Located in the central and charming Ocala, Florida, Silver Springs State Park has been a natural landmark since the 1870s.
There are so many state parks, national parks, and forests located up and down The Nature Coast that it can be hard to keep track of which ones you have visited and which ones you haven’t.
But it is always helpful when those parks have some defining characteristic that helps them stand out from the others. At Silver Springs State Park, that characteristic is their glass bottom boat tours.
Located just outside Ocala in Marion County, about an hour northeast of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Silver Springs State Park is known for offering glass bottom boat tours that allow visitors to see the fish and wildlife that call the springs home in a truly unique way.
The park is also a great destination for renting kayaks, canoes, and bicycles. And if all of that isn’t enough to get you interested, they also have a water park and some great restaurants and hotels nearby.
Glass Bottom Boat Tours
The main attraction at Silver Springs State Park is the glass bottom boat tours. Visitors have the opportunity to jump onto a vessel with a clear bottom that allows them to look straight down through the floor of the boat at all of the wildlife, vegetation, and historical and cultural artifacts below.
The standard tour costs $11 and leaves the dock every 30-45 minutes starting at 10 am daily. The last boat of the day leaves at either 5 or 6pm depending on the time of year.
There is no need to make a reservation, and tours are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. During the summer months, there is also an extended version of the tour that lasts 90 minutes. The cost for this 90-minute experience is $25, and these extended tours leave the dock at 10:30 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.
Kayaks, Canoes & Bicycles
Another popular way to explore the calm waters surrounding the park is by renting a kayak or canoe. If you haven’t tried heading out in a kayak or canoe before, this is a perfect environment to learn thanks to the calm waters and friendly rental staff.
The rentals are priced either by the hour or by the day, and you are able to explore the waters from 9 am to 5 pm. You are also welcome to bring your own kayaks or canoes and just pay a small launching fee.
The dry land portion of Silver Springs State Park is also worth exploring, and you can find bicycle rentals here as well!
More Fun at Wild Waters
After spending some time relaxing in the calm waters of Silver Springs, you can find all of the excitement you might be looking for on the other side of the park at Wild Waters. This fun little water park contains a handful of water slides, a wave pool, a kids play area, and a few nice picnic spots.
Tickets for Wild Waters are sold at the front gate as “day passes”, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy this aspect of the park.
Dining in and Around the Park
If you are looking for a quick and easy dining option right in the park, you will want to visit the Spring Side Cafe. Here you will find a selection of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads, and fried chicken. There is also an ice cream and baked goods shop in the park.
In addition to the options inside the park, you might want to try Cafe on the Lake, Lena’s Seafood in Silver Springs, La Hacienda, Brooklyn’s Backyard or The Braised Onion in Ocala.
Make It a Weekend
With so much to see and do at Silver Spring State Park, you might even want to consider making a full weekend out of your trip. If that’s the case, there is a Holiday Inn Express in Silver Springs and a Howard Johnson in Ocala.
For those who prefer to go the camping route, check out Silver Springs RV Park and Campers Garden, or the cabins and campgrounds that are offered right at Silver Springs State Park.
Whether you are just going for a quick 30-minute boat tour or planning to spend an entire weekend, there is plenty to love about Silver Springs State Park. And just so you don’t get it confused with all of the other state parks, remember this one as the one with the glass bottom boat tours!