A Piece Of Paradise In The Middle Of Florida.
This beautiful natural setting was just what we needed after two weeks at Thousand Trails Orlando. Kelly Park is a County Park in Florida and Rock Springs is the natural spring that's in the park - people will use the names interchangeably. It's right next to Wekiwa State Park. Life at TTO was packed full of fun, friends and great experiences. It was basically non-stop every day the moment we woke up in the morning until late at night. Those two weeks were wonderful and exhausting at the same time.
Kelly Park was the perfect place to get the respite that our family needed and to spend some time with ‘just us’.
The campground is beautiful and the campsites are all spacious and semi-private. Except for the site we had – it was on a corner so it was not very private. Maybe that’s why we were able to book so many nights somewhat last minute. Even so we still had a great time. And because the campground was so quiet, our site turned out to be just fine.
We settled in and the kids made themselves at home all over the campsite, which means toys quickly found their way all over the place. Matt was recovering from 2 ruptured eardrums from a former ear infection so the kids and I let him enjoy some silence and we took off on a walk to find the springs – which require no entrance fee for campers (unlike Lithia Springs whose springs are not as beautiful and they charge campers to swim.
The campground is a short walk to the amazing springs. We found the main swimming area and were immediately wishing we had our swimsuits with us. It is so beautiful. Many people were enjoying the water, but we followed a trail that lead us through some beautiful vegetation and ended up taking us to a landing where people who were tubing down the spring had to get out.
We had the place to ourselves and I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. The water was crystal clear and inviting. We just sat and enjoyed looking around for a bit before continuing our walk.
At the end of the trail we heard some rustling in the leaves next to us and noticed a deer. We stood and watched for a moment before continuing on and then we found two more searching for their dinner near the springs. They must be used to people because they were not scared of us. They barely paid attention to what we were up to.
When we arrived back at the main area, it had cleared out of day visitors since the park was about to close. Looking in the water we spotted so many fish and turtles. Some of the turtles were pretty big and that was really cool to see. They seemed to like swimming around the mossy areas. It was nice to have the place to ourselves.
Let's Go Swimming
The next several days we spent the mornings working and getting school done so that we could go swimming in the afternoons. We were blessed with perfect weather – highs in the 80s – perfect for a dip in the springs. February temperatures that incredible is what brought us to Florida in the first place.
To get the best experience at the springs you need to walk to the top of the springs and then float down as far as you can. A kind neighbor let us borrow their tube, but if you don’t have a tube there are a couple places (Ron’s 4550 Rock Springs Rd – or the nearby biker bar) on Rock Springs Rd where you can rent tubes for the day.
The spring head is one of the more beautiful spring headwaters I’ve been to. It was also one of our favorite places to swim. It is deep enough to jump off the rocks. We jumped in over and over again. If you have snorkeling gear this is a great place to see all the crevices under the water and the fish swimming all over.
We only had one tube so Matt and I took turns sitting on the tube holding the small boys while the others swam. The older kids swam along with the fish or floated down in a life jacket. The current was swift enough to get you moving, but still slow enough to be relaxing.
As we floated down one time, a river otter passed us no more than 10 feet away in the water dipping up and down. A short while later, we spotted a deer at the edge of the water grazing in the grass.
While floating down, towards the spring head, we had to watch out for rocks. The water is shallow in some places and the current is moving quick so you want to keep your feet up. Wear closed toe water shoes if you can. We ended up with a few bumps, bruises and scraped feet but it was worth it.
As the water made it’s way down, the rocks changed to sand and it was much easier to manage. The sand was soft and nice to walk in. Make sure you pass the main swimming area as the best sand below the tube is in the second half.
We also had fun swimming at the landing at the end of the tubing section. It was deep enough for the older kids (and me) to get a good swim but had shallow areas for the younger kids to enjoy. We preferred this area for swimming because the sand was cleaner than the main swimming area. It didn’t have any moss on the bottom, and I think it is a much prettier area.
It Did Get Cold
We spent the evenings cooking outside by the fire and relaxing. We don’t have fires as often as you might think. They are a bit of a novelty, even while living in an RV. So, the kids were excited to make foil dinners and banana boats.
The morning we left Kelly Park, a cold front came through. We bundled up and I took the kids to the playground while Matt dumped the tanks. It was time to move on to our next destination.
Have To Mention This
Though we loved Kelly Springs, it’s popular enough and cheap enough that lots of other people love it too. The campground is peaceful, but the springs can be pretty busy. The parking lot is huge and we thought it was busy when the parking lot was FAR from full. I can only imagine how crazy it is on a holiday weekend.
As with anywhere, watch your things. We read a review on TripAdvisor of a camera being stolen. And we saw some unconscionable 20 somethings near the headwaters trying to turn this kid friendly place into their own hookah bar – not cool!
Regarding prohibitions. Alcohol is strictly prohibited here and there are signs all over. Matt ran into a park employee the second day of floating and asked if those we saw doing the hookah pipe were in the wrong. The park employee (who didn’t have a professional “in charge” demeaner) seemed to think it was no big deal as it’s open air. We disagree and think the park should make it more family friendly and tell people to leave their hookah at home.
So just be aware of that going into it and you will be prepared to have a great time in a beautiful place.
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