Only in Florida is being stuck on a floating raft in the middle of nowhere for four hours one of the best things you can do on a hot summer day. No, really! You've got to try this next time you are in the area!
We love going tubing on the Ichetucknee River. It's a 1.5hr drive to beautiful Ichetucknee Springs State Park from our home and you have to head out early to beat the crowds because the park limits visitors at the North End to 750 a day, but tubing is really one of the most relaxing things you can do.
When you get there, you head straight for the North Entrance. That is where the spring is and where the fun starts. Well, unless you would like to tube for a shorter time; then getting in on the fun at the South Entrance is the better (and shorter) option. Just before you get to the North Entrance you will pass the "Ichetucknee Tube Center". That's where we always pick up our tubes. They are very nice, the tubes are in great shape and their rental prices are very reasonable! They have a neat little Tubing Tutorial on their webpage as well as a great coupon for $2 off (check 'Specials).
Once you have picked out your tubes, they tie them to your car, and you are ready to roll! You enter the park at the North Entrance, drop off your entire party and tubes and have JUST the driver take everything that can't go with you on the tube take the car back to the South Entrance. He will park your car there, deposit your car keys for safekeeping at the kiosk for $2 so you don't have to worry about losing your keys along the way, and then takes the shuttle back to meet you up at the spring at the North Entrance.
That takes a while so you have plenty of time to run to the bathrooms one last time, and to explore the actual spring. The water at Ichetucknee is a refreshing 72F all year long and crystal clear.
Seeing the spring peek out between the lush vegetation is just heart-stoppingly beautiful, especially on a sunny day.
Swimming in a natural spring pool is amazing: the water is brisk, clear as glass and sweet (none of that saltwater nastiness like the ocean - hah!). It is so clear, you can see little fish and even the silvery bubbles rising from the spot where the water rises to the surface. It's just gorgeous!
When finally your driver catches up to you, it's time to hit the river. It's a brief hike through the forest to the little landing area where you get into your tubes. You pop your butt into your tube and that's it!
For the next 3 hours all you do is sit in your tube and float downstream like on a lazy river!
It's one of the most relaxing family activities ever! Little Man went tubing for the first time when he was just five years old (they have tubes with bottoms so you don't have to worry about your little one falling through it ...heh, but bring a rope so you can tie their tube to yours because paddling back to help a stranded tuber from a kink in the river is really really hard *L*)
The weather was gorgeous, a bright-blue Florida sky dotted with little feathery clouds here and there. Don't forget the sunscreen, by the way. Parts of the river are in the shade of large trees overhanging the water but other areas aren't!
The Ichetucknee is an actual river, and so you will see wildlife along the way. Butterflies flock to bright blooms, birds swoop down to catch fish, fish will jump out of the water or swim next to you, and turtles will be sunbathing watching you float past.
Turtles! Little Man counted 102 fish and 13 turtles along with snowy egrets, and a large bird of prey we couldn't identify.
Lazily you float down the river through beautiful Florida wilderness. The current is very gentle and just right to lull you to sleep!
So, next time you are in Florida and you want to see a little bit of almost untouched true Florida, head on over to Ichetucknee and get your float on!