When you hear the term “hot springs”, I bet Arkansas is probably one of the first places to come to your mind. Did you know there are also hot springs in the beautiful state of Florida?
Unfortunately, because of Florida’s geographical make-up, there’s only one open to the public; however, there are all kinds of springs to be visited in this state! We’ll start by discussing the hot springs in Florida, then move on to talk about a few other beautiful natural springs you can visit here.
Warm Mineral Springs
What started as an ancient sinkhole in southwest Florida is now an attraction that more than 100,000 people a year visit. Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida is a fascinating place to explore! A mineral spring is a body of water that is full of dissolved minerals, gasses, and sulfur. The water at Warm Mineral Springs has 51 minerals and a year-round 85°F temperature, making it warm and inviting — the epitome of Southern hospitality! It’s even fabled to be the Fountain of Youth that Juan Ponce de Leon came to Florida in search of.
Over 10,000 years ago, Warm Mineral Springs was just a massive sink hole in what would come to be known as North Port. In the 1970s, William Royal was the first person to scuba dive in the springs. His dives discovered stalactite formations, extinct animal bones, and human remains. His finds were dismissed because at that point, humans weren’t thought to have gotten to Florida until 3,000 years after the bones were carbon-dated. His discovery actually changed the theory about the timeline of humanity’s movement across North America
It was discovered that early American Indians used the original sink hole as a burial place. Human remains and primitive tools dating from 3,000-10,000 years old have been found! The most amazing find was a 10,000-year-old human skull that still contained brain matter. Bones of saber tooth tigers and giant sloths have also been found in the springs.
The water of Warm Mineral Springs has also gained a reputation for being magical, due to its incredibly high mineral content. Magnesium helps nerves function better, sulfate helps fight infection, and potassium helps electrolyte balance. There hasn’t been any medical proof of the spring’s healing properties, but residents, visitors, and employees all swear by the water, some actually calling it “Miracle Lake.”
If asked, some would tell you story after story of how wading in the water relieved them from inflammation, arthritis, and sciatica pain temporarily. There are actually several ailing Eastern Europeans and Northeners who have relocated their whole lives to be closer to the springs. Busloads of people from all over the United States pour in during the busy seasons in October/November and March/April to see if the claims are true!
Modern Day Fun
These days, North Port isn’t exactly crawling with saber tooth tigers or giant sloths, but the Warm Mineral Springs is still a great place to spend a day relaxing! This is a spring free of glass bottom boats, extreme water sports, and canoes. It’s simply a serene place to connect with nature and recharge.
Warm Mineral Springs is open every day from 9AM to 5PM. It’s $20/day for non-residents (only $15 for Sarasota County residents with proof of residency) and re-entry is permitted! There’s no food for sale on site, but food is allowed as long as it’s not in any sort of cooler.
There’s a designated children’s area for kids 10 and younger, and an outer perimeter for kids 11-16 years old. You’ve got to be at least 17 years old to swim in the middle of the springs, because it’s 200 feet deep at some points! Most rafts aren’t permitted, but pool noodles can be used anywhere in the Springs.
Sometimes scuba diving is even allowed in the deeper parts of the spring with a permit from the City of North Point!
If you’re looking to take your relaxation to the next level, there’s also a spa! Normal spa services, including facials and massages, are available. Call them at (941) 426-1692 to book services in advance.
Nearby Attractions and Places to Stay
Just a short half-mile from Warm Mineral Springs is the Warm Mineral Motel. It’s the epitome of old-school Florida charm. The spacious rooms have sliding glass doors that go out to a courtyard full of pools, poolside cabana huts, a shuffleboard court, shaded tables, and BBQ grills.
If you’re looking for nearby places to eat, check out Old World Restaurant, a family-run casual dining restaurant known for their beer and steaks; Shark’s Fish House, voted best seafood in North Port; and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, finish at K & K Bakery to end the day with a sweet treat.
Other Beautiful Florida Springs
The other hot springs in Florida are actually underwater caves off the coast of Florida, not easily accessible to the average traveler. Because of that, let’s take a second to explore some other hidden gems of Florida for you to discover!
Located along the Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park is a great place to visit if you love seeing animals in their natural habitat! There’s a wildlife walk that goes through woods and wetlands where you may see foxes, river otters, black bears, cougars, key deer, or hundreds of bird species.
On top of all of those animals, Homosassa Springs is actually a safe haven for manatees! There’s even an underwater viewing window where you can watch these gentle giants in their natural habitat. They have a gate that opens to allow manatees to enter the area surrounding the spring, and there’s another separation fence that allows expert staff to keep injured manatees separate to give them the time and space they need to heal before they open up the gates and let them go free once more.
Lithia Springs is right outside of Tampa and packs a ton to do in a smaller park system. The main attraction is certainly the Springs swimming area. The beautiful 72°F water is perfect for swimming, kayaking, or canoeing. There’s also a nearby paddle trail for the more experienced kayaker. The park also offers hardwood hammocks, picnic tables, hiking trails, and more than 40 campsites! There are places for RVs and campers, or they have more rugged camping experiences available. Lithia Springs is open from 8AM-7PM in the spring and summer.
For scuba divers, there is no better natural spring in Florida than Peacock Springs! Divers have mapped out at least 10 miles of underwater caves and tunnels to explore so far. It’s one of the longest cave systems in the continental United States. Don’t scuba dive? That’s okay! There’s plenty for you to do, too. There are several popular swimming holes in the Springs, and the park also offers an above-ground walking/hiking trail that follows the path of some of the underwater tunnels and offers information on the world below the surface.
One of the most popular diving spots in northwest Florida, Morrison Springs is well-known throughout the Southeast. The entire park is 161 acres, and the highlight is absolutely the spring pool, which is 250 feet in diameter! It’s produced up to 70 million gallons of fresh water in a single day! There are three cavities that allow the water to surface from an underground aquifer. The deepest of these cavities is approximately 300 feet deep. There’s also a large boardwalk that overlooks the springs and a diving dock.
Southern Diver Magazine has said that Vortex Springs is “the Mecca of dive training.” It’s recognized as one of the best and safest diving destinations in the United States. This park offers diving class for every level of SCUBA training and is open for diving 364 days a year! Even if you’re not into scuba, you’re free to explore all of their nature trails or simply take a dip in the beautiful springs, which are a consistent 68°F year-round.
Hart Springs is a great natural spring to visit in Florida if you’ve got younger kids who haven’t quite mastered swimming. It’s one of the largest spring-fed swimming areas in the state of Florida and has a great shallow section for younger kids. When you’re done enjoying the springs, you can take a stroll on the half-mile long boardwalk where you can see the springs flow up out of the earth. Then you can observe how the fresh water flows down the run and merges with the famous Suwannee River. Hart Springs also offers a campground with a family-oriented recreation area!
Where will you adventure?
If you can’t get enough of Natural Springs in Florida, make sure to check out our article on 21 Breathtaking Natural Springs in Florida! Let us know in the comments— which of these springs are you most excited about visiting? Have you ever been to a hot spring before? Make sure to share this article with an adventure loving friend to start planning your next adventure!
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