There isn’t a more beautiful place to enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of north central Florida than on the St. Johns River. When you’re boating, fishing or hiking trails near the river, you’re likely to run into longtime residents of the river – alligators. If you do, we offer these tips to stay safe around alligators while you’re enjoying the St. Johns River.
Don’t Feed the Alligators
This is the most important alligator rule. Alligators are naturally afraid of humans. Feeding them with food other than their natural prey only makes them bolder and makes them want to seek out people to find more food. So keep the people food to yourself. You also don’t want to feed ducks, turtles or other natural wildlife along the St. Johns River.
Be Cautious During Mating Season
Alligators can be a bit testy and do peculiar things during mating season, which happens in the spring and the summer months. Alligators only leave their marked territories this time of year to look for females, so you may see larger alligators more frequently and in places you don’t normally see them. Just wave to them, give them their space and leave them alone.
Keep Your Dogs on a Leash
Everyone likes to take their dogs boating and fishing on the St. Johns River. Just be sure to keep them on a leash when you disembark the boat for a restroom break. You don’t want them running off alone, especially during alligator mating season.
Keep your Distance
Alligators may look lazy and slow, but when they want to move, they can move fast! You should stay at least 60 feet away from alligators at all times. If an alligator hisses or lunges at you, you’re way too close. Also, never disturb alligator nests or baby alligators because their mom is always nearby ready to protect her babies.
The cool refreshing water of the St. Johns River is enticing when you’re on the boat and want to take a swim. But if you can’t see your arms, legs and feet when you’re in the water, you shouldn’t swim in the water. Stick to swimming in the cool, refreshing springs like Silver Glen Springs and other springs you can access from the St. Johns River. The water is shallower, crystal clear and alligators aren’t likely to be there.
Fishing Around Alligators
Be cautious when casting a line near alligators. Some alligators will try and grab a hooked fish. Also stay away from fishing in heavy vegetation and near the water’s edge where alligators like to hang out. You don’t want to catch an alligator on your line.
Plan Your Trip
It’s time to plan a trip to the river. Rent a hotel room or book a cottage at Castaways on the River to make your trip perfect. Once you step outside your room, there’s a variety of rental boats sitting in the marina waiting for you to cruise the river or go fishing. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3422 to plan your fishing trip on the river.
The St. Johns River isn’t your typical Florida getaway, having many unique characteristics that make it a one-of-a-kind destination! Because of this diversity, it could be difficult to navigate the St. Johns River. Before you visit, learning how to navigate the St. Johns River will allow for a relaxing day on the water. Castaways on the River lies directly on this waterway and is the perfect location to rent a boat or enjoy the week in one of our cottages or motel rooms.
St. Johns River Fun Facts
Known as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World,” the river is rich in marine life including ample crappie, bluegill, catfish and other varieties of freshwater fish. In addition, visitors enjoy swimming, kayaking and boating along the river’s connected watersheds during the spring and summer months.
The St. Johns River is also linked to 14 lakes and numerous Florida springs including Blue Spring State Park, a protected manatee refuge. During the winter season, hundreds of these gentle sea cows inhabit the spring’s surface much to the joy of onlookers. To read more, visit our blog, St. Johns River Fun Facts.
Tips to Navigate the St. Johns River
Cell Phone Navigation
Many people decide to go “unplugged” while out on the water, and with good reason! Since there’s limited cell phone service on the St. Johns River, your device may not be much use for navigation. Additionally, taking in the surrounding beauty is a nice reprieve before heading back to the digital world. For these reasons, we don’t recommend relying on cell phones for navigation. Instead, use your phone to take pictures of the surrounding nature and the beauty of the area! Be sure to tag us with the hashtag #CastawaysontheRiver when you share your photos, and you might win a t-shirt in our photo contest.
North of Castaways on the River lies Axle Creek, Hitchens Creek, Payne Creek, Silver Glen Springs and Lake George. To the south, look for Lake Dexter, Stagger Mud Lake, Tick Island Mud Lake, Lake Woodruff and channel marker #24. On the river, you’ll see channel markers referencing how far north or south you are, ensuring you stay within the boat’s boundaries. For instance, the northern boundary is a third into Lake George, just past Silver Glen Springs to the west while the eastern lake boundary lies a bit beyond Jones Cove. And finally, you’ll find the southwest boundary at channel marker #24 on the St. Johns River; visitors heading southeast should not wander beyond Lake Woodruff.
All Castaways on the River boat rentals are equipped with a compass to help you navigate the river, lakes and springs. Here’s a great resource on how to read a compass, which will be helpful in situations where you have no phone or GPS. To navigate the St. Johns River, all you need is a compass and a map of the area!
You’ll find your onboard compass on the dashboard of the boat.
The lubber line shows you which direction you are going. To find which way you should return, just add 180 degrees to the lubber line number for your course home.
However, if you have any questions, we are here to help! Our office phone is 352-759-3422. Should you find yourself in a difficult situation, give us a call. Better yet, speak to our team before your trip for additional resources in planning the perfect outdoor excursion.
Boating Safety on the Water
Florida Boating Safety Laws
According to Florida law, there must be one life vest available for every person on the boat and each personal flotation device (PFD) must fit the associated person. Also, children under 6 years old, regardless of swimming ability, are required to always wear a life vest while on a boat. Castaways on the River provides, free-of-charge, the number of adult life vests according to the maximum capacity on each boat. Children under 90 lbs, including infants, are fitted with their PFD before entering the vessel.
Just like motorists on the road, boaters must be mindful of signage out on the water. For your convenience, we’ve listed some common signs you’ll encounter on the St. Johns River below.
“Idle Speed No Wake”
The approaching area with this sign posted requires boats to move extremely slow and not create wakes that come from boat motors working hard and fast. Basically, an Idle Speed no Wake sign means that you should not be accelerating at all to create any wake. Maintaining steerage and headway is key until you coast out of the no-wake zone.
“Slow Speed, Minimum Wake”
You can move a bit faster here compared to the sign above and create a small wake. However, you should move cautiously.
“Maximum 25 mph and 35 mph Speed Zone”
Essentially the equivalent of a school zone on the water. In other words, take care to not exceed the posted limit.
“Vessel Exclusion Area”
Marked with a vertical diamond shape with a cross in the center. Essentially, this indicates boats aren’t permitted here and are typically posted to inform boaters of an area designated for swimming.
Designed to alert boaters to slow down in areas where endangered manatees congregate. The words “Manatee Zone” are typically placed above a “Slow Speed, Minimum Wake” sign to make boaters aware of the big, lovable sea cows. Most often, there are stand-alone signs warning boaters to watch for these aquatic mammals.
Share your Tips on How to Navigate the St. Johns River!
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The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida at a whopping 310 miles long. It flows through 12 counties, moving from northeast Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. At its largest point, the St. John’s River is almost 3 miles wide.
It is also separated into three river basins and two watersheds. The Upper Basin of the St. Johns engulfs approximately 2,000 square miles, and the largest basin is the Lower Basin covering 2,600 square miles. Thanks to its massive size, the river transports about 16,000,000 tons of freight through the ports in Jacksonville, Fla. per year.
It Flows North
The vast majority of rivers in the world flow from north to south. This is usually due to the river’s source, mostly mountains, is to the north of the mouth causing the water to flow downward. However, it is said that fewer than 30 rivers in the United States are the exception to the rule and flow northward, including the St. John’s River.
The reasoning behind the unusual flow is the slight slope in the river itself. Beginning in the Saint John’s Marsh, the rivers course slowly lowers about 30 feet to the mouth meeting the Atlantic Ocean. This extremely gentle slope causes a very lazy river; it’s actually one of the slowest in the world.
It’s VERY Connected
About 3.5 million people live within the various watersheds that feed into the St. Johns River. It’s the main water body in the St. Johns River Water Management District that covers about 21 percent of Florida or about 7.8 million acres.
It has a Salty Side
The St. Johns River begins as a network of marshes, consolidating into a blackwater stream. This means that due to its groundwater and marsh beginnings, the River is predominately fresh water.
It’s not until the River hits the Jacksonville area that the water becomes brackish. This is due to the sides pushing seawater into the mouth of the St. Johns River, creating a estuarine ecosystem in the area. This means animals usually seen out to sea such as dolphins and sharks are sometimes found thriving here.
Where the St. Johns River meets the Wekiva River, troops of Rhesus Monkeys can be found monkeying around. Known for their adept swimming abilities, the origins of the Rhesus Monkeys transports remain unknown. However, several theories exist. Many believe they were brought in during the 1930’s filming of Tarzan. Whatever the case, they have adapted well to their new Florida home off the St.Johns River.
There is never a shortage of fun in the sun on the St. Johns River, known as the most significant recreational river in Florida, and for good reason.
Known as the Bass Fishing Capital of the World, the St. Johns River is rich in fisheries including ample crappie, bluegills, catfish and other varieties freshwater fish. During the spring and summer months, visitors can enjoy clear waters for swimming, boating, and scuba diving along the river’s connected watersheds.
The St. Johns River is also linked to 14 lakes and numerous Florida Springs including Blue Spring State Park, a protected Manatee Refuge. During the winter season, hundreds of manatees inhabit the surface of the spring for onlookers to enjoy.
“The best boat to enjoy in Florida is someone else’s boat.”
The cost of ownership and upkeep for a boat is pricey, which is why Floridians and visitors alike enjoy the peace of mind that comes with renting a boat. The experience allows you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the St. Johns River without the expense of boat ownership. Follow our Florida boating regulations checklist to help you get out on the water faster.
Check for a Valid Marina Rental Boat License
In Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) requires charter captains that rent boats to hold a valid boat license. This license allows rental boat operators to carry between four and 11 boaters on board, depending on which boat license they hold. Make sure you check with the charter captain before you rent a boat to inquire there is a valid boat license. Make sure the rental boats also have proper boat rental insurance.
Florida Boat Rental Age Cutoff
Each state is different when it comes to the requirement age and license requirements for boaters. Those wishing to rent a boat in Florida along the St. Johns River must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.
If you are visiting from out of town and have boat certification from another state, you can receive a temporary Florida boating certificate from this list of Florida vendors.
Check the Boat for Damage
Before you take possession of the boat, make sure you assess the boat’s condition with the boat rental operator and document pre-existing issues with the boat so you are not made liable for boat repairs. Look for:
Scratches and dents
Motor or propeller damage
Seat and interior stains and tears
Review Proper Safety Equipment
All rental boats should come equipped with life jackets for every passenger on board. Discuss where the life jackets and other safety equipment for the boat are located before you leave the marina.
Rent a Boat
You have everything you need to take possession of a rental boat and get on the St. Johns River to do some exploring and fishing in North Central Florida. Rent a boat today at Castaways on the River, where a marina full of rentals boats is waiting for you. Castaways on the River also offers cottages and motel rooms along the river. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and area travel plans today!
Local fishing captains will be the first to tell you of their preference for North Central Florida. “There’s no place in the country that’s better for boating and fishing than along the St. Johns River in Florida,” says Capt. Steve Niemoeller of Central Florida Fishing. Follow our guide to the top eight best places to visit along the St. Johns River.
Lake George near Astor, Florida is a great spot for boating and fishing. Lake George is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River and is the state’s second largest lake behind Lake Okeechobee. Lake George is full of bass and a great place to plan the perfect day trip.
Silver Glen Springs
You have to visit a Florida freshwater spring while you are traveling the St. Johns River. The crystal clear water that stays a constant 72 degrees year-round is a great place to do some snorkeling and swimming. The most popular spring with the clearest water is Silver Glen Springs. Plan the perfect day at Silver Glen Springs to take full advantage of the area.
Head to Blue Springs State Park to enjoy beautiful scenery and to spot manatees, the state’s large and lovable sea cows. Manatees love to hang out in the springs through the end of March because the water stays a constant 72 degrees, keeping their body temperatures warmer in the winter. The park also has fishing, canoeing and snorkeling opportunities.
De Leon Springs
Are you looking for a place with boat ramps and canoe and kayak rentals? De Leon Springs State Park has all that and more. The 525-acre park produces 19 millions of clear fresh spring water daily. It also offers picnic tables, grills and a playground area for the kids.
Make sure you stop for breakfast at the Sugar Mill Restaurant to get some of the best pancakes you’ll ever eat, made by you right at your table.
Just a 45-minute ride from Astor, Florida, Capt. Steve Niemoeller’s favorite place to go boating and take people fishing is Rodman Reservoir. Also known as Lake Ocklawaha, the man-made reservoir acts as both a dam reservoir and a bass fishery heaven for anglers.
“There’s no better spot that Rodman Reservoir to do some boating and fishing,” Niemoeller said. Niemoeller said he take fishing charter customers to Rodman Reservoir to catch bass, crappie and catfish year-round.
Al of these eight spots to visit along the St. Johns River are accessible by boat. Rent a boat today at Castaways on the River along the St. Johns River. Guests of Castaways on the River receive a 10 percent discount on Capt. Steve Niemoeller fishing charters, which leave directly from the marina. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and St. Johns River experience today!
The weather is warming up in North Central Florida and the fish are biting amidst a beautiful backdrop on the St. Johns River. Plan the perfect romantic fishing trip with your loved one this Valentine’s Day by following our lead.
Set the Right Mood
Whether you want to take a partner who is not an avid angler or is your fishing equal, you want to set the mood right with the invitation. Instead of talking about a trip that involves live bait and early trips to the river, paint the right picture by explaining your desire to spend the entire day in nature with the one you love amidst the peaceful and serene St. Johns River.
Pack Some Thoughtful Food
This is not your average fishing trip where you bring the standard six-pack and a bag of pretzels and beef jerky. Pack some fresh fruit, finger foods and pastries in a nice picnic basket that can be stored in a large cooler. Surprise your Valentine with the basket and a nice bottle of wine or champagne. Impress by remembering napkins and a corkscrew.
Pick the Perfect Romantic Fishing Spot
You are looking for the perfect romantic fishing spot that has peace and quiet, solitude and a great backdrop. Fortunately for you, it is hard not to find a beautiful fishing spot on the St. Johns River. Ask our charter fishing captains for advice for a romantic fishing spot where you can catch some fish and earn some bonus points from your valentine for your thoughtful spot.
At the end of the day, this is a Valentine’s Day romantic fishing trip to show your affection for the one you love. Don’t make it all about you by never putting down your fishing rod. Spend some time together in the boat at lunch and don’t push your partner to fish if he or she doesn’t feel like it. Bring along some reading material and some music and let the day unfold on your valentine’s terms.
Tell a Romantic Story
Swap the regular fishing stories with a story about how the two of you met while you are casting your line in a romantic fishing spot. Make your partner smile and feel more connected with you so he or she realizes how important it was that they agreed to come on this fishing trip with you.
We realize that anglers are usually set in their ways and go through their ritualistic motions on fishing trips because they know what works. Switch it up on this romantic fishing trip. Be spontaneous and surprise your loved one by pulling out a playlist of their favorite tunes, pull out a wild flower bouquet for her from underneath your seat or upload a photo of the two of you on your fishing trip to your partner’s Instagram account with a nice tribute to your loved one.
Stay awhile and enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day romantic fishing trip on the St. Johns River. Castaways on the River has quaint cottages and motel rooms just steps from the marina that allow couples to relax for the weekend and truly enjoy their romantic fishing trip in a peaceful setting.
Rent a Boat
Make sure you rent a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and romantic fishing trip getaway accommodations today.
Are you planning a company fishing trip with your team to celebrate the past year or prepare for the new one? As the New Year approaches, there is no better time to get out on a boat in the St. Johns River and forge lasting bonds with your co-workers to make the upcoming year a great one for your company. Follow our step-by-step guide to plan a company fishing trip.
Count Your Anglers
You need a head count first and foremost when you are planning a company holiday fishing trip. This allows you to figure out how many boats you need to rent and how big the boats should be.
Find Days that Work For Your Employees
Timing is difficult when you are booking a company fishing trip. You need to plan ahead of time so everyone has a free schedule on the days you will be fishing. Map out the trip ahead of time and keep the calendars of your co-workers free on those days.
Are you planning a New Year’s Eve trip or a trip right after the New Year to motivate morale for the coming year? Plan ahead to make sure the schedule is solidified. Check with Castaways on the River too to plan your boat rental needs in advance.
Connect with a Charter Captain
Find some experienced fishing charter captains to make your job easier. Charter captains know the St. Johns River better than anyone and can help you find fish easily. This will allow your team to enjoy a great day of fishing without stressing over the lack of fish they are catching.
Pick Your Spot
Choosing a great fishing spot location in a beautiful natural setting is one of the most important parts of planning a company fishing trip. Allowing your co-workers to unwind and enjoy the trip is crucial and can set the tone for a great first quarter for the New Year. We already have the perfect spot for you along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida, where you will find a tranquil fishing backdrop and enjoy every minute of your company fishing adventure. Try these hidden gems on the St. Johns River while you are here.
Reserve Some Rooms
Your company fishing trip should be a minimum two- to three-day experience. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to enjoy your fishing trip in a setting with comfortable cottages and motel rooms that sit right along the St. Johns River.
Reserve Your Company Fishing Trip Boat Rentals
Castaways on the River can handle all of your boat rental and fishing needs. The marina offers a fleet of rental boats along the St. Johns River right next to cottages and motel rooms that have barbecue grills and fire pits. It is a great place to bring your catch back to shore and enjoy a meal that you caught straight from the river! Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rentals and your company fishing trip today!
Live bait will typically grab the attention of more fish than artificial bait. If you’re seeking to up your fishing game on the beautiful St. Johns River in North Central Florida, bring some of the best live fishing bait available to take home more than your fair share of fish.
It’s the circle of life. Big fish eat little fish. Minnows are essentially baby fish and are a popular freshwater fishing bait. Use large shiners to go along with your minnow bait when searching for bass.
Hook the minnow upside down using the same water they were captured in. Don’t puncture the minnow’s spinal cord so it can continue to move on its own while it is on your hook.
Clams and Mussels
Freshwater clams and mussels native to the St. Johns River make for great live bait. To keep them fresh, gather them from shallow water right before your fishing trip.
When you are ready to use them, crack the shell open and cut out the clam or mussel and allow the bait to harden in the sun before you put it on your hook. Try tying mussels on a hook with thread without pulling the thread too tight.
Crayfish are great for attracting smallmouth bass or panfish. Hook them through the tail to catch bass and use the pan mean from the crayfish’s pinchers to catch pan fish.
Beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars and crickets can be used as live fishing bait to catch panfish and trout. You can buy insects at a bait shop or try to catch them on your own. Have fun with the kids and send them searching for insects for your hooks.
The tried and true worm is always great bait for freshwater fishers. You can find them in the dirt of your garden or in local bait and tackle shops. Here are some worm tricks to help:
To attract trout, use smaller manure worms.
To prevent smaller fish from nibbling the worm without biting your hook, put just a piece of the worm on your hook. Thread the worm on the hook until it’s completely covered to avoid it from being stolen.
Freshwater shrimp are great bait that work best in water below 70 degrees. Looking to catch catfish? They enjoy snacking on a piece of frozen shrimp. Take off the shell and the tail before you place a shrimp on your hook.
Okay, so are last recommendation isn’t exactly fresh bait. But if you’re looking to catch crappie in the St. Johns River, dough balls are your game. Dough balls are a homemade or commercially made bait treat that consists of flour, cornmeal and sugar mixed with a little bit of water. Here is a dough ball recipe the crappie will love.
Book Your Next Fishing Visit
You have the live freshwater bait tips you need to catch the most fish and target the types of fish you are looking for. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing using your new bait tips. The marina can accommodate all of your boat rental needs. We also offer comfortable cottages and motel rooms so you can stay awhile along the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental winter fishing trip today.
Does Florida even have a winter season? The answer is yes. Lows in North Central Florida can dip into the 30s and 40s from November through March. The chilly mornings typically make way for warm afternoons with highs in the 60s and 70s. The fish in the St. Johns River adapt to the cooler weather, so we have the top eight Florida cold weather fishing tips to make your cold weather fishing experience a great one.
Search in Deep Holes and Shallow Flats
Water temperatures are the main factor when you are looking for fish. When you are cold water fishing, look for fish congregating in the warmer waters they can find. The warmest spots are in deep holes and shallow flats. Use a depth finder to find these deeper spots on the bottom of the river.
Follow the Flow
The current always triggers how fish feed. Currents can come from strong winter winds and tides. Fish like to swim on the down tide and the wind side of a point that has a current sweeping across it. Position yourself accordingly to catch fish in cooler weather.
Take Rain Gear
It is not very rainy in Florida during the winter but you should still bring along your rain gear. Water spray and wave action on the river brings more water than usual into the boat this time of year on the St. Johns River. Cold days make the water spray feel even colder so stay dry and warm with your rain gear.
Monitor the Cold Fronts
Passing cold fronts come one after the other in the winter season in Florida, bringing with them a day of stormy weather followed by at least two days of windy conditions. Once the front’s storm and windy weather subsides, the fish become very active. Take advantage of that calm and warmer weather by getting out on the water and catching some fish before the next cold front comes through.
Rising Barometers = Good Cold Weather Fishing
Barometers measure atmospheric pressure. A rising barometer means it’s time to grab a rod and get on the St. Johns River. When the barometer goes up and down (pressure increasing and decreasing over the course of a few hours), that’s also a great time to go fishing. When the barometer stays steady or decreases, fishing becomes poor.
Hint: find a good barometer app for your smartphone to keep tabs on the atmospheric pressure.
Increase the Scent of Your Bait
You need to give fish that don’t like cooler weather more incentive to be attracted to your bait in the winter. Clip the tails of your live bait, which puts additional scent in the water and increases the chances of your fish taking your bait.
Move Your Location
Be willing to move your boat and change up your fishing spots to adapt to the windy conditions that cold fronts bring to the area. Sometimes moving the boat from a shallow shoreline to grass flats can yield great fishing results.
Book Your Fishing Visit
You are now ready to handle Florida’s cold fronts and become a cold weather fishing pro. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing. The marina can handle all of your boat rental needs. We also offer cozy cottages and motel rooms that are just steps from the beautiful St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental winter fishing trip today.
The St. Johns River in North Central Florida is a beautiful place to enjoy nature and a nice meal along the river. The fall season and cooler temperatures make November a great time of year to experience the area. We have the five must stop dining spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida that should be on your list.
Known as a quaint restaurant near the St. Johns River, Castaways Restaurant offers a great seafood menu selection. Castaways is known for its menu variety. The restaurant also offers a great salad bar, fresh seafood sandwiches and drinks at the upstairs bar that longtime patrons say are “generous.” Make sure you head to the restaurant on Friday for live entertainment.
Menu selection tip: Try the bacon wrapped shrimp and the lobster bisque.
Blackwater Inn Restaurant & Lounge
Another restaurant that sits directly on the banks of the St. Johns River, the Blackwater Inn Restaurant and Lounge has quaint outdoor seating areas that are built within the shade of big trees and offer spectacular views of the river. A haven for fresh seafood the Blackwater Inn offers everything from fresh seafood platters and catfish fillets to sirloin steaks on its menu. Longtime patrons rave about the Blackwater Inn’s hush puppies recipe too. Arrive by boat and take a seat at the bar or the restaurant. Looking for something different and unique to the North Central Florida area? Try the frog legs for an appetizer and the grilled quail or gator tail for an entree. Don’t leave the table without trying a piece of the Chocolate Drizzled Key Lime Pie for dessert. You won’t be disappointed.
Old Sugar Mill & Griddle House
You’ve hit the breakfast jackpot when you visit Old Sugar Mill Restaurant & Bakery. Known as the Old Spanish Sugar Mill to locals, it’s a unique restaurant inside De Leon Springs State Park that has working griddles at each table to make your own fresh pancakes. Servers bring you pitchers of homemade Early American pancake batters made from five fresh stone ground flour to pour on your hot griddle and flip right at your table. You can order an assortment of blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, apples and more to add into your special pancakes. The restaurant also serves up some tasty sausage, bacon, ham and eggs. Don’t forget to take home some homemade bread and dessert treats at the homemade bakery before you leave.
The Old Sugar Mill also offers an assortment of salads and fresh sandwiches and burgers for lunch.
Arrival Tip: Unless you’re arriving by boat, entry to the Old Sugar Mill Restaurant & Bakery requires you to pay $14 per person for entry to De Leon State Park. Children under four are free. Before or after your meal, immerse yourself in the history of De Leon Springs State Park, which is thought to be the site where Ponce De Leon discovered is famous Fountain of Youth.
Sparky’s Place Restaurant
Sparky’s Place Restaurant on Highway 40 near the St. Johns River is known for serving the best pizza along the river. Sparky’s makes homemade sauces and fresh dough to serve up pizza that longtime patrons can’t live without. It’s a great place to visit and refuel after a day swimming and exploring at Juniper Springs. If you’re a burger aficionado, you must order the Swamp Burge on the menu, which comes topped with fries topped with cheese, bacon and special sauce.
Sparky’s is also known for its breakfast offerings. Celebrate the Florida Black Bears of the nearby Ocala National Forest by ordering some bear cakes (pancakes with berries and nuts) and red neck biscuits, which are served with sausage, fried eggs and sausage gravy.
Essex Seafood House
Essex House Seafood House is known for its fresh seafood menu offerings. Their most popular offering is their whole belly fried clams appetizer, which can also act as a meal. Many call their New England-style seafood the best you can find outside of New England.
Don’t forget to bring cash. Bikers are welcome here too.