Family-Friendly Ponce de Leon Springs in Florida
This post contains affiliate links.
Ponce de Leon State Park in Holmes County, Florida is halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee, making it a great stopping point when traveling laterally across the Florida Panhandle. We popped in on an August weekday to cool off when temperatures were hanging out in the nineties.
In order to meet social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 the park is capping the number of vehicles they allow in each day at 73. We called before heading to the park but were told with school back in session, the park was rarely full on a weekday. We did notice it got more crowded as the day went on, so we advise that you arrive early and call before going.
At the time of our visit, admission was $4 per vehicle (up to 8 occupants) and the park is open 8am until sunset. There are picnic tables and bathrooms at the springs.
The weekday crowd was light so it was easy to keep our distance. We did have to wait to enter and exit the water a few times, but there were plenty of open tables and space to sit. And that waiting was more due to. social. distancing than to crowds. We brought a blanket and spread out our stuff under a tree on the far side of the spring close to the little creek.
The spring water is 68 degrees year round. It feels really chilly when you first dive in, but so refreshing in the summer heat. The kids were largely cold but tolerated the water in short spurts. I think they would have done better if we had brought their tubes so they were not submerged the whole time.
The diving platform amused our kids for a bit. The two main spring holes are quite deep, so we put the Little Little in his puddle jumpers even though he can swim. Adults won’t be able to touch in this center part of the spring so having some floats is a good idea.
The tree in the center of the main spring is a huge draw. The root system is exposed but submerged. The fish love to hang out here and it’s shallow enough for the Littles to stand. The Big Little was swimming all around looking at the fish, while I was able to watch the fish through the crystal clear water.
There are also some tree roots that are perfect for climbing on here that kept the kids occupied.
As you move toward the bridge the water becomes a bit shallower. I could stand there making it much easier to play with the little ones in the water.
There are ladders that lead into the deeper parts of the water and stairs where it is shallower.
You can enter the water on the far side of the footbridge and be in the creek. Here the spring water has a little current. You can make your way down a bit to where the spring merges into a river. We dragged the Little Little in the water until he got too cold.
The Big Little swam ahead. The water is so clear that you can see where there are branches in the water. There was only one other family exploring this area while we were there so we had it virtually to ourselves. There are plenty of fish to spot here.
We bribed the Middle Little with chocolate to get him into the water, but he mostly ended up being carried with little more than his feet in the water. I’m not sure if he was scared or cold, but either way he ended up with lots of cuddle time in the water.
There is also a small nature trail just over the footpath. We took a quick walk where we were able to observe the river, where the clear spring water merges into the red tannin-stained river and then walk back up the spring creek to the swimming area.
There are plenty of little nature finds along the trail for the observant. We found this mushroom and slug on a dead tree.
There are also a few geocaching sites in the park, but we didn’t have time to track them down. (We were too busy playing in the water.) If you are staying all day though the geocaching would be a nice break from water play.
The springs are one of our favorite things about Florida. They are always refreshing and picturesque. They are unique to Florida making them worthy of visiting, even if it’s just for an hour.
Ponce de Leon Springs is small, but offers all the conveniences you want for a family outing. The trails, stairs, ladders, bathrooms and ample grass make it perfect for an easy day trip.
Suggested Packing List
- Swimsuits (I love these Lands End swim shorts so that, like my boys, I can comfortably walk the trails and play in the water without changing.)
- Towels (I like the Dock & Bay beach towels because they pack up small but are super absorbent.)
- Goggles or Snorkels
- Rashguard (Sunscreen is bad for the water)
- Picnic Blanket
- Water Shoes (After having trouble with some expensive water shoes I’m giving these quick-dry water shoes a try. They worked perfectly at the springs without rubbing or letting rocks in.)
- Picnic Lunch
This post contains affiliate links. If you make aa purchase through one of our links, Dutch, Dutch, Goose! may receive a small payment at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are our own.