My family has been going to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, Florida since I was a kid! There are so many family-friendly fun activities to do at the river!
My family loves visiting Rainbow Springs State Park! We’ve been going to the river since my brother and I were young kids. It’s such a great place to make memories at and I know that one day I’ll bring my kids there for a fun-filled day!
What’s So Special About Rainbow River?
Rainbow River is a gorgeous, crystal clear, 73-degree, 5.7 miles long river that merges with the Withlacoochee River in Dunnellon, Florida. It’s also a designated National Natural Landmark, aquatic preserve, and Outstanding Florida Waterway. Rainbow Springs feels like an untouched piece of history that you just won’t find anywhere else.
Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs is the head of Rainbow River, it’s also the swimming hole, and place where you can rent kayaks and canoes for the day.
I feel like the Rainbow Springs State Park is a well kept secret spot (from everyone except the locals) because when I was in high school (which is only two hours away from the springs), all the kids just wanted to go float down the river. They never mentioned the beautiful swimming hole at the head springs at Rainbow Springs State Park because they didn’t know it was there!
I think they just thought that it was a park to walk through, not a park that you could swim in and do all these fun activities! Visiting the Rainbow Springs State Park is very affordable and family-friendly, it only costs $2 per person to get into the park!
10 Activities to Do at Rainbow Springs State Park
- Jump off the floating dockMy dad and brother always jump or dive into the springs from the huge floating dock, it’s fun to see who can make the bigger splash.
Don’t worry, there are steps leading into the water on the side of the dock for the kids and chickens (like me and my mom) who don’t want to catapult themselves into the cold water.
- Swim in the head springsThere is nothing better than swimming in the cool, 73-degree river on a boiling hot Florida summer day. It’s very refreshing! If you keep swimming, your body will acclimate to the water temperature, I promise. If you stop swimming and just float, you’ll start seeing goose bumps pop up real quick!
The head springs swimming area is roped off and the lifeguard will ask you to come back if you go past the ropes.
Note – Make sure you bring a noodle (or two) to float on, not rafts or blow-ups are allowed and the water is deep!
- Snorkeling in the Head SpringsThe water is crystal clear and all of the vegetation has been cleared out in the head springs, so you can see everything underwater! We always bring masks, flippers, and a snorkel so we can swim underwater and look at the fish and vegetation. You never know what you might see!
If you’re canoeing down the river, you can get out and swim where you want to but make sure you stay within the ropes if you’re snorkeling at the head spring.
Note – If you see a cool rock or shell in the water, don’t take it! The park rangers will ask you to put it back. They explain it like this, “If everyone took one piece of the spring, how long would it take to change the springs?” Not long! Let’s keep the springs as beautiful as they are now.
- Pack a Picnic LunchYou’ll definitely work up an appetite after swimming, so make sure that you pack lunch to eat. My parents always get to the Rainbow Springs State Park early so they can grab a table under one of the three shelters so we can grill out for lunch.
If you don’t get a spot under a shelter, there are picnic tables on the hill leading to the head springs but we prefer the shelter. During the summer, it usually rains for a little bit in the afternoon so it’s much nicer (for you and your stuff) to be warm and dry under the shelter while you wait out the storm.
There are grills at each of the shelters too. We always bring burgers (mushroom burgers for me!) to grill and my mom packs a mean picnic spread: Potato salad, broccoli salad, chips, watermelon, fresh fruit, and her famous brownies.
Note – If you’re having a party or celebrating with a big group and want to guarantee that you get a shelter, you can reserve a shelter for $100.
- Rent a Kayak or CanoeIf you walk past the head springs, the path will lead you to Nature Quest: kayak and canoe rentals. My dad and brother like to bring their canoe from home and take it out on the river but if you don’t have one, you can rent a canoe or kayak for $30 (two people for two hours). You can get more info and prices here.
- SUP on the RiverWe went stand up paddleboarding (SUP) for the first time on the Weeki Wachee river but it’s on our bucket list to SUP on the Rainbow River too.
We saw lots of people paddle boarding on the river, it’s a great workout with a beautiful view!
- Tube Down the RiverI went tubing down the river twice while I was in high school, it’s a lot of fun to go with a group of your friends or family! It takes two hours to get down the river and you can’t just get off halfway through, so be prepared to stay on the river from start to finish.
The tubing entrance is located on S.W. 180th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. Park your car for $5, then Nature’s Quest will drive you up the river and drop you and your tube (tube rentals are $15) off to float back down the river to your car.
- Camping at the River
If you can’t get enough of the beautiful river, you can stay the night and camp! The campgrounds are just a little bit down the road from the Rainbow Springs State Park. You can find the entrance at 18185 SW 94th St, Dunnellon, FL 34432.
- Explore the Gardens & WaterfallsThe gardens around the head spring are beautiful to walk through. In early spring, the azalea plants are in full bloom and the colors are just gorgeous!
My mom loves visiting the waterfalls in the state park. Even though she’s seen them many times, she loves to visit them and take pictures every time we visit.
It’s a little bit of a hike to walk all the trails, so make sure you bring a fan necklace, sun lotion, and a water bottle to stay hydrated. After you’re done walking the trails, you’re going to be so ready to jump in the cold water!
- Look for WildlifeI’m not a huge bird person, so I can’t tell you exactly what bird species that I’ve seen at the Rainbow Springs State Park. However, I read on the trail signs that there are many different types to look out for!
The Rainbow Springs State Park is considered to be an outstanding birding area where you might see: woodpeckers, wading birds, hawks, songbirds, and owls.
- Play Frisbee on the HillMy dad always brings a frisbee to toss around on the huge hill between the shelters and the head springs. It’s the perfect area to play with the whole family!
21 Essentials to Pack for Rainbow Springs State Park
- Pool Noodles
- Goggles or Full Face Mask
- Cooler (with wheels)
- Portable Waterproof Radio (This is the radio we brought on our cruise!)
- Change of Clothes
- Grilling Utensils
- Beach Towels
- Necklace Fan (This is my favorite fan ever!)
- Water Bottle (I love this because it’s glass but has a no-slip sleeve on it!)
- Sun Lotion (We love this because it’s reef-safe and harsh chemical-free)
- Flip Flops
- GoPro Hero 5 (We use this for all of our vacation and underwater videos!)
- Beach Bag
- Picnic Lunch
- Foldable Lounge Chairs
- Floppy Hat
- Tablecloth+Clips (The clips work so well for keeping the tablecloth from blowing off!)
I hope you get a chance to visit the Rainbow Springs State Park and experience the crystal clear cold water, it’s so much fun!
Have you visited the Rainbow Springs State Park before or are you planning on going this summer? Let me know in the comments!
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