Where to Stay in the Springs Capital of the World

When someone says Florida vacation, most people think of sandy beaches and brightly colored condominiums. But for anyone willing to venture to the interior of the state, there’s an entirely different Florida that exists between the beaches. In the central region of the state, natural freshwater springs bubble up from the aquifer and create hidden oases tucked away in the forested wetlands along the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers. Gilchrist County is the location of five such springs, and there’s nearly a dozen more within driving distance – earning us the moniker Springs Capital of the World. 

If you’re ready to start planning your Florida Springs vacation, read on to discover the best places to stay while you’re here.

Campgrounds

Campgrounds are the go-to choice for travelers to our area. We have five parks located across our rural county, each suited for interests such as swimming, paddling, snorkeling, cave diving, boating, and wildlife viewing. Read on to see which park is right for your trip. 

Hart Springs Park and Campground

This campground is home to the largest spring-fed swimming area in the state. It also has a splash pad for the kids and separate primitive/RV camping areas. There is a paved trail connecting the RV campground to the spring area, making it easy to bike back and forth. You can even take a walk on the half-mile boardwalk to see where the spring merges with the famed Suwannee River. You can make a reservation at the Hart Springs website.

Otter Springs 

Otter Springs Park offers a perfect base camp for exploring Florida’s nature coast. There are a limited number of cabins available for rent here in addition to RV and tent sites. The swimming area at this park is smaller, but there are plenty of opportunities for fishing, paddling, and hiking. Learn more at ottersprings.com

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

Florida’s newest state park is a nature-lover’s dream! There are five named springs onsite, but only the largest one is open to swimming. The other named springs offer a glimpse of Florida at her wildest – a great location if wildlife viewing is on your bucket list. The campground features 23 campsites and you can make camping reservations online.

Ginnie Springs

Popular with college students, this park has everything you need for a good time on the water. You can rent snorkeling, tubing, or paddling gear from the general store; save time by filling out your rental waiver online. If cave diving interests you, Ginnie Springs offers three stunning dive sites; gear rental is available onsite. For camping information, visit their website.

Ellie Ray’s RV Resort

Ellie Ray’s is located on the north end of the county, right on the Santa Fe River. RV and tent sites are available here, along with cabin rentals. The onsite restaurant, Sturge’s, features daily food specials and live music throughout the week. There are several springs within a short driving distance, making this a great base camp for a spring-hopping trip. 

AirBnB’s

AirBnB’s are a great choice for families who don’t enjoy camping or travelers who want more privacy than a campground offers. Follow the links below to view a sampling of AirBnB locations near our springs.

Charming Cedar Log Cabin

Historic Small Town Bungalow

The Cracker Shack

Spacious Country Home

Little Critter’s Farm

Wherever you choose to stay, we’re certain that Gilchrist will become your family’s favorite location for exploring Florida’s springs.

Need help planning your trip? Email [email protected] with questions!

Town of Bell

Town of Bell

Best known for its friendly southern hospitality and small town atmosphere, the Town of Bell is the second largest town in Gilchrist County with a population of just under 500 residents. The town is located about 30 miles west of Gainesville, and just east of the beautiful historic Suwannee River.