People have been returning to what is now Rainbow Springs State Park for 10,000 years. One trip and it’s easy to see why. You could put a picture of the park in the dictionary next to “idyllic” and no one could argue. To say this nearly 1500-acre natural wonder is unique and unexpected is to indulge in understatement.

You may anticipate the crystal clear freshwater springs and the shady natural surround, but the mixture of natural headspring, meandering river and gently cultivated gardens washes over you with surprises at every turn.

The hiking trails lead to misty waterfalls, where you can pause for portraits that end up in frames.

An easy sidewalk ramp to the observation tower offers guests an ideal vantagepoint to view wildlife and the falls. That handicap-friendly ramp is an especially nice touch, offering views typically reserved for the younger or more ambulatory.

Stroll the brick trails beneath the shade of overhanging branches. Up the hill at the café families snack on cheeseburgers and kids excitedly lick ice cream from fingers, pruney from a refreshing swim in the 72-degree spring.


When Europeans first “discovered” the headsprings in the 1500s, a native people called the Timucua were already well established here. The nearby city of Ocala is named for a chief of this tribe, Ocale. Over the next three centuries the armies and pioneers of three nations claimed ownership. By the late 1800’s there were only 75 permanent residents. In the 1920’s the spring was converted into a natural theme park luring tourists and locals alike. A zoo, rodeo, monorail and gondolas were added. Eventually, when larger theme parks enticed the clientele, Rainbow Springs was closed. It reopened in the 1990’s – absent the contrived attractions – as a state park.


The park is a Florida naturalist’s dream. One can expect to see otters, turtles, fish, alligators and wading birds in and along the river. On hikes, you may encounter gopher tortoises, pine snakes and fox squirrels. Keeping a good pocket-sized field guide on hand is a good idea. It will help you identify which animals are safe and which may be potentially dangerous.


First, you need to know that the campground, tubing entrance and headsprings entrance are at 3 separate locations. Visit without convenient transportation and you may become quickly frustrated. Access to the campground activities is restricted to registered campers, but anyone can access the headwater springs and the tubing area.


19158 S.W. 81st Place Road, Dunnellon, Florida 34432

Ranger guided park tours

Nature trail hikes offer a close up look at Florida’s sandhill and oak hammock environments. Trails are roughly 3 miles long.

Snorkeling trips

Canoe and kayak trips (call ahead for availability, which has been hit or miss recently)

Picnic down by the springs in a shaded pavilion or under the trees with a blanket tossed down in the grass

Cool off in the headwater springs, always 72 degrees

In the springtime, stroll the gardens and enjoy the blooming azaleas


The tube Entrance is located 1.4 miles south of the campground Entrance on SW 180th Avenue Road. Bring your tube, sunscreen and your best relaxed grin.

 Download the park brochure


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Henderson Beach State Park

Destin, Florida, on the northern end of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Panhandle, is a haven for vacationers looking for exciting water sports and family fun. And, if you would rather slow it down and relax your days away, there is no better spot in...

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs is a surprise. Although it is an official State Park, this land has been a tourist attraction for a century, and it feels more like a theme park than a place of relaxation. Though a day here is undoubtedly relaxing as well. In the early...

Help! I’m a Creative Writer

“I want to be a creative writer, but I need creative writing help.” I hear some version of that phrase at least once a week — often spoken as a whispered lament, as if asking for creative writing help was somehow shameful. It’s definitely not, and I would...

Biloxi: Explore Beyond the One-Armed Bandit

We are standing on Biloxi Town Green. A row of casinos and a huge neon guitar block our view of the beach, but we are not looking in that direction. In front of us is the Katrina Memorial, a granite monument to the lives lost when one of the worst natural...

Estero Island: Waterfront Fun on Fort Myers Beach

A Florida sunset paradise, the thriving island community of Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, offers fine dining, island style shopping and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and water sports fun. Plus, Estero Island...

A Lasting Commission from LtCol Faircloth

One of the highlights of my writing career was the day I got a call from LtCol H. Spencer Faircloth (Ret.). Spence wanted my help writing a book about his extraordinary life. He didn’t land at Normandy on D-Day. He was still a kid, back home in Georgia,...

Horrific Tragedy in a Beautiful World

On Easter morning, while millions around the world gathered in worship and celebration, a handful of religious fanatics came together to murder Christians, to murder families enjoying a holiday vacation… to murder at least 45 children. The speculation as...

A Higher Call

“A Higher Call” by Adam Makos is an honest, intense, and expertly crafted book. It is, without reservation, one of the best historical books I have ever read. An exceptionally detailed, exquisitely rich picture of life both during and after World War 2. It...