Gilchrist Blue Springs is Florida’s newest state park. It was recently purchased from private owners and the state is in the process of building out the campground, visitor center and other amenities. Currently there are picnic tables, a campground, restrooms, a shop to rent kayaks, and a small snack bar serving burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and drinks.
We went to Florida to kayak the Ichetucknee, but we had another day for an adventure. Originally we planned on going to Ginnie Springs, a privately owned spring that costs $14 for adults and $4 for kids. We had heard the water was bright turquoise and crystal clear, perfect for a day of swimming and relaxing. When we got there, we found a line of cars a half mile long waiting to get in. I got on my phone and quickly found Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park just a couple miles down the road.
When we got to GBS, there was a line of 4 cars waiting to get in. They limit the number of people they let in to make sure it’s not overcrowded. We waited about 20 minutes and finally got in to the park. It cost $6 per vehicle- what a deal!
We parked and headed down to the spring. When my son first saw the spring and all the kids playing and splashing around in the aquamarine water, he said, “Wow! Thanks for taking us here!” I never did see Ginnie Springs, but the kids and I were not disappointed in the least. GBS was absolutely beautiful, even at full capacity.
The water is definitely chilly at first, but we swam out over the big hole where the water bubbles up and tread water until we warmed up. The kids played for a solid hour/ hour and a half until they wanted a snack.
We got food and ice cream from the snack bar. We were all dried off and I figured the kids would be ready to head back to our friend’s house where we were staying, but nope. They went back in for round two and had a blast.
The spring is in a little offshoot of the Santa Fe River. If you rent a kayak or bring your own, you can paddle the river as well as swim in the spring.
If you’re in north Florida, you’ll hear a lot about Ginnie Springs. It’s privately owned and they do a lot of advertising. We paid less to get into Gilchrist Blue Springs and had an absolute blast. Plus, we were supporting the state park system that protects wild places. It’s a win-win!