Just Florida Things: De Leon Springs State Park
“Never Stay Home Two Weekends in a Row.” For whatever reason, I was reading a post a couple of weeks ago written by a twice-divorced man for his sister on the eve of her marriage. In it, he detailed the things he had messed up and would ‘do-over’ differently so that hopefully she can avoid the same fate. Justin and I, although not married yet, are doing pretty well on most of them, but this one… this one stuck in my head until the following Saturday night at home…again. Justin and I are both out of the house during the week for about 12 hours each every day, so being home together on the weekends is its own sweet relief. But not the second one in a row! “We’re going on an adventure tomorrow.” I told Justin that night. As with most things if I say it with enough excitement, he acquiesced.
At the moment, I hadn’t yet figured out exactly what we were going to do. I was googling jet ski rentals when I remembered a day trip I went on with my parents earlier in the year: De Leon Springs State Park, home of the Fountain of Youth, a pancake house where your food is cooked right on the table in front you, à la hibachi, and, most importantly for adventuring, a natural, deep spring. All for the low base price of $6!* When I stopped there in February with my parents, I declined to do more than dip my toe in due to the frigid temperatures. It was decided.
Now with Florida summer in full swing, we can confirm that the water is the same temperature year-round, as advertised – and still rather arctic! Turns out, 72 degrees is a lot colder than it sounds. The people with wetsuits who weren’t even diving had the right idea. Maybe Justin and I can get a matching pair of ‘The Not So Brave Adventurers’-branded wetsuits for next time! Once we got over the initial bite, it was tolerable, thank goodness. Swimming here is certainly the thing to do on a hot Florida day!
Up top, the spring looks like a giant swimming pool. On this particular day, it was packed with people, but once we were in, there was plenty of room for us to swim, dive down, and snorkel around. I only got ran over by a kid in an inner tube once, but that was not for lack of space.
Underwater, it’s almost like a whole other world. The pool is barely shallow enough around the edges to be able to stand, but the ground tapers off quite quickly. With most people floating on top, their headless bodies dangling in the spring (kind of creepy), underwater feels much more vast, especially with a giant hole in the middle. We saw a couple of divers almost immediately, but would have had no idea they were there without looking beneath the surface. They were much braver than we are, not only to be scuba diving at all, but to be diving into a cave no less!
For me, being in a body of water this deep is a rare, surreal experience, and one that I only undertake with a certain sense of security – and good visibility. I have a healthy fear of a lot of things, many of which abound in deep, natural bodies of water, particularly in Florida. So we were quite content snorkeling and diving down until our ears popped, barely glimpsing the sharp downturn of the ground leading to the edge of the cave. To give you an idea of what it looks like:
We got out for a break with every intention of going back in to swim over the mouth of the cave and get some more cool shots with our underwater camera. Alas, we are but novice adventurers and once on shore, we realized that after only a short swim, we were pretty tired and thoroughly chilled enough to have second thoughts about a second plunge. That and our ears still felt funny. Next time…
Verdict: all in all a great mini adventure to fulfill our “never stay home two weekends in a row” quota. Both close and fun enough, the park has landed on our short list for quick weekend excursions, especially for our future out-of-town visitors looking for something novel and authentic-Florida to do!
* see the park’s website for your specific entrance fee
Have you been to De Leon Springs State Park and, if so, did you try the Pancake house or dive in the cave? Did you check it out because you read about it here? Tell us in the comments, especially if you have a video of the cave dive! We will live vicariously through you…
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Our Favorite Photos From The Trip:
Top Tips & Notes for Next Time: