Walking family travel and fun in a great Florida outdoor vacation is just an hour drive north of Orlando in West Volusia, home to Blue Spring State Park. The park is home to unparalleled natural beauty and a treasure of activities all in one. From water fun, to nature appreciation and history, there will be something that will make a lasting impression on your family.
Blue Spring State Park
I love and respect nature.While I can appreciate it, I WAS NOT the camping type. My family does enjoy the outdoors. In turn, mosquitoes enjoy us. Of course, I was a bit reluctant to spend some time communing with the beautiful Florida nature.
I am so happy I did not shy away from the opportunity because we discovered the secret gem that Blue Spring State Park in West Volusia is. Two 7-year-olds and two adults set out on a Blue Spring State Park adventure, with zero mosquito bites to report.
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Finding Blue Spring
The park is located at 2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, Florida 32763. You can call them at (386) 775-3663. This park is a vast 26,000 acres of different things to do! Entry to the park is marked by a gate where a ranger collects a fee for entry or checks your campsite reservation. You do need to be on the look out for that gate because it is easy to miss.
Once you get past the gate you will drive about a mile to the parking area. This is what I call base camp. The dock for the river tours, the tube rental kiosk, quick-mart and pioneer house are all here as well as the actual manatee sanctuary.
Blue Spring Manatees
Crazy to see Manatees like my little ones were? Don’t think about it twice. Head over to Blue Spring State Park from November to mid-April, to enjoy the sea cows. The gentle giants that call Blue Spring home are the West Indian Type. They love to call this their winter home because regardless of season, the temperature is just right for them at 72 degrees.
For this tropical family, the spring was freezing, but sharing and swimming with the manatees soon made us forget how cold the water is. The 7-year-olds swam and dove as much as they could with the manatees. As you can imagine, they loved the experience and couldn’t believe they were swimming alongside the animals in their natural habitat. I relaxed on a rented tube floating up and down the spring area.
As you stroll the river on the raft, you can see everything in the water. It is just that crystal clear. Amazing. Very large Florida Gar (fish) were minding their own business very close to us at all times. The children were trying to catch the fish with their hands, and they spent hours trying their best to get out dinner which of course, they didn’t 🙂
Playing in the water with Manatees was an unforgettable experience. Nevertheless, there is much more to discover and enjoy at Blue Spring. This is a short list of other things to while visiting the state park:
- have a picnic
- canoe or kayak
- take a boat tour
- visit historic pioneer exhibit
- see wildlife
Our Blue Spring Boat Tour
We opted for the two-hour boat tour on the St. John River. We heard a wealth of information on the river, its importance, history. We learned that the Timucuan Indians called the St. Johns River Welaka We also watched many different animals watching us pass by. The tour guide identified at least 15 different kind of birds for us, and we got a glimpse of turtles hurrying out of the way. There was a shy deer and very many big and bigger alligators sunbathing or swimming in the river. While it was breathtaking, after the first 15 minutes the kids were restless and bored of trying to spy egrets after egrets after egrets. The anticipation to try and spot alligators wore out pretty fast. We will consider a shorter boat expedition next time.
Hiking and Biking at Blue Spring State Park
Once the boat tour was done, we decided for a hike. That was fun, the kids felt like explorers, and began naming plants that caught their eye. It was good exercise and a peaceful walk. I was totally disconnected and feeling very relaxed. Ahhhhhhh just perfect. After the hike, we rented bikes and after a half hour the boys finally used up all their energy.
We ended our visit to the park by walking around and in the pioneer’s house, the Thursby house, which was build in 1872. It had some interesting items to see like a marriage certificate, some wooden blocks that children used to play with and a fabulous collection of ovens/ heaters. There was a different one in every room. If you are not a history buff or interested in simple living in the past, bypass this house. The boys were not interested at all because they were ready to leave. Had we done it earlier they might have given it a chance.