Thinking about taking a trip to Central Florida? Perhaps you want to visit the coast and soak up the sun. Whatever the case, if you’re planning on spending any amount of time in the Sunshine State then you really ought to think about visiting a Florida river.
Famed for its clear water, each Florida river has something unique going for it, whether it’s the stunning locations along the banks, the water sports or even just the history behind each area. Because of that, you’re sure to find a Florida river to suit you. If you’re a thrill-seeker, a wildlife lover, or even just looking to make some special memories with a family member.
Florida also has some of the best weather in the country, as well as stunning local flora and fauna that’s utterly unmissable, especially if you have an interest in wildlife. Why not consider taking a digital camera with you or packing a sketchbook and some pencils so that you can capture some of the wildlife as you see it?
We’re not here to convince you of the virtues of visiting one of Florida’s many rivers because we think the idea sells itself. Still, picking out the best destination can be difficult, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. That’s why we’ve done the research for you. Here are just a few of the Florida rivers that are worth going out of your way for.
The Top Rivers in Florida
1. The Suwannee River
The Suwannee River is one of the most well-known rivers in the whole of Florida, and for good reason. Its beautiful blackwaters stretch for nearly 250 miles and are known and loved for everything from their rapids to the stunning limestone along the banks. If you’re planning a visit, it’s a great spot for watching the wildlife or for canoeing along the river. You can even follow it all the way along to the Gulf of Mexico.
2. St. John’s River
Also known as the Rio San Juan in Spanish, the St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida, bordering twelve counties. The St Johns River is also one of the slower rivers, which makes it perfect for swimming and casual water sports. It also runs alongside the Kissimmee River, meaning that you can easily visit both of them at the same time.
3. Apalachicola River
The Apalachicola River runs for less than half the length of the other two that we’ve mentioned, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re in Florida. Stretching along the Gulf of Mexico, it’s navigable throughout the year, though you’ll want to check the best routes to take, based on the season.
It’s also a must-see because it marks the state line between Florida and Georgia, near the town of Chattahoochee, which you might have heard of because of the Alan Jackson song. And if that’s not enough, it also passes through a number of stunning forests. Definitely one to think about if you want to lose yourself in nature.
4. Crystal River
Ever wanted to swim with a manatee? Of course you have! Fortunately, this stunning river is one of the only places we’ve ever heard of where you can legally swim with a manatee while chilling out in the Florida sunshine. Better still, you can legally swim with a manatee in its natural habitat.
The river has clear water too, which you probably guessed from its name, with warm temperatures throughout the year. While you’re there, think about stopping by the Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge to stroll along the boardwalk that stretches out over the river.
5. Santa Fe River
What can we say about the Santa Fe River that hasn’t been said already? This is history as well as geography, and the iconic river’s watershed is so extensive that it stretches for nearly 1,500 square miles throughout Colombia, Suwannee, Bradford, Gilchrist, and Alachua county. That’s quite impressive, considering it is only 75 miles long. It’s a stunning part of Florida and one of the highlights of the United States, but it can also get pretty busy because it’s not a very well-kept secret.
6. Peace River
The Peace River is… well, peaceful! Stretching along the southwest coast of Florida, it’s known for its stunning inlets and streams, as well as its rich history. It’s the only place in the whole of the United States that we know about where you can float along the river or go digging for megalodon – yes, megalodon – teeth.
That makes it a particularly good place to visit if you’re traveling as a family, especially if one or more of your children is a budding scientist or a keen young archaeologist. But even if you just want to get away from the crowds while still enjoying the Florida weather, it makes for a fantastic destination.
7. Ichetucknee River
This stunning spring-fed river is in north Florida and only stretches for six miles or so, making it the shortest river on this list, but still worth the visit. The vast majority of the river is within the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, and its pristine waters are so clear that you can see all five feet down to the riverbed. In fact, the water is so pure that you could probably drink it, although we’d advise against it. Just stretch out on the riverbank and soak up some of the Florida sun instead.
8. Kissimmee River
This fully navigable river is towards the south of Florida and passes through a number of lakes until it reaches its final destination of Lake Okeechobee. It’s known for the diversity of its wildlife, making it a great destination for wildlife photographers and birdwatchers, and there are also plenty of amenities nearby for you to make a vacation of it.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Kissimmee River is currently undergoing restoration and conservation after some historic mismanagement. Because of that, it can help to think of it as a work in progress.
There are plenty of other rivers for you to check out if you’re visiting Florida, and so whether you’re staying in Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, or Orlando, it’s worth spending some time looking at which rivers are nearby so that you can spend some time on the water. We haven’t even mentioned the Myakka River or the Withlacoochee River, for example.
If you’re planning on visiting Florida to check out some of the rivers, it’s also a good idea for you to visit a State Park or two while you’re at it. The two tend to attract people of similar backgrounds and interests, and there’s a reason for that. There’s a lot of crossover, especially if you’re into walking, spending time amongst nature, and seeing the stunning array of flora and fauna on display in the state of Florida.
Now that you know just a few of the top rivers to check out during your trip to Florida, the next step is for you to start planning out the rest of the details. Figure out where you want to visit, whether you want to meander through central Florida or whether you want to hang out by the Gulf of Mexico, and see what your availability is like in your planner.
Once you have your destination in mind, you can start to check what’s nearby, bearing in mind any special requirements you might have. If you plan to go camping on the banks of the Myakka River, for example, then you’re going to need to look for a campground. Otherwise, check out local hotels and Airbnbs.
The good news is, you now have all the information you need to start planning your Florida holiday, and with lots for you to see and do all throughout the year, there’s no excuse not to pay the state – and its rivers – a visit. Happy travels.