After I got certified as an Open Water Diver with PADI, I had planned to get more diving experience by doing more dives in 2020. But we all know what happened…a pandemic destroyed all my plans. I was so happy when I had the chance to go diving again in early 2021 when an essential work assignment brought me back to Florida.
I met up with my dive buddy and instructor and we planned a dive at Alexander Springs. We would meet at his place, near Cape Canaveral, and then drive together to the dive site.
Alexander Springs is located about one hour north of Orlando, FL. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is probably the best airport to fly into Florida if you are planning to go to Alexander Springs and other springs you can dive in Central Florida.
Two more fantastic dive sites in Central Florida are only about 1.5 hours away by car from Alexander Springs.
All of these sites have a nearby Campground if you are interested in staying for an extended time or just a night before continuing on to your next dive adventure.
Alexander Spring is part of the Alexander Springs Recreation Area which is located inside the Ocala National Forest. It is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted.
There are fees associated with diving at Alexander Springs. The standard day-use fees are as follows
Entrance Fee: Weekdays $7 per person; weekends $10 per person.
Scuba Diving Fee: $6.50 per person. Don’t forget to bring your certification card and let them know at the gate that you will be diving. You will receive a wrist band showing you paid to dive there. They will keep your certification cards at the entrance booth of the park until you leave.
Of course, they also offer annual passes and have fees for camping there. All these fees can be found on their website.
The park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. There could be some seasonal closures. Make sure you check before you go there.
Information and Layout of the Site
After paying our entrance and dive fee, we drove down to the parking lot and parked as close as possible to the entrance to the spring. There are plenty of parking spots, however, it can get crowded on weekends.
Right next to the entrance to the recreation area is a big bathhouse with toilets, showers, and changing rooms. You might want to take a shower after you finish your dive and before you leave. More about it later.
Alexander Springs is one of the 27 first-magnitude springs that exist in Florida. The water temperature is a constant 72°F (22°C) year-round and the water is extraordinarily clear.
It is also a great place to swim and hang out in the water as the spring pool is broad and naturally gently sloped. The surrounding area of a floodplain forest of maples, sweetgum, and cabbage palms gives this area an almost tropical charm.
There is a beach area right at the spring which elevated about 2ft above the water level of the spring. It’s not a sandy beach as you might expect used to from one of Florida’s many beaches. Two sets of steps lead down to the water. One on the far right end of the beach and one about in the middle. There are a few benches near the beach, which are great to set up your dive gear.
It’s about 115 ft (35m) from the beach to the mouth of the actual spring. Depths don’t exceed 25ft (7.5m) in the spring pool. Therefore it’s a very safe site for beginners and for scuba training. Many instructors come out here to teach as well. The site has a small cavern which you can penetrate about 10ft (3m).
There is some vegetation in the shallower areas of the spring pool but the main spring basin consists mostly of sand and exposed limestone. There is some wildlife in the spring, mostly just smaller fish. At the bottom of the spring, you will feel the current of the water. A gushing 70 million gallons of water flow out of the spring daily. Look out for the little “water-twisters” at the bottom of the spring.
Preparations and Dive Planning
As mentioned you could carry your dive gear down to one of the benches near the beach and gear up there. We, however, geared up at the car and walked down about 600 ft (182m) to the beach area.
We used the stairs to get into the chilly water to get used to the temperature. A 3mm shorty wetsuit was all I was wearing and I never felt cold during the whole visit. Once in the water, we walked away from the stairs to make room for other people even tho we were pretty much alone at the site and in the water. We donned our fins and walked out until the water got deeper to actually go “dive”.
All together we did two dives at the location. In between the two dives, we walked back to the car to swap tanks and then back down for another dive.
Overall this site doesn’t have amazing views or wildlife. However, the water is so amazingly clear and you have amazing visibility. This site also gest frequented by snorkelers and free divers which can pretty much enjoy the whole spring as well, as it is not very deep. We didn’t see much wildlife while in the water. A few small fish and that was about it. Because of the high flow rate of the spring, there is not much silt and light material at the bottom. Therefore you can’t stir up too much when you get too close to the bottom. This means also that a lot of material, including small pebbles, is suspended in the water.
Remember when I told you, that you should use the shower after your dive. This is the reason. You will find sand and tiny pebbles everywhere on your body. Even tho I showered on-site and at night again. The next morning there were still some tiny pebbles in my hair. Nothing bad, it’s just I never experienced that before. 😉
Overall it was a great experience for me. Especially as I want to log more dive time and practice my skills better.
Other Activities at Alexander Springs
Besides the usual activities of swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sunbathing, there is much more you can do here. There are also a few picnic sites with BBQ grill available to rent.
Another famous activity here is canoeing. There is a canoe rental available at Alexander Springs, which is temporarily closed because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Check back if they are open if you are planning to rent a canoe. You can still bring your own canoe and launch it for a small fee of $6.
Alexander Springs Run
Launch your canoe and take it down Alexander Spring Creek (Map). Exit about 5 miles down from where you launch. I haven’t done that yet myself but saw many people on the creek as we left the site. Ask one of the park rangers on-site for more information about it.
If you like hiking, you can take a small trail to the other side of the spring. The Timucuan Trail (Map) is an easy hiking trail that leads you through the Riverine swamp.
It is an easy 1.1-mile loop trail that starts on the east side of the swimming area. Along the trail, you find two observation platforms that look over Alexander Springs Creek. This trail was also closed during my visit for restoration purposes.
This site is perfect for beginner scuba divers and trainees working on their certification. If you are an experienced diver, this is probably not something of interest to you. If you are just looking for a place to cool down on a hot summer day or plan on taking your canoe out. This is a great spot. It’s probably not worth a long drive, as there are other locations to get your feet wet, but if you are in the area and want to visit a spring, this is a good place.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
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