Visit De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

By Holly Giles | Florida

florida state park de leon springs

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De Leon Springs State Park

De Leon Springs is a must on a family vacation to Florida. There is something for all ages in the family, especially kids. Planning ahead will help you enjoy your day of beauty, history, and a natural Florida paradise.  Located in Volusia County, not far from historic Deland. Upon arrival, you will be in awe of some of Florida’s beautiful old live oak trees scattered all over the property. Their sweeping moss-laden branches will not disappoint. Most importantly, the scenery sets the tone for this tourist destination.
First of all, Ponce De Leon came here in search of the fountain of youth and the healing properties of water.  In addition, the Timacuan Indians called this and the surrounding grounds home for centuries.  After that, vacationers in the 1800s came by steamboat to this paradise for swimming and relaxing, and for the water skiing elephant too!
sugar mill pancake house

How much does it cost to get into De Leon Springs?

One of the main factors in planning your holiday to Florida is your budget for attractions and accommodations. There are lots to see and do in one of our state parks, so planning in advance is a must. Florida State Parks are an inexpensive trip for families.

The park is located at 601 Ponce de Leon Blvd., De Leon Springs, Fl 32130. Park admission cost is $6 per vehicle with up to eight occupants. Motorcycles are $4 and pedestrians cost just $2. The hours are 8 am until sunset 365 days a year. Scuba diving is instructor-only and must have a permit. In addition, there are 4 pavilions for rent that seat forty to sixty people. There is no camping or other accommodations at De Leon Springs.

See also – Blue Spring State Park

Plenty of parking is available. RVs and campers should not have a problem. But when in doubt, call ahead. Pets are allowed in the park on a leash. Picnicking is encouraged for everyone, with plenty of areas to enjoy your meal. Alcohol is not permitted at this park. Several restrooms, changing rooms, and an outdoor shower area are provided.

Old Sugar Mill Pancake House

First, we started our day at the Sugar Mill inside De Leon Springs State Park. This hundred-year-old mill sits right by the water and is now fashioned as a make-your-own pancake house, complete with griddles built into the tables. The restaurant opens at 8 am and closes at 4 pm every day.  I suggest heading straight to the sugar mill to get your name on the list. Generally, there is a wait time unless you get lucky! They do not take reservations for parties under 10 people.
friends making pancakes
They offer many choices for pancake toppings, with enough to share. Two types of pancake batter are offered, and sandwiches are an option if pancakes don’t suit your palette. The pancake batter is endless, so go hungry. Then, you may not need another meal for the rest of the day.
sugar mill pancake house at de leon springs state park florida

Echo Boat Tour at De Leon Springs State Park

Second, A boat tour was available and well worth it. Guests are encouraged to take the 50-minute boat tour while they wait for a table at the Sugar Mill.  You can see much of what makes this the real Florida as you enjoy the sights on the Spring Garden Run. A variety of Florida wildlife will be seen on this tour. Alligators are always nearby for viewing as they bask in the sunshine. Great Blue Herons, turtles, white herons, and smaller birds will delight you. Native plant species can be seen along the banks and historic cypress trees that make Florida unique.
The boat tour needs a minimum of eight passengers to run each hour. Tours are every hour from 10 am until 1 pm. It is wheelchair accessible and enjoyable for all ages. The leisure tour is just long enough to make you feel like you have stepped back in time and are an early settler in these wild parts of Florida. Book your tour when you arrive at the park, or call ahead and make your reservations with Captain Frank at 386-837-5537


Birding, kayaking, fishing, and hiking trails at De Leon State park

The wildlife abounds, and if you are a birder, be ready! Whether in a kayak, walking a trail, or viewing from the boardwalk, many species will give you a show. De Leon Springs State Park is on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Fishing is allowed from the boardwalk and shoreline. Fishing licenses are required and regulations are followed while you are in the park.
spring garden run
cypress tree on hiking trail
Manatees can often be seen from the overlook, even during the off-season. Herons of all kinds fish near where the spring run meets the swimming area. Kayak rentals are available, or you can bring your own. The serenity of the spring run makes for an enjoyable outing. Lake Woodruff Wildlife Refuge is accessible from the spring run by canoe and kayak. This 22,000-acre lake is teaming with natural treasures.
spring garden run
Take a leisurely walk on paved trails or venture off on the Wild Persimmon Trail. You will see Methusela, a 500-year-old cypress tree. Also, there are remnants of the original jungle cruise boat tour from the 1950s tourist attraction. One of over 100 roadside attractions during the heyday of road trips before interstates.

Visitor’s Center Museum at De Leon Springs

Third, we visited the small museum behind the spring full of artifacts. History is alive at De Leon Springs state park! From Indian tools, clothing, war remnants, shells and animal bones, and a photo of the skiing elephant. 
A dugout canoe found in the spring is hanging on the wall, and a timeline of the history of De Leon Springs is informative. From early Native American Inhabitants to a hotel and famous tourist attraction, this place has seen it all. The state of Florida has done a magnificent job preserving and protecting what remains for generations to enjoy.

Is it safe to swim in De Leon Springs?

Finally, swimming in the spring. The spring itself is 72 degrees year-round. In addition, in all the years we have visited, we see divers in the spring.  The swimming area is like a giant round pool. There is a shallow area for younger children and a large deeper pool area with a sea wall.

swimming at de leon springs state park florida

Bring a chair and blanket to enjoy the sights and sounds of the swimmers. The restroom and changing area are close by, so don’t forget your bathing suit. Sunscreen and a hat are advisable since most of the day around the swimming area does not have much shade. If swimming and sunshine are not for you, bring a book and tuck yourself back among the oaks for an afternoon rest.


boys swimming at de leon springs state park florida

Connecting to the past at De Leon Springs

Like a mom centuries ago, I sat under an old palm tree and absorbed the beauty of the spring. Most importantly, I was watching my children swim and trying to keep them out of the sun. However, I definitely prefer the shorts of this century to the petticoats of times past. Being able to enjoy natural Florida like families hundreds of years ago is quite incredible. I plan on bringing my grandchildren here one day too for a picnic on the grounds where we sit today.
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spanish sugar mill de leon springs state park florida


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.