Visiting Florida beyond the theme parks – Alexander Springs
Florida is known for stunning natural springs, and at just an hour and a half north of Orlando, Ocala National Forest should be on your must-visit list, but be prepared!
5 Things Every Iowan Should Know About Visiting Ocala National Forest
1. Know the trail system, environmental dangers (ex: bears and poisonous snakes) and plan ahead. Unlike the well-marked trails of the Superior Hiking Trail, most of the Florida Trail is for more experienced hikers and trailheads are challenging to locate.
2. Bring along plenty of food and water. Supplies can be difficult to find once inside the National Forest.
3. Day use fees are per person, per location.
4. Unmaintained backroads are sandier and softer than Class B roads in Iowa. Becare driving, especially in the rain.
5. Don’t forget the bug spray. You will be visiting a forest!
The water temperature at the natural springs is constantly 72 degrees year-round. While this sounds so nice when it’s hot and humid, little kids will still get cold quickly.
Bring along snorkeling gear (we got some from our visit to Discovery Cove) and floatation devices. Near the shore, the water is a great depth for kids but it gets very very deep near the spring outlet and there is a slight undertow.
Keep an eye out; a resident alligator lives at Alexander Springs. Seeing an alligator in the wild was on my Florida wish list, but I didn’t meet her in the water.
A park ranger was on hand as dusk drew near and we later learned that he was just keeping an eye out for the gator who has never hurt anyone. Apparently, it swims over the spring and down the river in the evening. In between swimming and relaxing the afternoon away, the Timucuan Trail is a perfect hike for families. At just under a mile long, the environmental habitat changes several times.
More Florida Fun
We love to take the kids into nature but we also like to balance with some typical kid fun! LEGOLAND Florida was a huge surprise and has beautiful natural elements in Cypress Garden like the Banyan Tree!
Anna Maria Island is a fabulous place to spend a few days soaking up the sand and playing islander. Don’t forget to check out Florida State Parks like Myakka with its canopy walkway and viewing tower.
Florida beyond the theme parks – Alexander Springs