If you are looking for a great day trip, there are so many fun things to do in Silver Springs, Florida.
Silver Springs is in north central Florida, conveniently located less than 1.5 hours from Crystal River, Daytona Beach and downtown Orlando.
This is a great destination for outdoor adventure filled with natural beauty at every turn.
One of the best things about visiting Silver Springs, Florida is that you can have multiple adventures in one day.
Explore Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs is one of Florida’s first tourist attractions, founded in 1852.
Generations of tourists have been drawn to the water clarity and scenery surrounding one the largest Artesian springs in the United States.
The 4,000 acre park encompasses the springs, the forests and 5 miles of Silver River.
*Silver River State Park later merged to become Silver River State Park by the Florida Park Service in 2013.
Several movies have been filmed at Silver Springs State Park including Creature from the Black Lagoon and the James Bond movie Moonraker.
Clear Kayaks Rentals at Silver Springs State Park
5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL
If you are looking for a way to enhance your time paddling through the crystal clear water, I highly recommend renting a clear kayak.
Silver Springs is one of the best places to try clear kayaking for the first time. As someone from the Midwest this was one of the top things I wanted try during our visit.
I LOVED the tandem clear kayak because I love a gimmick… and it was so cool to see the river’s wildlife underneath us.
How Long Can You Rent Clear Kayaks For at Silver Springs State Park?
You can rent the clear tandem kayaks at the state park for 1 or 2 hours. It took us right around an hour with multiple wildlife stops.
Unfortunately, there are only tandem clear kayaks available to rent. It’s also important to note that there is a weight limit per seat
I would recommend booking the clear kayak for 2 hours. If you’re late for the 1 hour tour it’s $10 per person every 15 minutes.
The regular kayaks have a little more back support but I would say it’s worth trying a clear kayak at least once for the experience.
While we were on the water we saw people kayaking in regular kayaks and stand up paddle boarding too.
If you need to go to the bathroom before you kayak I would recommend walking the path that takes you near the entrance instead of the using the portable one.
There are several picnic areas located throughout the park if you want to enjoy a meal before or after your time on the water.
Additional Types of Rentals at Silver Springs State Park
- Single kayaks
- Tandem kayaks
- Canoes (Can seat 3 people)
- Stand up paddle boards
*You can bring your own kayak for a $4 launch fee if you prefer not to utilize the kayak rentals.
Paddling Options at Silver Springs State Park
Visitors can choose an hourly paddle for one or two hours or an extended paddle that takes 3-4 hours to complete.
The extended paddle takes kayakers 5 miles from Silver River headquarters to Ray Wayside Park. This paddle has return van transportation available for purchase for both kayak rental and owners.
What Types of Animals Could You See at Silver Springs State Park?
Silver Springs State Park has wild monkeys, manatees, gopher tortoises, armadillos, alligators, birds, deer, wild turkey, fish, fox, and Sherman fox squirrel.
It’s more rare to see the coyote, bobcats and the Florida black bear that inhabit the 4,000 acres of the state park.
During our visit we saw lots of local wildlife including wild monkeys, 2 gators, 5 manatees, turtles and lots of fish and birds.
Yes, there are monkeys at Silver Springs State Park but these monkeys aren’t native to Florida.
Silver Springs State Park has around 300 rhesus macaques that are native to south and southeast Asia.
How did the monkeys end up at Silver Springs?
The monkeys were released on an island in Silver River by the manager of a glass bottom boat in 1930 trying to attract more tourists.
The problem was that the monkeys could swim and repopulated the surrounding area.
When is the Best Time to Visit Silver Springs State Park?
The best time to visit Silver Springs State Park is in the early spring or fall. During that time the animals are more active and the warm weather isn’t too HOT.
We visited in early October and the weather was PERFECT!
One of the alligators (pictured above) wanted nothing to do with us. He swam past us without pausing to give us a second glance.
Silver Springs is the perfect place to slow down and appreciate all of beauty surrounding you.
After visiting I see why Silver Springs is one of the favorite places for kayaking by both locals and tourists alike.
Is Swimming Permitted at Silver Springs State Park?
Swimming isn’t permitted at Silver Springs but you can still find shade under the trees along the river if you get warm.
Take a Tour on One of the Silver Springs Glass Bottom Boats
You can experience a tour on one of the world famous glass bottom boats on one of America’s largest springs.
The 30 minute glass-bottom boat tour runs every 15-20 minutes, 365 days a year and doesn’t require a reservation.
The extended 90 minute glass bottom boat ride is available 3 times a day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Silver Springs glass bottom boat tour is a great option for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable going out on the water in a kayak.
If you are visiting the park with someone with special needs there is also a glass bottom wheelchair accessible boat.
Additional Things to Do at Silver Springs State Park
- Silver River Museum & Environmental Center (The Environmental education center is a program of Marion County public schools)
- Cracker Village – Replica of a 19th century pioneer settlement
- Camping – Silver Springs State Park has 59 tent/RV sites and 10 vacation cabins that sleep up to 6 people for overnight stays. You can make a reservation at the Silver Springs campground here.
- Explore the nature trails (There are miles of trails between the 5 hiking trails at Silver Springs State Park)
- Horseback riding
- Springside Restaurant -full meal menu options
- Paradise Treats – ice cream shop
- Shop at the gift shop
- Attend one the special events at Silver Springs State Park
- Visitor Center
Where is Silver Springs State Park Located?
Silver Springs State Park is located at 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, Florida.
We drove around 1.5 hours from St. Augustine and it was definitely worth the drive!
Silver Springs Florida to Orlando is 85.7 miles and around 1.75 hours.
The park is open 8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days a year.
What is the entry fee for Silver Springs State Park?
The entry fee for Silver Springs State Park is $8 per vehicle (two to eight people). The cost is $5 for a single occupant vehicle.
If you plan on visiting multiple Florida State parks you can save on your visit to Silver Springs State Park and other state parks with an annual pass.
Soul Food Lunch Stop at Mojo’s
4620 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala, Florida
(This restaurant isn’t technically in Silver Springs BUT it’s only 1.2 miles from Silver Springs State Park)
We found this restaurant online while searching for somewhere to eat near the state park. Mojo’s was definitely a wonderful discovery in all the best ways.
The restaurant had a unique theme with GREAT food!
You’ll find dishes that pay tribute to Rondo’s Cuban heritage throughout the menu also with Cajun-style dishes.
The restaurant theme is a fusion of owner Rondo Fernandez’s love of blues music, larger than life portions and enjoying a great time with friends or family.
The restaurant is filled with great quotes, incredible art and creative repurposing of instruments.
Make sure that you check out the incredible art installation with guitars winding to the top of the ceiling.
For our appetizer, we tried the Cajun fried dill chips that were served with house-made Cajun ranch.
For my entree I ordered the Pepin. The Cuban pork dinner is made with Mojo Cuban roast pork with sautéed onions, served with black beans and rice and sweet plantains.
Southern Style Shrimp and Grits topped with blackened shrimp, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and a Cajun Alfredo sauce.
We were too stuffed to try dessert but their bourbon peach bread pudding on the menu was really tempting.
Swim in a Natural Spring at Juniper Springs Recreation Area
26701 E Highway 40, Silver Springs, Florida
Juniper Springs is a popular destination and great place to spend the day relaxing while enjoying the natural springs surrounded by pine forests.
The best time to visit Juniper Springs is on a hot sunny day when the 72 degree water feels refreshing. During our visit it felt a little chilly but I’m still glad that I got in the water.
One of the best ways to adjust to the water temperature is to just jump in as quickly as possible.
The natural spring oasis is deceptively deeper than it looks at first glance because the water is so clear. My husband pictured above is 6’4 and dove down pretty far in the water.
Stick to the edges of the shallow end if you want a better chance of your feet touching the bottom.
The spring head of the main spring is an excellent place to swim. I should also note that there is no wading in the spring runs.
Be on lookout for small fish in the natural tape grass that grows along the bottom of the spring.
There are plenty of picnic tables if you want to pack a lunch and make a day of it.
If you want to extend your stay there are 79 tent and RV campsites.
Take Juniper Springs Nature Trail to See Fern Hammock Springs
It’s definitely worth taking the nature trail to see the additional crystal clear springs at Fern Hammock Springs.
This is an easy .8 mile roundtrip hike with several viewing areas to watch the bubbling springs.
We ending up walking the trail in our flip-flops that’s part footpath and boardwalk though the subtropical forest.
You are not allowed to wade in this spring run so save the swimming for Juniper Springs.
How to Save Money When You Visit Multiple Florida Springs
If you plan on visiting several springs over the course of 12 months the Ocala National Forest Springs Hopper Pass is a great value.
The Ocala National Springs Hopper Pass is a day-use pass for the following springs:
- Juniper Springs
- Alexander Springs
- Silver Glen Springs
- Clearwater Lake
- Wildcat Lake
*The hopper pass is available for purchase at Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs and Silver Glen Springs.
More Indoor Attractions Near Silver Springs, Florida
We had a great time during our visit to Silver Springs, Florida. Here are more attractions in the area if you want to extend your adventure.
If you want to take a break from the sun, you might want to check out the following attractions:
- The Appleton Museum of Art part of The College of Central Florida
- Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
- Ocala Civic Theatre