From Pinellas and Beyond: Clearwater to Kelly Rock Springs

Feeling restless on a weekday and unsure of what to do next? Why not embark on an exciting adventure? After all, this is Florida, where countless opportunities for exploration await. Most people think of beautiful beaches like Clearwater Beach or Miami Beach when they think about nature in Sunshine State. But we are blessed with an incredible abundance of natural springs, with crystal clear water, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. With over 700 natural freshwater springs scattered throughout the state, it is one of the best places in the United States for nature enthusiasts to explore. Fill up your gas tank, pack some snacks, and hit the road as we venture into one of the beautiful Florida springs.

Our journey took us from the city of Clearwater, located on the gulf coast, just outside of Tampa Bay, to the captivating Apopka, FL, where our destinations, Wekiwa Springs & Kelly Rock Springs Run were located. Apopka is a nature lovers’ delight located in Central Florida outside of Orlando. It’s a great place to visit to remove yourself from the mania of the theme parks such as Walt Disney World & Universal Studios. Eager to make the most of our adventure, we decided to turn it into an overnight getaway, ensuring we had plenty of time to immerse ourselves in the natural beauty of the area. 

Endless Possibilities

Day One: Travelling the Road

Setting off on a sunny Monday morning from Clearwater, we were pleasantly surprised to encounter minimal traffic as we made our way toward our destination. With each passing mile, we could feel our spirits lifting and the stresses of everyday life melting away. The journey took us approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes one way. If you plan on visiting either of these springs, it’s a great idea to choose a week day trip, outside of the busy summertime period to visit. Following our itinerary, we arrived at Wekiwa around noon on Monday, and the following day, Tuesday, we arrived at Kelly Rock Springs by 10 am, and drove right in.

Still Day One: Wekiwa Springs

This park is actually very close to Kelly but isn’t as well known to the general public. As far I could tell it’s a local favorite hangout spot for many locals in the community. Wekiwa Springs is a nature lover’s paradise waiting to be discovered. This enchanting state park offers a serene and idyllic retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle. At the heart of Wekiwa Springs lies a magnificent natural spring, its clear blue water glistening under the warm Florida sun. Take a dip into the cool, refreshing pool and feel your worries melt away as you immerse yourself in this natural oasis. We stuck to the water but the park also boasts an extensive network of nature trails that wind through scenic woodlands, revealing breathtaking views and an abundance of wildlife. And the picnic tables are the perfect place to eat lunch so you won’t have to leave til they close. 

As the sun dipped below the horizon, our next stop was a place to eat. We decided to try out Orange County Brewer which had a Tin & Taco inside, and boy, were we in for a treat. The tacos we had there might just go down in history as the best I’ve ever tasted (and trust me, I’ve had my fair share of tacos). One that stood out was the mouthwatering Chicken Bacon Ranch Taco, generously stuffed with a medley of flavorful ingredients. To complement our meal, we enjoyed an impressive beer selection, with the Yee-haw Red Ale emerging as a personal favorite.

We made our way to our hotel for the night, the Holiday Inn Express in Sanford/Lake Mary. Now, there’s something truly special about waking up to a complimentary breakfast, and as an avid researcher of this amenity when booking hotels, I must say this one surpassed all expectations. It was undeniably the best “hot breakfast” experience I’ve had at a chain hotel. Not only did they offer the classic waffle maker and scrambled eggs, but they also had a unique pancake conveyor belt. The hotel itself exuded a sense of freshness, clearly indicating recent renovations, with a clean and newly painted ambiance that added to our overall comfort.

Day Two: Kelly Park Rock Springs

This park is one of my favorite places. 

We arrived at the park entrance by 10 am and drove right in. This is not something that is typically accomplished if you visit the park on the weekend or holidays. Sometimes the park is already at capacity by 9 am! Plan accordingly.

Nestled in the heart of Apopka, Florida, Kelly Rock Springs Park is a natural gem that beckons visitors with its serene beauty and crystal-clear waters. This enchanting park offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As you step foot into the park, you’re greeted by lush greenery and the melodic sounds of nature. The star attraction, Kelly Rock Springs, is a stunning natural spring that boasts an inviting pool of pristine water. With its mesmerizing aquamarine hues, the spring invites you to take a refreshing dip.

But the real reason why you go to Kelly Rock Springs, and our main attraction, is the natural lazy river that awaits you. Picture yourself floating effortlessly on your inner tube downstream, carried by the gentle current, as you soak up the sun and immerse yourself in the beauty of a lush natural paradise. The water temperatures at Kelly Rock Springs remain a balmy 70 degrees year-round, ensuring a refreshing and comfortable experience. The natural lazy river provides the perfect opportunity to unwind and reconnect with nature as you leisurely navigate the enchanting waterway. From the spring head to the end of the swim zone, and you can enjoy a blissful 30-minute float around the tube run, embracing the tranquility of the surroundings. The shallow waters also make it perfect to walk the entire way around if that’s more your style. 

You have the option to bring your own tube, or conveniently rent one from Rock Springs Bar & Grill, located right before the entrance of the park, for a nominal fee of only $7. It’s an experience that promises relaxation, adventure, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Side note: We also discovered that Jon is the unofficial King of the Dragonflies. Countless dragonflies seemed to be irresistibly drawn to him, perching on his hat, shoulders, and even his outstretched arms as if he were their long-lost monarch

Kelly Springs State Park is open 8 am-7 pm every day of the year. It costs $3 for under 2 people to enter, and it has camping spots available for $24/night. If you have to go on a weekend, I suggest reserving a campsite so that you are guaranteed access to the springs. A great time to get there on weekends would be 30 mins to an hour before the park opens to make sure you get a spot. 

We had the best time on this weekday road trip! Wekiwa Springs and Kelly Rock Springs offered an ideal escape from the daily grind, immersing us in nature’s beauty and providing a refreshing getaway. It allowed us to disconnect from the demands of everyday life and reconnect with the natural wonders that Florida has to offer. The opportunity to float peacefully, basking in the warm Florida sun and observing the vibrant aquatic life, was a truly unforgettable experience. Embark on this adventure, and you’ll discover hidden gems, tranquil trails, and the rejuvenating embrace of crystal-clear springs. Pack your bags, hit the road, and explore the wonders that await on your next weekday road trip!

Other Notable Florida Springs to Visit

Blue Spring State Park

Ginnie Springs – Private Ownership

Silver Springs – Clear Kayak Tour Available 

Rainbow Springs State Park

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