The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Guide to High Springs, Florida
Tucked away under the lush green canopy of North Central Florida hides a small old Florida town packed with high adventure. If you’re looking for roller coaster thrills and funnel cake amusements, this place is not for you. However, if you are in search of turquoise blue springs, tubing, paddling adventures and camping by a river, High Springs just may make your perfect escape.
Located north of Gainesville, the bustling university town and home to the Florida Gators, many people hop on I-75 and breeze right past without realizing what treasures lay beyond the interstate. It took us years to finally take that side road to High Springs and now we can’t wait to get back. But what exactly can you do in this tiny little old Florida town?
High Springs overflows with outdoor adventure opportunities. The historic downtown is charming too, home to the oldest movie theater in Florida (1910), and a great place to grab a bite. And beyond, on the Santa Fe, the adventures in wild Florida await.
Places to Visit in High Springs
Pack a picnic lunch, a snorkel for those springs, a kayak or two and even a tent and check out some of these stops along the Santa Fe River. Don’t forget the swimsuit, sunscreen (& bug repellent during the warmer months.)
Poe Springs County Park
Poe Springs feeds the Santa Fe River with 45 million gallons of fresh water daily. This county park is only open Thursday through Sunday. This is a good place to picnic and launch a kayak to check out the Poe rapids (sorry, not whitewater, more lazy Florida style).
Public boat ramp (small). Launch point for paddlers. Swimming, hiking, fishing. Boardwalk.
- Located: 28800 NW 182nd Ave, High Springs, FL 32643
- Hours: Thurs to Sun 9 am to 6 pm. Closed Mon-Wed
- Fees: Free
- Contact: (352) 374-5245
Gilchrist Blue Springs
Florida’s 175th state park. Swimming & snorkeling in gorgeous springs- Blue, L’il Blue, Naked Springs & Johnson Springs. Long boardwalk over Blue Run to the Santa Fe River- currently under repairs due to Hurricane Irma. Grills around picnic area by the main spring. Sandy beach area and shallows around main spring as well (good for smaller kids). Elevated diving platform over Blue Spring. Naked and L’il Blue are smaller swimming holes with floating boardwalks to jump from. Johnson looked murky (but may have been that time of year). Hiking trail, volleyball net. Concession stand with drinks, snack foods like hot dogs & ice cream.
Kayak, canoe & SUP rentals on site via Anderson Outdoors (see outfitter information below)
- Located: 7450 NE 60th Street, High Springs 32643
- Fees: $6 carload 2-8 persons or $4 single occupant
- Hours: 9am-5pm (winter hours) 7 days a week. Longer hours in summer.
- Contact: 386-454-1369
- Additional resources: Adventures at Blue Springs
Alcohol is not permitted at this park. State park rules apply.
Ginnie Springs Outdoors is another privately owned park with swimming, snorkeling, tubing, paddling, camping, and springs galore. You may not even want to head out to the Santa Fe River! From the Devil Springs system (Certified divers only allowed in the caves), Ginnie Springs, Dogwood Springs- and more (Check out our video!)
On-site country store & deli just in case you get hungry. Camping is first-come, first-serve- wilderness sites. Need electric/water for RV? Reservations recommended. They also have one cabin (cottage) for rent (reservations required).
They rent snorkeling gear & scuba gear, tubes, kayaks, canoes & SUPs on site and have a tube entrance and exit within their park- the tube run itself on the Santa Fe River.
- Located: 7300 NE Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs, FL 32643
- Fees: (Daily) Adults $14.02; Kids 6-12 $3.74; 5 & under free
- Hours: 8 am to ½ hour before sunset.
- Additional fees for camping & Scuba diving apply (see their website for details)
- Contact: 386-454-7188
Santa Fe Public Boat Ramp
Launch your own boat on the Santa Fe and go fishing, spring hunting or just relaxing.
- Located on Highway 27 heading from High Springs towards Fort White, on the right just over the bridge.
Rum Island County Park
Public park on the Santa Fe River. Boat ramp, porta-potty toilets, fishing, swimming in springs. You can launch your kayak or canoe here for a river adventure, picnic, and even fish, but alas, no rum! Drinking is prohibited at this county park.
- Located: 1447 SW Rum Island Terrace, Fort White, Florida 32038
- Fees: free
- Hours: Wed to Mon. 7 am to 10 pm; Tues. 12pm-9pm
- Contact: 386-719-7545
- Additional resources: Exploring Rum Island
Oleno State Park (8 miles north of High Springs)
Explore miles of hiking trails, camping (RV & tent), swimming, kayak/canoe launch. This is the park where the Santa Fe River disappears underground. Take the River Trail to check out the sinkhole that swallows the entire river.(It emerges 3 miles later at River Rise Preserve Park.)
- Located: 410 SE O’Leno Park Road, High Springs, FL 32643
- Fees: $5 per vehicle (2-8 persons)
- Camping fees extra. Camping reservations must be made through ReserveAmerica.
- Hours: 8 am to Sundown all year.
- Contact: 386-454-1853
River Rise Preserve State Park
Situated adjacent to O’Leno State Park, River Rise is where the Santa Fe River emerges from the earth again and continues on it’s way to the Suwannee River. This park offers hiking, biking & equestrian trails (shared trails) and also equestrian camping.
- Located: 373 SW US HWY 27, High Springs, FL 32643
- Fees: $5 per vehicle (2-8 persons)
- Hours: 8 am till sundown year round.
- Contact: 386-454-1853
Gilchrist County Santa Fe River Park
Located on SR47, this 392-acre primitive park nestles against the Santa Fe River and is run by the Suwanee River Water Management District. This is a takeout point for kayakers doing the run from Rum Island. 2 entrances. Narrow public boat ramp (at SR 47 bridge), hiking, fishing, biking, equestrian use (on administrative roads) & fishing too.
- Located: NE 40th Ct. Road, High Springs, FL 32643
- Fees: Free
- Hours: 1.5 hours before sunrise to 1.5 hours after sunset. (ie daylight hours).
- Contact: 386-362-1001
Paddling on the Santa Fe River
With all of the freshwater springs, campsites & parks, the Santa Fe is a great place for a family paddle adventure. There are so many places to stop, stretch your legs and take a swim. Do note that if you stop at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park or Ginnie Springs Park and go on their land, you must pay their daily use fee. Put in at Poe Springs to catch the rapids and take out at Rum Island- or stop off at Ginnie Springs for a picnic lunch (they have a deli!) and take a dip in the springs there.
There are two sets of rapids along the Santa Fe River, the first at Poe, and the second ones are located just downriver from Ginnie Springs Outdoor Park (halfway between the park & SR47 bridge). Rum 138, a local outfitter, has a good map of the river on their website, showing the rapids and the numerous springs in the area.
If you bring your own kayak/canoe, you can do the two-car shuffle, or hitch a (paid) ride with one of the shuttle services that the outfitters below provide. Or leave your own boat at home and rent one of theirs. Some of these outfitters even offer overnight trip options.
Tubing on the Santa Fe River
There is a popular tube run along the river from Ginnie Springs Park. Steep put-in ramp, and a float down the river to the take-out at Twin Springs. An ‘Exit’ is sign posted on the river. They have a marked walking trail in the park for visitors who wish to go-around-again. Tube rentals available in the park.
Local Cave Diving
Ginnie Springs offers opportunities for certified divers to explore their underwater cave systems. Divers can explore the Ginnie Cavern & Ballroom and The Devil’s Springs System (Little Devil & Devil’s Ear & Eye).
Local canoe outpost outfitters
Anderson Outdoor Adventures (runs from Blue Springs Park)
Canoe, kayak & tube rentals
Downriver trips from Blue Springs to State Road 47 Bridge (2.5 to 3.5 hours) and also shuttle services from the same points if you bring your own kayak/canoe.
- Contact: 352-210-9060 Call for prices.
Canoe/kayak rentals and haircuts (yeah, we thought it was weird too!) Check out their art gallery, get a haircut & rent a kayak all in the same location.
Trips: DIY full day (8 hours) or ½ day (4 hours) Drop off points at US 27 bridge or Rum Island County Park and pick up at Rum Island Or State Road 47 Bridge.
- Located: 2070 SW County Road 138, Fort White, FL 32038
- Hours: Wed-Mon. 9 am to 5 pm (closed Tuesdays)
- Contact: 386-454-4247
Rum 138 often advertises on Groupon with great deals, so if you do the Groupon thing, check it out!
Santa Fe Canoe Outpost
DIY trips with pick-ups, starting at canoe outpost and ending 3 miles to (HWY 27 bridge) to 15 miles (SR 47 bridge).
Overnight DIY trips with return shuttle, ranging from 15 miles to 39 miles on the river. Camping gear available to rent for your adventure.
Moonlight trips & shuttle services for your own kayak/canoe at various locations also available
- Located: 21410 NW Highway 441, High Springs, FL 32643
- Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9 am to 5 pm; Sat. 8 am to 6 pm; Sun. 9 am to 6 pm
- Contact: 386-454-2050
Places to Eat in High Springs:
Everybody has to eat. If you are camping, be sure to pick up supplies before you get there- you can also pick up a meal from one of these places to take with you as well and have your fellow campers drooling with envy. All listed places are casual dining.
Great Outdoors Restaurant
Live music, specials & outdoor patio dining
- Located: 65 North Main Street, High Springs, FL 32643
- Hours: Tues to Thurs & Sun, 11 am-9pm; Fri. & Sat. 11 am to 10 pm. Closed Mondays
- Contact: 386-454-1288
Station Bakery & Café
Sandwiches, salads & baked goods
- Located: 19327 NW US Highway 441, High Springs, FL
- Hours: Monday-Friday 10:30- 6 pm; Saturday 10:30-4pm
- Contact: 386-454-4943
50’s style diner-Breakfast, lunch & dinner
- Located: 19726 NW US Highway 44, High Springs, Florida 32643
- Hours: Mon. to Fri. 8 am to 9 pm; Sat. & Sun. 7 am-9 pm
- Contact: 386-454-5775
Places to Stay in High Springs (that aren’t camping)
Not everyone likes to camp. There’s bugs & heat and sometimes it’s just nice to have a cozy bed and hot bath and A/C, so here are some non-camping accommodation options.
Grady House Bed & Breakfast
Historic Bed & Breakfast
- 420 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs, FL
- Contact: 386-454-2206
Rustic Inn Bed & Breakfast
- Located: 15529 NW State Road 45, High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 386-454-1223
High Springs Country Inn
Budget motel from the 50’s with basic amenities.
- Located: 520 NW Santa Fe Blvd. High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 386-454-1565
Budget motel from the 50’s with basic amenities.
- Located: 405 NW Santa Fe Blvd, High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 386-454-1701
*The nearest chain hotels are in Alachua.* If you are part of the hotel network ie unbeatable discounts with certain brands- (we were for a long time), the nearest major chain hotels are in Alachua.
Just in case those river adventures just aren’t enough:
High Springs BMX (Bicycle Motocross Racing)
You can try it out yourself or just watch the excitement from afar. Check out their website for their schedules & hours (varies) & follow the “getting started” tab at the top for newbie information.
- Located: NW 2nd Street, High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 352-474-8105
The oldest cinema in Florida dates back to 1910 and is still showing current releases. Though this is a cash-only establishment, but at $5 a head, the prices aren’t bad at all!
- Located: 15 NW 1st Street, High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 386-454-7469
- Hours: Fri, Sat & Monday
The Wellness Spa
- Located: 340 NW 1st Ave, High Springs, FL 32643
- Contact: 386-454-8889
Where are your favorite places in High Springs?
Feel free to comment below.
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It sounds like there’s so many great things to do in this area! I’ve only been to Florida once but I’d so love to go back, and I’ll have to remember this place 🙂
Who knew such a little town could pack all these great adventures. Definitely, check it out on your next Florida visit, Sonja!
I had no idea there were so many fun water sports to do! I would love to paddleboard next time I’m in Florida.
It’s a great place to go, Alice! The water is crystal clear and 72°F in the springs year-round!