Secrets to Ichetucknee Springs State Park with Kids

Spend a relaxing day tubing the pristine waters of Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Photo by Jackie Jones
Spend a relaxing day tubing the pristine waters of Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Photo by Jackie Jones
3/3/24 - By Jackie Jones

Just over two hours north of Orlando lies one of Florida's greatest gems: Ichetucknee Springs State Park. My family visited this gorgeous Florida park to explore the park's natural lazy river (dubbed as "Florida's best location for river tubing" by the Travel Channel). During our adventure, the water was cool and clear (it stays a constant 72 degrees all year) and surrounded by a lush canopy of trees. With warm weather just around the corner, Ichetucknee Springs is an excellent day trip for families looking to get outdoors.


Read on for tips on what to do at Ichetucknee Springs State Park, how much it costs, and how to avoid the crowds! For more vacation ideas, check out our Florida Travel Guide.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: A Natural Wonder

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located in northern Central Florida's Fort White. The small country roads, leading into and out of the park, can get very congested particularly during summer weekends (so prepare to wait). There are two entrances to Ichetucknee Springs: The north entrance offers limited parking and is intended for visitors who plan to paddle board, canoe, or swim in the upper springs; the south entrance is for river tubers (as well as a concession stand and watercraft rentals). 

Ichetucknee Springs State Park features eight crystal-clear springs that join to create the six-mile Ichetucknee River. Photo by Jackie Jones

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: Tubing

Tubing the six-mile stretch of the spring-fed Ichetucknee River is the park's most popular activity! Visitors can bring their own tubes, but they may not exceed 60 inches in any two directions. The park also offers rental options, from single tubes ($7.50) to inflatable rafts ($30), as well as double tubes for families with young kids. We saw many parents renting single tubes with mesh bottoms, so babies and toddlers can sit comfortably in laps. 

Reserve tubes and sign required liability forms online to save time when you reach the park. Life vests are also available to rent for $7.50 each. 

Getting In the River

There are two tubing launch points: Midpoint Launch and Dampier's Landing. Most families opt for Midpoint Launch, which is accessible by the park's tram (Dampier's Landing requires a short hike and visitors must carry their own tubes). Tram wristbands are required and are available for purchase at the concession stand for $7. The tram take you and your tube on a three-minute journey through the forest to a wooden path that leads to the launch point.

The Tubing Experience

It's hard for me to express how peaceful it is to glide below giant cypress trees in the cool, calm waters. Seemingly untouched by humans, Ichetucknee Springs State Park feels like you have gone back in time.  There's plenty to look at -- from turtles and herons to amazing rock formations. My kids declared it a green paradise fit for fairies!

Depending on where you get in and out of the river, your tubing experience lasts 45 minutes-1.5 hours. My family chose the latter, which was a good amount of time for my kids. They started to get hungry and antsy by the time we reached the take-out point. After exiting the water, visitors walk up the hill to the tram and are transported back to the parking lot and concession stand. Then you can do it all over again or check out another area of the park!

RELATED: Best Family-Friendly Hotels and Camping Near Florida's Natural Springs

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: Swimming

Though the park's tubing gets all the hype, the equally amazing swimming experience should not be missed. Most noteworthy is the Blue Hole-- a crystal blue spring popular with snorkelers and scuba divers. Catch a glimpse of unique fish, as well as a cave system that starts 40 feet below the spring's surface -- like visiting a special underwater world (for advanced swimmers)!

Families with young kids will enjoy Head Springs. Designated a national natural landmark, this stunning, blue-green waterway features shallow edges that give way to deeper crevices. There is not much of a beach at Head Springs, and it can be a bit rocky in the shallow areas so wear water shoes. 

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: Food Options

There are two on-site restaurants at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. 

  • General Store Grill, located at the south entrance near the tubing, is open every day 9am-4pm. They serve burgers, sandwiches, salads, and a few breakfast items.
  • Riverside Grill, located at the north entrance near the Head Spring, is open seasonally 10am-4pm. They offer much of the same menu, plus several tacos. 

Many visitors (including my own family) choose to bring in a picnic lunch. There are tree-shaded picnic tables throughout the park, as well as a few public grills.     

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: Know Before You Go

  • The park is open every day of the year starting at 8 am. Admission is $6 per vehicle, and the parking lots close when the park reaches capacity; gates re-open as visitors leave and spots become available, usually after lunch time. I highly recommend arriving early, especially during summer! 
  • Ichetucknee River is about five feet deep, and there are no lifeguards on duty.  
  • Park rangers ask that visitors NOT swim in the tubing portion of the river because of conservation efforts.
  • If your kids need to get their wiggles out, check out a small playground, with slides and swings, located near the Head Springs swimming hole.  There's also a cute visitor's center at the southern entrance that has wildlife displays and educational material (pick up some coloring sheets on the way out). 
  • If you plan on kayaking or canoeing in the upper springs, a free shuttle will take you and your gear from the park's south entrance to the north entrance. 
  • Along with water activities, the park offers three hiking trails. Families love the half-mile Blue Hole Trail, which takes you past the famous spring. 
  • There is no food or drinks allowed on the river except for water in non-disposable containers.
  • Purchase sunscreen, goggles, and even souvenirs at the Ichetucknee Springs General Store.

Places featured in this article: