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Location: 2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, FL 32763
Seeing the manatees was an unforgettable experience and I would recommend a trip to this park for families with children of all ages. Blue Spring State Park is about an hours drive from Orlando and I would advise that you get there early. The park is open from 8:00am until sundown (as with most Florida State Parks) and the winter season will draw the most crowds.
There is plenty to see and do here. When the manatees are not taking refuge, you are able to swim, kayak, fish, and enjoy these beautiful waters. There are picnic tables and places to camp too. Once of the more popular activities is the St. Johns River cruise.
The river cruise runs twice daily with 2 hour excursions. I enjoyed this cruise but my 10 year old was bored after the first hour. I noticed the other children seemed to be a bit disinterested as time went by and they did not appreciate the foliage and bird watching with the rest of the passengers. Once we heard the hissing of the alligators, they seemed more interested in what was going on in the waters around us! It was certainly interesting to learn about the local wildlife and the history of the area.
The boat has a bathroom and refreshment counter with snacks and drinks for sale (cooler of drinks and chips). You can bring your own drinks and snacks if you prefer. The first cruise runs at 10:00am and the second one runs at 1:00pm and it is the more popular of the two.
Overall, the day was great! I loved the park, seeing the manatees and going to the gift shop. I'm a huge gift shop fan!! We all learned so much and continue to appreciate the Florida wildlife!
Here are some of the details for the Blue Spring State Park as of February 2015:
$6.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$24.00 per night, plus tax. Includes water and electricity.
Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the Federal Government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees.
$95.00 per night, plus tax.
Here is a park description from the Florida State Parks website:
Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring on the St. Johns River. Gold Rush prospector turned orange-grower Louis Thursby purchased Blue Spring in 1856. Before the railroad rolled through in the 1880s, Thursbys Blue Spring Landing was a hotbed of steamboat activity, shipping tourists and goods to Jacksonville and beyond. Mrs. Thursby was Orange City's first postmistress. In 1971, 'The Forgotten Mermaids' episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau was filmed here. The documentary brought attention to the manatee and the importance of Blue Spring as a winter refuge, greatly influencing the state's decision to purchase the land.