Florida has some 300 springs, and 27 of them discharge more than 60 million gallons of pure water a day. In fact, Florida has more springs than any other American state, so it’s easy to conclude that natural springs are more authentically Floridian than pretty much anything else you might see in Orlando, and there’s no more enjoyable place to experience them than here. The Spanish, Seminoles, and prepresidential Zachary Taylor all fought over this spot of land, and Audubon saw his first limpkin here. (Remember your first time?) It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the St. Johns River on the development of Florida—before rail, everybody used it—and, like the Nile, it’s one of the few world rivers to flow north, not south. On this segment of the river, there are 18,000 acres of lakes and marshes to canoe (boats can be rented by the hour), a concrete-lined area to swim in, and 6 miles of trails to forge as you try to spot black bears, white tail deer, swamp rabbits, and, of course, ‘gators. It gets cooler: At its general store–style Old Spanish Sugar Mill ([tel] 386/985-5644; www.planetdeland.com/sugarmill; Mon–Fri 9am–4pm, Fri–Sat and holidays 8am–4pm), you make your own all-you-can-eat pancakes on griddles built into every table ($4.95 per person, but they’ll cook you other things, too). Niftier still, the designated swimming area beside the Griddle House, is in a spring-fed boil—30 feet deep in spots—that remains at a constant 72[dg]F, year-round. To reach it, take I-4 north, exit for Deland, and 6 miles north of Deland on U.S. 17 turn left onto Ponce DeLeon Boulevard for 1 mile. Get there early, because when the weather sizzles, it gets busy.
De Leon Springs State Park
601 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Deland
Our Rating Hours Daily 8am–sundown Phone 386/985-4212 Prices $6 per carload Web site De Leon Springs State Park