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Rainbow Springs – The Perfect Florida Day Trip

Rainbow Springs - A Florida Day Trip Worth Taking

Florida has 174 state parks. They are perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities. Camping, hiking, canoeing, tubing, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching, and beautiful beaches highlight the activities available. Of course, each park has its own amenities.

Twenty-seven state parks have natural springs. One of the largest springs in Florida is Rainbow Springs, a Florida day trip worth taking.

489 million gallons of water flow from the spring to form the Rainbow River. The state of Florida has established a rambling state park named Rainbow Springs State Park to accommodate the millions of people who visit annually. 

Over 1400 acres adjoin the springs designated as a National Natural Landmark by the US Department of Interior.

Views are What Pictures Are Made For on Your Florida Day Trip

As you walk in the main park entrance from Route 41 the stunning beauty can take your breath away. The park is located north of Tampa, Florida about 88 miles in a small town named Dunnellon, Florida. Fees vary, but $2 will allow entrance to view the head of Rainbow Springs. 

There are additional reasonable fees for other activities.

Rainbow River cascades south for five miles before emptying into the Withlacoochee River. The crystal-clear cool water invites tubers, kayakers, paddle boarders and boaters (limited) to enjoy the trip down the river.

 Arguably, this five-mile stretch of Rainbow River offers more fun than a person should have in such a small distance!

Historically, the river basin has supported human life for over 10,000 years. The Timucua Indians called the river Wekiwa Creek. 

In the 1930s the area was developed into a tourist park with glass-bottom boats, attractions, a lodge and reptile exhibits. By the 1960s, other more formidable tourist attractions drew crowds away from Rainbow Springs.

State of Florida Takes Over

In the ’70s Rainbow Springs was recognized as a National Landmark. The park had gone into sad disrepair. In 1990 Florida purchased the area. Funding was incomplete, but people recognized the natural importance of the area.

Volunteers cleared underbrush, removed debris, uncluttered the waterway and restored the natural surroundings. In 1995 the park opened much like it is today.

things you need when flying

Rainbow Springs offers as many, if not more, activities than most state parks. There is a swimming area at the head of the springs. Canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and paddleboard liveries dot the banks. Picnic grounds, camping areas, and hiking trails surround the park. The obligatory snack shop and store adjoin the entrance.

Visitors Take Advantage of All Activities at Rainbow Springs

The park is always busy since it is the perfect Florida day trip from towns all over central Florida. However, the pure number of things to do in Rainbow Springs State Park keeps crowds separated.

Many hop on board a kayak, tube or paddle board for the trip down the river. Many choose swimming in the protected area. Others head into the woods for birding, hiking and picture-taking. Mother Nature offers squirrels, otters, alligators, hawks, herons, egrets, and various waterfowl for your photographic pleasure.

The park limits visitors on busy weekends. Rainbow Springs’ management suggests calling ahead for the best times to visit on your Florida day trip.

Visit Dunnellon Nearby

Dunnellon is a relatively small town running along the Rainbow River. The joining of the Rainbow and Withlacoochee rivers occurs just on the south side of town.

One place you may want to get a bite to eat is Swampy’s. The restaurant is located next to the river. The food is good, but the views of people slowly passing in front of you on various floating craft is absolute fun!

Rainbow Springs Distances

Rainbow Springs State Park is a perfect day trip from Tampa at 96 miles. It is the same road trip distance to Orlando and only an hour day trip from Gainesville.

A day trip from The Villages, Florida is about an hour away. Crystal River, Florida is about a 30-minute day trip.

Rainbow Springs is on Route 41, a few miles from Dunnellon at 19158 S.W. 81st Place Road, Dunnellon FL 34432.

Rainbow river Florida one of 10 day trips from Tampa
As you walk in the park, the setting is made for a camera.
Rainbow river Tampa road trip
Evening Starting to Shade Lake Dora
Rainbow river day trip Orlando
Rainbow River is a Registered Natural Landmark.
RB 4
The protected swimming area is a cool relief in summer's heat! Constant 72 degrees.
Rainbow River Day trip Gainesville
Plenty of hiking and Mother Nature at Rainbow River.
RB 5
Rainbow Springs offers kayaking, canoeing and more...
Rainbow river day trip is perfect for snorkeling. Perfectly clear waters.
Rainbow river day trip in Florida offers crystal clear water snorkeling.
An Ahinga and turtle bask in the sun at Rainbow River.
Your Florida Day Trip to Rainbow Springs will have a lot of photo ops.

More About Springs in Florida

Florida springs are natural treasures known for their crystal-clear waters, unique ecosystems, and recreational opportunities. The state of Florida is home to more than 1,000 springs, the largest concentration in the world, thanks to its extensive underground aquifer system.

These springs, many of which are first-magnitude springs (discharging at least 64.6 million gallons of water per day), offer stunning environments that attract nature enthusiasts, swimmers, kayakers, and divers.

Some of the most notable Florida springs include:

Silver Springs

Located near Ocala, Silver Springs is one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world. Famous for its glass-bottom boat tours, visitors can view the underwater life and natural beauty of the spring from the surface.

Florida road trip to Rainbow Springs
The glass bottom boats at Silver Springs is a fun way to learn about Florida Springs.
Wakulla Springs

South of Tallahassee, Wakulla Springs is one of the deepest and largest freshwater springs, known for its clear waters and diverse wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and various bird species. The Wakulla Springs State Park offers boat tours, swimming areas, and nature trails.

Ichetucknee Springs

This spring, located in Ichetucknee Springs State Park, is renowned for its pristine water, perfect for tubing, snorkeling, and diving. The Ichetucknee River flows through lush forests, providing a serene setting for visitors.

Ginnie Springs

Near High Springs, Ginnie Springs is famous for its clear, blue waters and extensive underwater cave system, making it a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. The spring also offers camping facilities and various water activities.

Weeki Wachee Springs

Known for its live mermaid shows, Weeki Wachee Springs offers a unique blend of natural beauty and entertainment. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, and wildlife viewing along the Weeki Wachee River.

These springs not only provide recreational opportunities but also serve as important ecological habitats, supporting diverse flora and fauna. They are vital to Florida’s environment and tourism, drawing millions of visitors annually who seek to experience their natural beauty and tranquility. This is a perfect Florida day trip.

The Florida Springs CouncilFlorida Springs Council

The Florida Springs Council (FSC) is a coalition of environmental organizations and advocates dedicated to protecting and restoring Florida’s springs and the ecosystems they support.

Formed to address the growing threats to Florida’s spring systems, such as pollution, over-extraction of groundwater, and unregulated development, the FSC works to ensure the long-term sustainability of these vital natural resources.

The Florida Springs Council plays a crucial role in safeguarding Florida’s springs, ensuring that these unique and precious natural resources continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy.

Through their comprehensive approach of advocacy, education, research, legal action, and collaboration, they strive to protect the ecological integrity and water quality of Florida’s springs.

Things To Do Near Rainbow Springs

Dunnellon, Florida, is a charming small town known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities, particularly those centered around its rivers and springs. Here are some of the top things to do near Dunnellon:

  • The Withlacoochee River, which runs through Dunnellon, is ideal for boating, fishing, and kayaking. The river’s scenic beauty and diverse wildlife make it a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts. There are also several boat ramps and parks along the river for easy access.
  • KP Hole Park is a popular spot for launching tubing and kayaking trips on the Rainbow River. The park features a boat ramp, picnic areas, and a swimming area. It’s a great place to start your river adventure or simply enjoy a day by the water. Start your Florida day trip here.
  • Stroll through Dunnellon’s historic downtown area to explore its unique shops, antique stores, and local restaurants. The downtown area has a quaint, old-fashioned charm and often hosts community events and festivals.
  • Located a short drive from Dunnellon, Goethe State Forest offers hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing opportunities. The forest is home to a variety of habitats, including pine flatwoods and cypress swamps, providing a diverse outdoor experience.
  • Crystal River, about a 30-minute drive
    Manatees Crystal river
    Swimming with manatees in Crystal River.
    from Dunnellon, is famous for its manatee population. Visitors can take guided tours to swim with manatees or go on a scenic boat ride. Crystal River also offers excellent opportunities for fishing, diving, and exploring the nearby Crystal River Archaeological State Park. All in all another great Florida road trip.
  • For a bit of excitement, check out the Citrus County Speedway, which hosts regular stock car races and other events. It’s a fun way to spend an evening and experience local culture.
  • Several stables and ranches in the Dunnellon area offer horseback riding tours and lessons. It’s a wonderful way to explore the natural landscapes and enjoy the outdoors from a different perspective.
  • The numerous lakes and rivers around Dunnellon provide ample opportunities for fishing and boating. Popular spots include Lake Rousseau and the Dunnellon Trail, which offers a boat ramp and access to the Withlacoochee River.

These activities highlight the natural beauty and outdoor adventures available near Dunnellon, making it a great destination for nature lovers and those looking to experience the tranquility of Florida’s waterways and forests.


Collectively, Rainbow Springs is one of the best ideas for a road trip in Florida. Add this fun journey to your bucket list of trips in Florida.

Map To Rainbow Springs

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