for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Be a bride or just for a ride aboard a glass-bottom boat at Silver Springs State Park, one of the best springs near Tampa (image courtesy of Silver Springs State Park).
Springs near Tampa with glass-bottom boats: Silver Springs State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~1 hour 40 minutes (104 miles)
Home to one of America’s largest springs, Silver Springs State Park is best enjoyed on a glass bottom boat tour experience. With more than 5,000 acres of park to enjoy, visitors often see everything from gopher tortoises and alligators to manatees and turtles in the clear waters. If boating isn’t your thing, affordable kayak and paddleboard rentals give you the option to explore on your own, too.
Ample shade and crystal clear waters await paddlers and swimmers at Juniper Springs Recreation Area (image courtesy of Juniper Springs Recreation Area).
Springs near Tampa with plenty of shade: Juniper Springs Recreation Area
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~2 hours 10 minutes (120 miles)
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Juniper Springs Recreation Area has been a popular spot and one of the best springs near Tampa for almost 100 years. If temperatures are a bit too hot or you’re worried about too much time in the sun, we recommend checking out this spot because it boasts a dense canopy of old palms and oaks that offer a generous amount of shade for swimmers enjoying the water.
With both a shallow end for young children and a deeper area for more comfortable swimmers, this a great spot for families with children of different ages.
Lu the hippo, moved here from the San Diego Zoo, is the most surprising resident at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (image courtesy of Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park).
Springs near Tampa for staying dry: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~1 hour 10 minutes (70 miles)
There’s a truly unique feature to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park — the famed Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory, an aquatic observatory that allows you to walk “underwater” while keeping dry to get an up-close view of the spring ecosystem. If you’re lucky, you might even be treated to views of a passing manatee or two. Also completely unique to the park is Lu, it’s most famous resident, a hippo that’s lived here since 1964 when she was moved here from the San Diego Zoo.
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic spring than Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, just over two hours from Tampa (image courtesy of Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park).
Springs near Tampa with serious outflow: Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~2 hours 20 minutes (116 miles)
The newest park in the state, Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park has multiple springs to enjoy. Gilchrist Blue, a second-magnitude spring, puts out an astounding 44 million gallons per day and is known for its renowned diversity of wildlife and plantlife alike. Photographers regularly flock here to capture the clear waters and scenic wildlife that abounds,
The daily mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park makes it one of the best springs near Tampa and in all of Florida, too (image courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park).
Springs near Tampa with mermaids in the mix: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Drive time to this entry among the top springs near Tampa: ~1 hour (56 miles)
At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, people come for the lazy river and stay for the mermaid show. Offered at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.,the underwater spectacle stars mermaids who are also incredible freedivers, brining a magical flair to the state park that children and adults alike can’t get enough of.
The free diving skills of the mermaids are impressive to watch (image courtesy of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park).
Meaning “little spring,” the name Weeki Wachee is admittedly misleading because it’s so deep that the bottom has actually never been located. Currents here can be strong, so if you enter the water to swim, make sure to stay within your comfort zone.