St Augustine, Florida is a wonderful place full of interesting things to do, lounge on our beautiful beaches, enjoy a day of boating, fishing or jet skiing. The old city is chock full of historical sites, music, art, shopping and nightlife. But, if you’re in the mood to take a drive through the Florida countryside to enjoy a family fun day tubing down a natural spring river, then Ichetucknee Springs State Park is the perfect get away.
That’s exactly what I did with a few friends and we had a great time. Ichetucknee Spring is one of the few places left where you can enjoy the specular beauty of Florida’s unspoiled natural landscape. We set up our GPS so we could travel the scenic roads to the park, the countryside was beautiful, we passed farms, cow pastures, wide open spaces and drove along winding country roads. We spied deer on the side of the road and a fox standing in a freshly plowed field.
We left early in the morning and the easy carefree drive took just about an hour and a half. Right before you reach the park you’ll see the first tube vendor, we opted for the second vendor, the Ichetucknee Tube Center since they were the only ones who answered the phone when we called ahead for tubing information. Linda the owner who’s been in business over 41 years was pleasant and accommodating. We rented three big tubes for $6.00 a piece and Linda’s grandson tied them on our car. The Park was a short ride down the street where we were charged $5.00 a person to enter, if you’re just going to enjoy the park for a day without tubing on the river the entrance cost would be $6.00 per car. You can’t bring food or drink on the river but there are concession stands before and after the river ride.
Once we entered the park we unloaded the tubes and the driver had to continue a short distance to the parking area, she came back a short time later on the free shuttle. Once the driver came back we walked a few hundred feet and put our tubes in the crisp clean cold water. There weren’t many people there on this particular Sunday morning since it was early, just before 9, some people had tubes like us, and others had rafts or kayaks. As we continued down our adventure the river became swifter, I liked that better because the tube stayed more in the middle of the river. It’s hard to control a tube and at first mine kept going over to the side and I was afraid of what would come out of the high grass! We saw lots of mullet jumping out of the water, turtles resting on fallen logs and birds in the trees. We were hoping to see a manatee or two but weren’t lucky enough on that that sunny day. The gigantic cypress trees were a magnificent sight to see with their protruding knees all along the river bank, and the Spanish moss hanging down was truly a delight.
After about an hour and a half is the mid-point where you could disembark, but we elected to continue on for the entire 3 plus hour ride. Once done we were thirsty, hungry and exhilarated, we left the tubes at the river’s edge for the tube vendor pick-up and headed to the concession stand. We ordered cheeseburgers all the way, large fries and a large drink for $11.00 apiece. I must say that was a darn good lunch, and one of the best cheeseburgers found anywhere, fresh, homemade and delicious, our adventure ended with a free shuttle ride back to the car.
The very best of Florida is here in and around St. Augustine. Enjoy yourself and live everyday like it was your last.