A day trip to Silver Springs and Wild Waters or a weekend away.
You could quite easily make a day trip of going to Silver Springs from many parts of Florida. I’m not sure you’d make a day trip just to go to Wild Waters – though you shouldn’t. It is, however, a great weekend or long weekend getaway from most places in the state and should definitely be on your list of things to do.
It is a study in tourism itself, an industry that has long been near and dear to me in Florida. Silver Springs was once the major attraction in the state in the strictest sense of the word attraction. You paid entry and had a great experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else. It was a magical place. The glass bottom boats (still operating) were incredible and allowed you to see straight down to various springs as well as seeing fish and everything in the crystal clear waters of the Silver River. The State of Florida turned the attraction into a state park a number of years ago.
The colonnade of shops, restaurants and other tourist facilities is an excellent example of mid-century modern architecture – the original structures having burned down. There remains some smaller educational exhibits along this row along with a restaurant, fudge shop, event space and a rather underwhelming retail shop. The social history of the area is what I find interesting in addition to the natural history. You can learn about it here. There were other attractions in the area that also closed.
When the State of Florida took over the park, Wild Waters, opened in 1978, was not re-opened. The state is slowly bringing the old water park back online and most of the attractions in it are now operational, though it does have some wear and tear and certainly isn’t a large water park. But it is fun and plenty of excitement and a great value at only $15. There is limited food and beverage service onsite. They were out of straws when we visited so don’t expect perfect guest satisfaction.
The campground is a few miles away from the two attractions and there is a trail you can ride your bike to the attractions. This isn’t something I’d suggest in the summer as it is very hot. The road is very bike-friendly and is probably just less than two miles of bike riding away from the campground. The trail is fun and nice – just don’t do it in the summer. The campsites are excellent and the campground is well maintained with wonderful pull-through sites.
We really will return here someday soon as there is plenty to do and it is accessible. The Silver Springs Park is free if you pay to get into Wild Waters or free if you stay at the campground. The glass bottom boat cruise, which lasts about an hour, is $11 for adults. This is a great value and our guide was very informative and probably has been doing tours for decades.
If this is your destination you can pick up supplies on the way in as there are plenty of supermarkets within range. If you’re passing through, it is enroute to Ormond Beach via US40 through the Ocala National Forest which is a pleasant drive. The town of Ocala is also a very short drive away and has a few shops and restaurants and a nice little square. It is also only about 90 minutes from Tampa where you will find the wonderful Lazy Days, Camping World and RV One – those are the only three we can recommend and will add that online reviews can be made by employees and their family members so beware of RV dealerships that appear to have a great online reputation.