Natural Attractions and Wildlife. If you love nature, you can't help but love Ocala. Search for alligators and other animals on a canoe trip, have an extreme nature experience on a mountain bike trail, or take a relaxing jungle cruise through the pristine wilderness. With more than 430,000 acres of national forests and over 200 spring-fed lakes and rivers to explore, your wild side will flourish. A great experience is waiting for you!
- Canyons Zip Line Adventure
- Spring diving Boating
- Bird watching
- Glass-bottom boat tours
- Mountain Biking
Ocala National Forest
Just east of Ocala is the Ocala National Forest, with more than 300,000 acres of untamed springs, winding streams, and natural lakes. The southernmost national forest in the continental United States, Ocala is a popular recreation area for canoeing, swimming, camping, hiking, picnicking, and hunting. Four major springs are located within the forest. Alexander, Salt, Juniper, and Silver Glen Springs are all great areas for swimming, snorkeling, and spring diving. All the springs have streams, which are ideal for canoeing. Detailed maps of the forest may be obtained at the ranger station.Alexander Springs
Alexander Springs pumps out 76 million gallons of warm water each day of the year, which flows into Alexander Creek. Canoeists use this run for an excursion into the unspoiled forest, and the spring is so large that local scuba experts use it for new diving certification tests. The spring is encircled by a nature trail that winds through the forest, and swimmers and sunbathers make good use of the large sand beach.
Renowned as one of the best recreational areas in the area, with a flow of 20 million gallons of water a day, Juniper Springs has a seven-mile canoe run with a wealth of wildlife en route that includes otters, deer, and bird life. The campground at Juniper Springs is in such demand that reservations are not accepted, and accommodations are handled on a first-come basis.
A unique feature crossing central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River is the state's premier greenway. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway occupies much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Today this 110 mile corridor offers a variety of trails and recreation areas where visitors can experience the wonders of Florida in their own recreational style, including hiking, inline skating, biking and horseback riding. Many of the trails are paved and easily accessible by individuals with disabilities. Several trailheads throughout the county lead directly to the greenway.Salt Springs
The recreation area is on the shores of a beautiful natural spring, which empties into Lake George, the state's second-largest lake. Vents of both salt and freshwater flow into the spring, creating a distortion of objects underwater known as a halocline. This feature, unique to Salt Springs, makes it a favorite among snorkelers and swimmers. The five-mile spring run is ideal for canoeing, boating, and fishing. Located in Ocala National Forest on SR 19 about 21 miles north of SR 40, Salt Springs has complete camping facilities.
If you like your nature experience full of speed and excitement, take a mountian bike ride on the Santo trail. Over 30 miles of trails with three levels of difficulty are available to accommodate beginners to experts. The Santos trailhead draws riders from all over the state and country to experience what many call the best bike trails in Florida. In addition to bicycle trails, the FTA hiking trail and equestrian and wagon trails are marked and maintained between Santos and 475A. Contact the Ocala Mountain Bike Association
for more information.
Silver Glen Springs
A beautiful, 1000-acre area bordering a crystal-clear spring and a good place for hiking, picnicking, bird watching, swimming, boating, or fishing. Silver Springs
Near Ocala, Silver Springs is the largest limestone artesian spring formation in the world. With an average output of 800 million gallons a day, the early Indians considered them sacred and paid homage to them with elaborate ceremonies. Scientists have discovered evidence of human activity dating back a hundred centuries. Certainly this is one of Florida's oldest attractions. 'There are a host of activities to enjoy, such as the world-famous glass-bottom boat tours. Numerous movies and television shows, attracted by the extraordinary clarity, have done underwater filming in this location. There is also a thrilling jeep safari where you'll see giraffes, ostriches, camels, a colony of monkeys descended from those used in the old Tarzan movies, and many animal exhibits including World of Bears, which houses Florida's only brown bears. Panther Prowl allows visitors to photograph, watch, and learn about the endangered Florida panther, and Doolittle's Petting Zoo features a variety of deer and goats that visitors can feed. The latest animal display is the Florida Natives exhibit, with a series of indigenous species of snakes, turtles, spiders, and mammals in naturalistic enclosures. The park also features a replica of a 19th-century river steamboat and an authentic, narrow-gauge passenger train.
The luxuriant gardens and subtropical scenery on the 350-acre site add to the viewing pleasure. Located just off I-75, one mile east of Ocala on SR 40. Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Call the hotel at (352) 854-1400 to find out more information. The Experience Specialist
is available to assist with reservations or reserve now!