Before you plan your holiday, keep in mind that not all tubing areas are the same. Nevertheless, some general rules and characteristics apply to all of them.
During the summer months this sites are crowded. Specially on weekends. If possible be there early so you find a spot to park.
Yes, there are alligators and bears. Alligators are not that common but you just have to be aware they might be around. Bears stay away as long as visitors and campers don't leave food out disposing facilities or their cars.
Most lazy rivers have water temperatures between 68 to 72 degrees. This is usually ok for adults but for small children extended periods in the water might be too cold. For small children I would recommend a small inflatable boat. That way they are not in contact with the water and can go tubing with their parents without being wet all the time.
Most parks have camping available. This might give you some extra time in the water or in the trails.
Not all parks will accept dogs, if they do, they need to be on a leash and cannot get close to the water.
This list comes from the most searched tubing locations in Florida gathered on related search terms in Google Trends. These sites are the most searched for the last 5 years. They are not the latest fad in tubing.
Rainbow Springs is West of the city of Ocala Florida. The springs provide crystal clear waters throughout the run.
The tube ride takes 2 hours.
The current will move visitors downstream to about 1mile/hr. Tubing is seasonal but the springs have a constant temperature of 72 degrees. Children must be over the age of 5 to go tubing.
There is a company that will rent the tubes and will provide tram services to visitors. You can bring your own inner tubes but still have to pay. Source:Floridastateparks.org
Bring reusable containers for water or other foods. Bring goggles so you can look at the incredible wildlife underwater. Also bring your snacks and a dry bag.
The springs allow for canoeing and kayaking down the spring. The only drawback is taking the vessel 1800 feet from parking site to the boat launch.
Ichetucknee Springs is just northwest of Gainesville.
The Ichetucknee River is six miles long. Its major attraction are the 8 springs scattered throughout the park. You may see some of them while tubing downstream. These springs provide the crystal waters that attract most swimmers and tubers.
There is a tram service for tubers. The springs offer different lengths depending on your group or time. If you want a short refreshing flow down the river, it takes from 45 minute to 1 hour, from the midpoint.
For a long ride of three and a half hours and a distance of 3 miles you can park at the south entrance. There you will get a shuttle ride to the north launch site where you can float down the river.
Tubing is seasonal, but canoeing and kayaking works all year long. You can bring your own kayak or paddle board.
While drifting down the river you will see wildlife, fish, tall grass and a canopy of trees over you. More information at ichetukneesprings.com. The upper portion of the spring is the most pristine and a National Natural Landmark.
Ginnie Springs is 39 miles northwest of Gainesville.
This park has 7 crystal clear springs with an average temperature of 72 degrees year round.
Tubing takes place down the Santa Fe river. You will see where the crystal clear waters of the spring mix with the dark water of the river. Because the tubing is down the river you will not be in crystalline waters but brown waters.
This lazy river will take about 1 hour from the access point to the tube exit. To go back to Ginnie Springs you have to walk about 15 min.
The park rents tubes, and snorkels. You may bring your own tubes and paddle boards.
Kelly Park is just north of Orlando. With a manmade beach next to the spring for easy access of swimmers.
The springs have an average temperature of 68 to 72 degrees year round. The water is crystal clear, great for snorkeling.
The run takes 25 minutes to float from beginning to end. There is no shuttle. The walk back to the main park takes 10 minutes on a paved path Source: ocfl.net.
The run is not very deep but you can also use a kayak, though they are not rented inside the park.
The park has pavilions and nice areas to have a picnic next to the water. It also has seven miles of hiking trails. The park is a great place for the whole family, not just because of the amenities, shallow spring pool, and the beach, but because it offers a nice playground.
No pets and no alcohol are allowed.
Blue Spring State Park is a 50 minute drive north of Orlando. The park has 2,643 acres alongside St. Johns River.
Gorgeous scenery, easy access with wooden boardwalks that go through the mature forest. These boardwalks are ideal to watch wildlife inside and outside the springs, without major disruption of nature.
Blue water all over. 72 degrees all year long. Winter is the best time to see manatees.
Because the manatees mainly swim into the spring between November and March seeking constant warmer waters than those in the Gulf of Mexico, water activities are restricted in those months. Source: frvta.org
There are different sections or zones, a swimming area, a tubing area, and a Kayak launch area.
It is possible to rent tubes at the park. The tube run is 1/8 mile long.
Turkey Creek is a small creek located south of Crestview in the Florida Panhandle located in Niceville. This lazy river is not in the top list but it is small and known by locals.
The charm of this creek is that it is ideal for families. The creek is in a town which is convenient for any emergencies. It also has many platforms where families can access the boardwalk and walk to the car if the little ones feel they are ready to go home. This is quite convenient with small children.
This creek has 6 platforms to access the water. The boardwalk takes about 20 minutes to walk from beginning to end.
The creek has a couple of beaches but it can be up to a 6 feet deep in some areas. Floating down the creek takes about 30 minutes.
There is no tube renting or food allowed in the creek. You can eat at the pavilions provided at the two entrances of the park.
I have been to all sorts of water amenities around the world. I love to swim in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and creeks. But when I was in Mississippi doing my Masters in Marine Science, I went tubing for the first time.
I thought tubing in a lazy river was the coolest experience. You have a chance to swim, lay on a tube, drink, eat, tan, dive in the water..... just a bit of everything in one activity.
Now I live in Florida and the lazy rivers tend to be more of a tourist attraction. Nevertheless, they are not as popular as Florida's beaches. Therefore, great for a weekend getaway!
The coolest thing about Florida lazy rivers is that you can find them crystal clear. Brown rivers are perfectly fine, they have tannins from decomposing organic matter, incredible places to swim in, but transparent rivers are a absolutely gorgeous!
As always, I love the topic so much I made map of it. This one just has a few spots, but they are totally worth it!
The location of Florida Springs was downloaded from Florida Department of Environmental Protection Geospatial Open Data.
The Shapefiles of Rivers and Streams was downloaded from Florida National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) - Flowlines (24k).
Florida State Park boundaries were downloaded from Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
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