Next Orlando vacation, travel to a green park instead of a theme park.  The Orlando area is full of many beautiful parks filled with unique wildlife.  For a relaxing, fun day away from the crowds, one of the favorite natural parks of locals is De Leon Springs, named after Ponce de Leon, historical explorer that traversed Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth.

De Leon Springs is located about an hour away from Orlando and is a National Park. The 625-acre park’s main draw is a spring that produces 19 million gallons of water a day at a constant 72 degrees year-round.  There is swimming, canoeing, snorkeling, an eco boat tour, picnicking, hiking trails, and more for travel lovers and locals to enjoy.

Courtesy of DeLeon Springs

De Leon Springs is a popular spot for locals

Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House

Start your day at De Leon Springs with breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill where every table includes a griddle to make your own pancakes. Choose from two different pitchers of easy to pour batter, and add toppings such as blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce.  The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a 100 year old replica of the original 1830s sugar mill complete with water wheel.

DeLeon Springs The Old Spanish Sugar Mill florida

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill. Photo: De Leon Springs

Fountain of Youth Eco/Heritage boat tour

Want to learn about the area and local history?  The Fountain of Youth Eco/Heritage boat tour is a 50 minute trip aboard the M/V Acuera.  The tour is offered four times daily and takes guests through Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge to spot alligators, herons, osprey, egrets and other tropical birds.

Courtesy of DeLeon Springs

Take the Fountain of youth ecotour. Photo: De Leon Springs

Swimming in the cool spring water

Cool off from the Florida sun in the 72 degree concrete swimming pool by the Old Sugar Mill. There are picnic tables, grills and a playground under the spreading oaks, along with four pavilions for rent.  Two other pavilions are free on a first come, first serve basis. The nearby Butterfly Garden is home to nearly 500 plants that draw both resident and migrating butterflies and hummingbirds.  What a wonderful way to spend the day when you travel.

Courtesy of DeLeon Springs

Cooling off! Photo: De Leon Springs

Kayaking, hiking and other nature discoveries

Bring your own or rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboat and travel to the 22,000 acre Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Kayakers often spot friendly manatees as well as shy alligators and tropical birds when they travel here on their Orlando vacation.

Then head out on the half-mile nature trail where you can spot native wildlife, Florida’s unique birds, and Old Methuselah, a giant bald cypress tree that’s over 500 years old. For even more immersion into the Florida landscape, hike the 4.2 mile Wild Persimmon Loop trail. Kiosks throughout the park educate travel lovers on the parks cultural and natural history.

Courtesy of DeLeon Springs

Limpkin Twins Photo: De Leon Springs

Courtesy of DeLeon Springs

On the nature trail. Photo: De Leon Springs

A day at De Leon Springs makes for a relaxing and fun part of your Orlando vacation. So much better than fighting the crowds at the theme parks.

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