Florida’s many springs lure travelers
seeking health and a youthful spirit.

By Ruth Chin

Searching for eternal youth is nothing new–Ponce de Leon was looking for it as far back as the 16th century. His travels from Spain brought him to what he thought to be an island with water believed to prolong life. We know this place as Florida.

Blue Spring is the largest on Florida’s St. Johns River.
Old Ponce may have died without ever having found the miraculous fountain of youth, but Florida’s mineral springs can offer travelers waters to sooth the body and mind.

This collection of Florida’s fountains of youth begins in St. Augustine, America’s oldest town.

History and healing water

De Leon settled at the site now known as St. Augustine in 1513. One of the city’s popular attractions is called the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, 11 Magnolia Ave. Guides tell the history of Native Americans and Spanish explorers. The famous springs sustained the Timucuan Indians for centuries. Early excavations have uncovered burial sites, relics and Timucuan hut foundations.

Before the end of the tour, participants can sample the spring water, provided the strong sulphur odor gets past their noses. Admission to the park is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children. AAA discount is available.

A dip in a 70-degree spring pool is refreshing and possibly may be curative. Florida Tourism photos
Other historic sites to enjoy here include the Castillo de San Marcos that dates to 1695. More oldies but goodies: The Oldest House, the Authentic Old Jail and Old St. Augustine Village. Quirky attractions: ghost tours, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park. Take time to enjoy the wonderful beaches.

More springs to explore

At De Leon Springs State Park, visitors can take a dip in a 72-degree spring pool, a refreshing–if not healing–experience. The park also has interesting “eco-history” boat tours. In the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, guests can fry their own pancakes on the griddle in the center of each table. The popular breakfasts also include eggs, sausage, bacon, coffee and a variety of syrups.

Admission to the park in DeLeon Springs is $5.

For more information, contact:
• St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches Visitor & Convention Bureau, (800) 653-2489, www.getaway4florida.com;

• De Leon Springs State Park, (386) 985-4212; Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, (800) 868-9914; Blue Spring State Park, (386) 775-3663, www.floridastateparks.org;

• Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, (888) 237-8772, www.safetyharborresort.com;

• Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, (813) 223-1111, www.visittampabay.com.

Click here for AAA travel information to the Tampa area.
Since the 1800s, people have visited the sulphur springs located along the bank of the Suwanee River. Today, the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail begins at White Springs and continues for 170 miles. Along the route, a variety of recreational opportunities can be found: canoeing, camping, hiking, and of course, swimming.

West of Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is the largest spring on the St. Johns River. During November through March, it’s also a refuge for the West Indian Manatees. The 73-degree water is crystal clear, perfect for swimmers, snorkelers and divers. River cruises also are available.

Call ahead before visiting these state parks. Due to popularity, the parks are sometimes temporarily closed when visitor capacity is reached.

Modern comforts

He may have been searching for gold, but Hernando de Soto is credited with finding Tampa Bay in 1539 and the Espirito Mineral Springs. According to legend, de Soto named the spring the fountain of youth.

For more than 60 years, Safety Harbor Resort and Spa in Tampa has used the springs as its primary source of water. Guests can “take the waters” or enjoy the spring water in the resorts pools, restaurant and spa.

A variety of spa treatments are available, and packages or promotions are often offered. The resort is located at 105 N. Bayshore Drive.

After a restorative visit to Safety Harbor, the greater Tampa area has plenty to entertain any visitor. Wonderful beaches provide a host of activities like sport fishing, jet skiing, parasailing and swimming. Check out the Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens, historic Ybor City or a professional sporting event. In January, be on the lookout for the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

There are those who debunk the fountain of youth’s existence. It’s hard to deny there are plenty of people fixated on retaining their youth. Whether the magic fount is found or not, searching for Florida’s natural springs can leave modern explorers relaxed and refreshed.

Ruth Chin is a contributor from Muncie, Ind.

Sepot/Oct 2007 Issue

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