While most visitors travel to Florida in order to take advantage of the hot weather and scenic views, there comes a point at which everyone seeks an escape from the heat. In order to cool off, the vast majority of travelers will pack the overcrowded beaches on the shore or simply stay on the grounds at their hotel and hit the pool. And though those are perfectly acceptable options, there are ways to find a better experience. Instead of following the lead of every other tourist in town, why not think like a local and visit one of Florida’s best kept secrets – Fanning Springs State Park.
Unlike the inevitably packed pools and beaches, a state park combines a refreshing and relaxing experience with the beauty of unspoiled nature. Visiting a state park such as Fanning Springs will take your vacation off the beaten path and provide you with memories to last a lifetime, all without getting lost in the crowd. Fanning Springs State Park is nothing short of charming, located on the scenic Suwanee River. The river has been a source of relief from the hot Florida sun for as long as people have inhabited the state, although now the experience is even better, with many additional activities for visitors to enjoy.
For many visitors, the Suwanee River itself is the main attraction, as there are a wide variety of entertainment options to choose from on the water. Adventure enthusiasts can kayak or canoe on the river, with either their own craft or one rented from from the park. One of the most popular trips for visitors is the seven-mile journey down to Manatee Springs State Park. Of course, others may wish to stay in the Fanning Springs State Park area as there is plenty to see and do within the confines of this park.
Another aquatic activity that the whole family will enjoy at Fanning Springs State Park is snorkeling. In addition to providing an excellent way to cool off on a hot Florida summer day, snorkeling lets both kids and adults explore wildlife that is literally right under their noses. As an enormously entertaining activity with virtually no learning curve, snorkeling proves that at times, the simplest activities are the best. Even those with no prior experience can dive right in, and the only equipment necessary is a mask! Snorkeling also requires no advanced scheduling, can be enjoyed as a group, and requires no long-term planning or coordination.
Visitors that do have a little more preparation time on their hands, though, will undoubtedly enjoy the wonders of scuba diving. Those who have prior scuba certification can experience all of the underwater wonders in a designated, safe area of Fanning Springs State Park. As with snorkeling, the park is ready to accommodate larger groups, although there is a $10 fee for those who want to take the plunge.
Of course, plenty of fun is to be had on the surface as well, as there is no charge for swimming in the park’s pristine water, which tends to hover around 72 degrees year round.
But visitors don’t need to get wet to enjoy the river, as Fanning Springs State Park also offers a beautiful picnic area. Anyone gathering in this area will be in for a treat, as it provides an unforgettable view of the sparkling Suwanee River as well as the gorgeous trees and shining beach. Such a brilliant vista may inspire visitors to hike through the park’s awe-inspiring nature trail, which is shaded by a dense canopy of trees. This journey will bring nature and wildlife up close and personal, and opportunities to spot some of the park’s permanent residents, such as woodpeckers, owls, white-tailed deer, and eastern glass lizards, abound. And Fanning Springs State Park is great for those who prefer to bring their own wildlife, too, as it is a pet-friendly park.
Seeing all there is to see and doing all there is to do in Fanning Springs State Park can be quite a challenge for just one day. Luckily, though, there is a campground available for extended stays – call (352) 542-7680 for information.
Fanning Springs State Park is open from 8am to sundown, 365 days per year. The park is located in the town of Fanning Springs, on US Route 19/98. Admission is $6 for each vehicle with 2-8 passengers; $4 for single-occupant vehicles, and $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, and extra passengers.