Blue Spring State Park
We spent a day at Blue Spring State Park in March of this year, 2017 and were absolutely "blown away" by how beautiful and idyllic it is. The previous day we had booked for six adults to go on the St Johns River Cruise sailing at 1pm. As it was March we were also really hoping to see manatees which come inland during this time of year. We would definitely recommend you book in advance.
This was, for all six of us, one of the best days of our whole holiday! When we drove into the state park and parked in the large free car park we were all in awe as to how lovely it was, with the trees hanging with spanish moss and the wooden boardwalks running along the side of the river and through the trees. This boardwalk in itself was a real pleasure to walk along and look at the birds and the manatees from the various observation platforms. The manatees were an amazing sight and clearly visible, as were the shoals of fish, as the water is crytal clear.
You have to arrive a couple of hours before the cruise because they shut the gates to the park when they get too busy. There is a small hut selling very tasty wraps, coffee, ice creams and soft drinks near the boat. A short walk up through the woods along the boardwalk there is another shop selling food too. Next time we take friends or family here we will take a picnic as there are picnic tables available.
The cruise down the river was outstandingly good and we saw so many alligators, turtles and birds of various types including birds of prey. We were laughing towards the end of the trip because we saw so many alligators and birds that we didn't know where to turn our heads next to take it all in!
As well as having the river cruise available there are other great options including kayaking and canoeing and we saw several groups of people enjoying these activities and said we would like to kayak here another time. Whether we will feel a bit daunted by the fact alligators share the water remains to be seen but it didn't seem to worry the people we saw.
When the manatees are at Blue Spring State Park certain activities are not available, such as swimming and the hiring of inner tubes that people use to float down this natural "lazy river". Again this is something we would love to try at a different time of year. You should check their website before you go to see when the manatees are here.
We drove from the park to the coast at New Smyrna Beach when we left after our cruise at around 4pm, as the Atlantic coast is about 45 minutes drive away. It was worth it for us as had a lovely meal and showed our friends the coast. It was however dark by 6pm so limited in what we could see and not something I would do with young children for the additional driving involved.