Guide to 11 Best Things to Do in Silver Springs State Park in Ocala
Crystal clear water, abundant wildlife, and lush vegetation. That's what you get at Silver Springs State Park. If you are looking for a beautiful and historic park that's an excellent place for outdoor activities, this is a fantastic spot to spend the day.
Silver Springs has the distinction as one of America's largest artesian springs. The park is about an hour and a half drive northwest of Orlando, located on Silver Springs Blvd in Silver Springs, Florida.
Whether you like to go kayaking, camping, or tear it up on a mountain bike, Silver Springs State Park has a little something for everyone.
Read on to find the perfect activity for your trip.
Active Things To Do at Silver Springs State Park
Hands down, kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Silver Springs State Park. There are many cool things to see and experience on the Silver River.
The water is so clear you can see fish, turtles, and eelgrass that live below the surface. Orlando boat tours are a neat way to see Florida's wildlife.
You can paddle an inflatable kayak or rent a kayak onsite. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available from one of the local paddle shops in the area.
Discovery Kayak rentals provided all the gear we needed for kayak rentals. They also handled transportation from Ray Wayside Park after we floated downriver.
The entire trip takes about 3 hours, depending on how fast you paddle. We recommend taking your time to enjoy the scenery; there is a lot to take in. In addition to the landscape surrounding you, paddling with manatees is an experience you won't soon never forget.
2. Glass Bottom Boat Tour
A glass-bottom boat tour might be perfect if paddling a kayak isn't for you. You can comfortably sit on the glass-bottom boat and see underwater without getting wet or breaking a sweat.
The world-famous glass-bottom boat tours are one of the staple attractions at Silver Springs State Park. Thirty-minute boat tours run daily and give you an incredible view of everything happening under crystal clear waters.
If thirty minutes isn't long enough, 90-minute tours are available on the weekends. The glass bottom boats showcase the river's wildlife and underwater vegetation. In addition to this, you can see various fish species and rock formations that you don't get to see from the shore.
A glass-bottom boat tour is a great family-friendly activity. Tickets are $13 for adults, and kids under 5 are free.
3. Silver River Museum
The Silver River Museum is within Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida. The museum is only open to the public on weekends as the public school system uses it during the week.
The Silver River Museum provides kids with a hands-on experience to learn about science and the history of the state of Florida. The museum also teaches children about environmental awareness.
The museum and environmental education center have three galleries and a gift shop. It's a great place to learn about the history and culture of the area. The galleries include:
- Prehistoric and cultural artifacts
- Native American heritage
- The natural history of Central Florida and Marion County
- The history of early settlers in the area
The Silver River Museum is a fun family activity. Admission is $2, and children under 6 are free.
For people who love sleeping under the stars and getting close to nature, camping is a fun thing to do at Silver Springs State Park. Each campsite is complete with electrical hookups, fire rings, picnic tables, and grills for cooking.
The campground has tent sites and RV campsites. Firewood and ice are available onsite in addition to a dump station and two campground bathhouses.
If you are up for a little more adventure, primitive campsites are available in the recreation area. The primitive camping area is for group camping and those who want to “rough it” with no potable water or shower facilities. Thankfully, there are toilets available here.
Camping reservations are highly encouraged. You can make a reservation on the State park camping website.
5. Hiking Trails
Hiking is a great way to explore all that Silver Springs State Park offers and for you to get some exercise. There are several excellent trails at the park and most are pretty easy to get around.
Swamp Trail gives you a birdseye view of the Silver River and leads to a swamp, as its name indicates. Never fear: there is a boardwalk to walk on top of the swamp so you can leave your rubber boots at home.
The hiking trails at Silver Springs range from under 1 mile to over 4.5 miles, so there is something for every level of hiker.
If you are looking for a great way to see unique wildlife and lush green vegetation, then take a walk on the wild side at Silver Springs State Park. Remember to pack sunblock and lots of water.
6. Paddle Boarding
Paddle boarding is a great way to explore the springs' natural beauty and gives you a unique perspective. You have a different vantage point on a stand-up paddle board than in a kayak because you are likely standing on the board.
The great thing about paddle boarding is that you can sit, kneel or stand, according to your comfort level. Being able to adjust your position throughout a 3+ hour paddle on the Silver River is a great option.
No matter how you paddle, you'll see plenty of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and possibly monkeys. You can rent a paddle board onsite or from one of the local paddle shops in the area.
Paddle boarding is an excellent way to get some exercise and enjoy a day on the water.
7. Horseback Riding
Saddle up, because a great way to see the natural beauty of Silver Springs State Park is by horseback. The park has trails that wind through the forest and give you excellent views of Silver River. You can also see wildlife, including deer, monkeys, and various species of birds.
Horseback riding is a great activity the whole family can enjoy. But, if you don't own your horse, Cactus Jack Trail Rides has you covered, offering rides at nearby Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, which is part of Florida State Parks.
8. Check Out Wildlife
Alligators, manatees, monkeys, and turtles are just some of the incredible wildlife you will find at Silver Springs State Park. Additionally, the cool, clear water is 74 degrees year-round making it an ideal habitat for a variety of aquatic plants and animals.
The rhesus monkeys in the park are not easy to spot, but you can catch a glimpse of them if you scan the forest with intent.
Alligators are quite a sight, especially if you have never seen one before. You can find them sunning on fallen trees and other areas where you might not expect to see them if you look carefully. You might even see an alligator swimming through the spring water if you are lucky.
Don't forget that a highlight at Silver Springs State Park for you may be kayaking with manatees. There is nothing quite like seeing these gentle giants up close and personal.
Just remember to keep your distance from all wildlife. If you don't bother the animals, they won't bother you.
Although there are no motorboat launches inside Silver Springs State Park, motorized boats, canoes and kayaks can launch from Ray Wayside Park. If paddling isn't your style, touring the Silver River by motorized boat is efficient and less work.
Silver River is a “no wake” zone, so boats have to maintain a slow speed. This, however, is excellent because going slow allows you to see all the river's marine life and ensures you won't scare it away.
If you launch at Ray Wayside and head upriver, it takes about two hours to get to the head of the spring. It takes one hour to get back to the boat launch.
Although there are some bike trails inside the park, they get pretty congested with foot traffic, so biking opportunities are limited. There are some nice paved areas to ride but cyclists need to yield and dismount when pedestrians are in the area.
Swimming is prohibited in Silver Springs State Park. However, there are many other ways to enjoy the water, like kayaking, paddle boarding, or taking a glass-bottom boat tour.
Silver Springs State Park Amenities
Silver Springs State Park has various amenities to make your experience more enjoyable. These include cabin rentals, a kayak/canoe launch, laundry facilities, a playground, restrooms, and concessions.
Vacation cabins are available for up to six people. The camping cabins come fully equipped with a kitchen, dining room, central air conditioning, two bedrooms, and one bathroom. In addition, a fire pit, barbecue grill, and picnic table are outside each cabin.
After a long day exploring the park, you can cozy up to a nice campfire at the end of the day. Renting a cabin is a terrific family-friendly weekend activity.
If you plan to paddle with a group of people, the kayak/canoe launch is a great place to unload a kayak trailer and launch your watercraft. The launch fee is $4. Beware: the launch gets busy and hectic on the weekends.
Laundry facilities are available for campers staying at the campgrounds. So if your kiddos get filthy dirty, no worries! You can do laundry while staying at the Silver Springs State Park campground.
We bring our own travel laundry detergent sheets when we travel so we don't have to buy from the limited onsite options. (Or worse, risk there not being any!)
A small playground is on site by the camping entrance to the park. If the kids get bored with all the other activities at the park, the playground is an excellent place to burn some energy.
There are plenty of restrooms at the park. One bathroom by the main entrance, one is by the kayak launch, and one is by the pavilions close to the playground and camping entrance.
Pay showers are available if you are not staying in a cabin or one of the camping spots. If you are in need of a shower while you're there but you're not staying there, you are in luck.
Silver Springs State Park Conclusion
Silver Springs State Park has a lot to offer if you are a nature lover or outdoor recreation enthusiast. Camping, paddling, hiking, and the famous glass-bottom boat tours are great ways to explore this natural beauty and see interesting wildlife. Silver Springs State Park is a great spot to escape your day-to-day life and spend a day or the weekend.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.