Blue Spring State Park is located in Orange City, Florida – a one-hour drive from Orlando, so it's a perfect place to spend the day and get away from the theme parks.
This is one of Florida's best state parks, with a designated manatee refuge offering crystal-clear, 73-degree water enjoyed by the second-largest concentration of manatees in Florida from mid-November to mid-March.
Make sure to arrive at the park in the morning, as the afternoons (especially weekends) are crowded and congested with cars. Weekday mornings are much less crowded. Morning is the best time to see manatees and also offers some great bird watching opportunities.
Pontoon river boat tours and kayak rentals are available at the park through St. Johns River Cruises. Water activities such as swimming or diving are not allowed during the manatee season. The park has picnic areas and a hiking trail.
Air-conditioned cabins, a full-facility campground and primitive campsites are available – so you can wake up and walk over to see manatees before breakfast. Check the Blue Spring State Park website for fees. There are plenty of motels for every budget in the area as well.