Alexander Springs offers fun, scenic getaway

Native Floridians know the best swimming pools in the state are not in someone’s backyard but are courtesy of Mother Nature.

With a near constant year-round temperature of about 72 degrees, the tepid waters of Alexander Springs are the perfect watering hole on those sweltering Florida summers days.

While the crystal clear waters attract splish-splashing youngsters, Alexander Springs features a variety of activities that can make the perfect vacationing getaway for the entire family.

We spoke to certified diver and scuba instructor Mike Winkles who shared why he calls Alexander Springs “Real Florida.”

“You don’t have to worry about sea life. You don’t have to worry about any creatures. To me, Alexander Springs is a great spot to come snorkel and swim purely because of the water,” Winkles said. ” It’s when I get underwater; there are no cell phones no kids are yelling at you. There’s pure relaxation. You can hear the bubbles and slight splashing in the distance, but when you look around and see the sights, and you’re feeling it all around you, it’s complete relaxation to me.”

The recreation area offers a 67-unit campground that can accommodate tents and recreational vehicles up to 35 feet. The campground does not provide electrical, water or sewer hookups, but hot showers and a dump station is provided.

Other than the campground, the Alexander Springs Recreation Area features hiking trails, canoe rentals, concession stands, an interpretive trail, and a large picnic area. But the main attraction is scuba diving, attracting worldwide travelers to this unique destination.

Scuba diving or snorkeling allows visitors to view the abundance of fish and underwater vegetation in the springs. Scuba diving is only permitted in the large spring boil, and valid proof of certification is required.

“For the last 15 years all I’ve done is teach people to love the water and explore it and respect and appreciate what we have here in Florida,” Winkles said.

For hikers, Alexander Springs offers several excellent resources. The Timucuan Trail, named after the Timucuan Indian tribe, is a 1.1-mile interpretive loop trail that highlights vegetation used by early Native Americans and is an outstanding location for wildlife viewing. Other nearby trails include the Florida National Scenic Trail, which runs 66 miles through the Ocala National Forest. The 22-mile Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail is also nearby.

With all these amenities, guests should be aware that finding an open campsite at Alexander Springs isn’t always easy. Large groups or family reunions dominate the park and significant events in Central Florida, such as the Daytona 500 and Mount Dora Arts Festival, bring guests to the campground.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area is located at 49525 County Road 445, Altoona, FL.

To make reservations or for more information about Alexander Springs Recreation Area, call 877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov.

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Alexander Springs offers fun, scenic getaway