Need a little vitamin D in your life?
They’ve got a ton of the stuff down in Florida, designated the official Sunshine State of America. For fun in the sun (and in the shade, and everywhere) you need to check out what this southern state has to offer.
Florida is home to the St Johns River, an official American Heritage site and one of the few north-flowing rivers in the U.S.
Yeah, you heard that right — north. But the direction it’s flowing is the least noticeable thing about the river water. You’re more likely to be captivated by its clearness, cleanness and the fact that you just can’t resist the urge to jump in.
All 310 miles of this river offer up stunning southern scenery and a hodgepodge of activities to suit any taste.
Attractions Around the St. Johns River in Florida You Can’t Miss
Along the St. Johns bank there are a few hidden gems to know about. These hotspots are frequented by locals and visitors alike in their quest to get back to nature.
1. Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest is a pine scrub forest filled to the brim with natural beauty. It has more than 600 natural bodies of water and covers hundreds of thousands of acres. It is located on the western side of the St. Johns River right before Lake George.
Come here to birdwatch, hike along the trails and let yourself go in nature. There are numerous amounts of swimming spots in the forest as well as places to fish and even hunt for deer. You can ride mountain bikes, ATVs and even camp within the boundaries of Ocala.
2. Silver Glen Springs
This spring is part of the Ocala National Forest, but be prepared to pay an entry fee. It’s well worth it to lounge in the crystal-clear waters of the springs. Silver Glen is an archaeological site as well, having been the home of numerous tribes of people for thousands of years.
The springs are open for canoeing up the tranquil water and you can even spend a night or two on the campgrounds (be careful, one night can easily turn into a week or so!). There are lots to learn about this historic site, so come with an open mind ready to take in a history lesson as well.
3. Blue Springs State Park
Blue Springs State Park is accessible from Orange City and is nestled comfortably along the St. Johns River. This park is a manatee refuge, so come here during the winter months (November to March) to see hundreds of these majestic creatures as they swim, play and frolic in the water.
The park also houses the historic Thursby House, constructed as a hotel during the 1800s. You can take a self-guided tour of the house as you discover what life was like back in the steam-engine era. Other activities in the park include camping, hiking and swimming in the spring.
Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Trip to St. Johns River
So you’ve decided to head down and visit the St. Johns in Florida! This decision could possibly be the best you’ve ever made. You’re going to be absolutely thrilled to experience all that this river has to offer. That being said, there are some things to keep in mind before you go.
Consider the season. Although Florida is the sunshine state, that doesn’t mean it has tropical temperatures year-round. Temperatures in Florida during the winter months can drop into the forties during the daytime — not ideal for swimming.
However, if you want to do some hiking, check out the forest and do a little bit of wildlife-watching. The offseason is one of the best times to visit the river as there will be fewer people, less congestion, and a more relaxed vibe.
Plan your trip around the activity you want to do the most. Of all the rivers in Florida, St John’s is the longest. Because of its incredible length, you most likely won’t be able to see it all in one visit. The whole length of the River is scenic, with less populated parts being quieter and generally clean. Check out this St. Johns River map to get an idea of the lay of the land.
Bring your own fishing gear or rent some from the locals. There are numerous river cruises available throughout the state. St. Johns River Cruises operates out of Orange City. Here you can rent Kayaks and canoes as well to do a little bit of exploring on your own. Jax River Cruises company runs out of Jacksonville, offering dinner cruises and scenic views along the waterway.
No matter what you like to do, exploring the St. Johns River will give you a little taste of that sweet Florida life.