Uncover the Natural Wonders of Alexander Springs: 12 Essential Tips for Your Visit

Are you looking for an inland beach surrounded by dense Florida forest? Look no further than Alexander Springs. 

Alexander Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest is a great place to visit, no matter the season. The spring is a clear, turquoise swimming area with constant 72°F water and a soft, sandy bottom. There are plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, dive, hike, paddle, and camp. 

In this post, I will share everything you need to know to plan your visit to this Central Florida Spring. My family and I visited when the kids were three and six. They weren’t even swimming yet, but we enjoyed our lovely day, and it was fantastic having a shallow area where they could play. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Aerial shot of spring source, swim area, and recreation area at Alexander Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida.
Photo by: H. Means – Thomas M. Scott (PG #99), Guy H. Means, Rebecca P. Meegan, Ryan C. Means, Sam B. Upchurch, R. E. Copeland, James Jones, Tina Roberts, Alan Willet (2004) Springs of Florida (PDF), 66, Tallahassee: Florida Geological Survey, p. 192, Public Domain

Table of Contents

Where is Alexander Springs?

Alexander Springs is in central Florida, in the Ocala National Forest along County Road 445. The first-magnitude spring is in the northeast corner of Lake County between Astor and Altoona, Florida.

GPS Info (Latitude, Longitude):

  • 29.07889, -81.58
  • 29°4’44″N, 81°34’48″W

Address: 49525 CR 445, Altoona, Florida 32702

It’s just one hour from Orlando and Daytona Beach. Getting to Alexander Springs Park, especially the closer you get, requires driving along narrow country roads with few amenities along the way. So you’ll want to pack some snacks and grab a bite before heading out, and don’t plan on finding dinner immediately afterward. A concession stand is available.

(There are no interstate highways here, only little towns scattered about. The park is in the forest!)

Map of the Ocala National Forest at Alexander Springs State Park Recreation Area in Ocala, Florida.

Wildlife in the Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is teeming with Florida wildlife. During the drive in, you might be lucky enough to glimpse a herd of deer or a black bear ambling along on the shoulder. And let’s not forget about those cute but pesky raccoons and squirrels. They enjoy those family picnics.

In Alexander Springs, you may see turtles, waterfowl, and maybe even an alligator. You will not see manatees, though. If you want to see manatees, consider hitting Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

On our drive home, we saw a bear with two young cubs crossing the road! She stared us down until we drove off. Exciting!

We are happy to report that we didn’t see any alligators on our visit.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area & Beach

The Alexander Springs Recreation Area is in the sprawling Ocala National Forest. There is an entry fee to enter the spring park.

As of May 2024, admission is $13.00 + tax per person (ages 6+). It is well worth it! If you plan to go often, there is a day-use annual pass for $80 + tax per person. Please call (352) 669-3522 for the most current admissions fees.

The beach area is raised above the water and not very large, but there is plenty of space off the beach to set up your temporary camp. There is also room to spread out, especially if you visit during the week.

There are many picnic tables, benches, and a pavilion, all under the cover of trees.

Visitors enjoy the beach and swim area at Alexander Spring State Park Recreation Area on a sunny summer day in Florida.
The swim and beach areas at Alexander Springs.

When is Alexander Springs Open?

All day-use areas are open from 8 am to 6 pm daily. These hours may change seasonally, so always double-check on the National Forest Service site. Campers have 24-hour access with a gate code. 

Do you need reservations?

Yes!

If you are camping or plan on renting a canoe or kayak, you’ll need a reservation.

If you are visiting for the day between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day, vehicle reservations are required. It’s $20, in addition to the day-use fee, and guarantees a parking spot.

The park gets busy during the summer, especially during the weekends and holidays. Once the park reaches capacity, it closes. 

Make sure to double-check Alexander Springs’ reservation policy before planning a day visit. 

Accessibility at Alexander Springs

All sidewalks and boardwalks at Alexander Springs are fully accessible. The parking lot is paved and directly connected to an accessible path. 

Visitors with strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs can visit the picnic area and 0.5-mile boardwalk section of the Timucuan Trail.

In addition, the bathhouse and restrooms are ADA-compliant. 

Are Dogs Allowed?

Leashed dogs are allowed in the campground, but not the day-use areas. So, if you have a dog, you’ll need to leave them at home or in the camper unless you are hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail. 

Can I Swim in The Spring?

Yes, swimming is allowed.

Visitors come to Alexander Springs to swim, float, snorkel, and scuba dive (there is an additional fee to scuba). If you’re lucky, a mermaid may also be in the spring!

The water is a constant 72°F and extraordinarily clear.

Built-in steps allow you to walk right into the spring. The swimming area starts very shallow (1-2 feet) and gets progressively deeper (slowly). For those interested in a bit of trivia, Alexander Springs is one of only 27 first-magnitude springs in Florida.

The spring floor consists of soft sand. Water plants cover the bottom as you get closer to the spring source, so water shoes are optional. The boil (spring source) is at the far end of the swim area. It is 25 feet down to the bottom, and the spring source is a beautiful glowing blue-green hue.

There are obvious markers in the swim area to keep swimmers out. Please stay out of those areas and avoid getting into vegetation on the edges.

Remember to leave pets behind when visiting the spring, swimming, or picnic areas.

Swimming With Kids

Our kids were only 3 and 6 years old on our first visit. They were thrilled to walk, run, and play in the water without being restricted to the immediate shoreline. It was also great for us as parents; we didn’t have to carry the kids around in the water.

Two children smile at the camera at the beach area at Alexander Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida.
My babies just before going for a swim.

Is it safe?

There is always a risk, no matter what the activity. There’s water, and there’s wildlife. Most of the time, nothing happens, but there are outliers, and things take a turn. 

In July 2023, there was a reported gator attack in the area. You can read the details here, along with information on alligator safety.

Yet another alligator incident was reported in November 2023 involving a woman snorkeling in the spring. You can read about it here.

Find out more about alligator safety from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences here.

Is Camping Available at Alexander Springs?

Yes. There are 67 camping sites available at Alexander Springs. The campground accommodates both tent campers and RV campers. The maximum RV site is 35 feet. Some campsites are first come, first served, but others are available via reservations.

All spaces are $28 per night. There is an additional fee if you have more than two vehicles at a campsite.

There is no sewer, water, or electricity at the sites. Don’t panic, though. There is a dump station and a bathhouse.

Visitors can camp for a 14-day stay in 30 days, like in many other national parks. Pets are welcome in the campground but must be leashed outside their tents or RV. You cannot bring them to the Alexander Springs swimming and picnic area.

Please click here for the latest fees and other camping information.

If you want to book on the go, download the Recreation.gov mobile app. It works to book campgrounds, tours, etc. at nationwide federal recreation areas.

Hiking at Alexander Springs

Alexander Springs has two main hiking opportunities: the Timucuan Trail and the Florida National Scenic Trail.

The Timucuan Trail

The trail is a 0.9-mile loop that is partially accessible to wheelchair users (the trail is partly a boardwalk; this is the accessible part). The trailhead is at these coordinates: 29.080850, -81.576317.

Meandering through small bubbling springs, the Timucuan Trail represents habitats around Big Scrub. The path also offers information about the Timucuan tribe that inhabited the area. Dogs are NOT allowed on this trail. Please click here for the current status and trail map.

The Florida National Scenic Trail

Also known as the Florida Trail, the Florida National Scenic Trail is a federally designated 1,500-mile statewide trail. 

The Alexander Springs to Farles Prairie segment of the Florida Trail (Trailhead: 29.078871, -81.577816) totals 8.6 miles one way. So, if you are just interested in a shorter hike, track your mileage and turn back before sunset or when you get tired, whichever comes first. Dogs are allowed on this trail. 

To get details on this hike, please visit the Florida Hikes website by clicking here.

Paddling at Alexander Springs

Paddlers can kayak or paddleboard down the Alexander Run. There are multiple launch points, one of which is in the recreation area. 

You can bring your own non-motorized boat or rent one. The paddling trail is 6.5 miles long, but you don’t have to commit to completing the entire thing. You can paddle a bit and turn right back to your launch point. 

Your paddle begins in a broad and slow-flowing run of the Alexander Spring Creek. You cannot paddle into the spring area where swimming is allowed. 

If you are new to paddleboarding, check out my Paddleboarding 101 post.

Route options are detailed on the map below from PaddleFlorida.net.

Click the image to go to the interactive version.

Basic/Minimalist Gear for a Day at Alexander Springs

Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Alexander Springs is an outdoor recreation area. Florida is all about sunshine and bugs, so be prepared and protect yourself. 

If you aren’t into sprays, wear clothing with built-in UV protection and cover up as much as possible. Sun and bug protection is vital if you go on the Timucuan Trail or the Florida Trail. I love my arm sleeves. They protect me, and I can remove them if I get too hot.

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, and her husband Robert taking a selfie while paddleboarding at Callalisa Creek in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
I wear my arm sleeves whenever I’m completely exposed to the sun. Robert takes a different approach.

Food and Drinks

Make sure that everyone stays hydrated and well-nourished. There is a concession stand on-site, but it’s only open some of the time. There are picnic tables and grills near the swimming area for visitors. We travel light when visiting for the day. We only bring reusable water bottles and a few applesauce packets. And we manage to survive.

Swim Gear

Visiting Alexander Springs will probably involve getting in the water. Be prepared with proper swimwear and other gear. We only brought tubes to float about lazily during our visit, but I wish we had had some snorkel gear.

The boil/basin (source of the spring) is magnificent, but we were only able to float awkwardly above it without goggles or anything.

Proper Footwear

The swim area is nice and sandy, super foot-friendly. The path from the parking lot to the beach/swim area is all paved, so simple flip-flops are all you need. If you decide to hike, though, wear closed-toed shoes, sneakers at a minimum, and hiking shoes preferred.

Close up a man's hiking boot in use on a hiking trail.

Additional Resources to Learn about Alexander Springs

You can learn more about Alexander Springs by visiting the following sites:

The swimming area at Alexander Springs in Ocala, Florida on a bright and sunny day.
Don’t forget to pin me.

Leave a Comment