Daytona 500 Fans: Plan Your Florida Visit

It’s the most wonderful time of year for race fans! February marks the return of NASCAR racing each year at racing’s biggest venue: The Daytona 500. For those looking to experience a true Florida experience that doesn’t just include the race track and the beach, we will teach you how to make Daytona 500 plans off the beaten path in North Central Florida.

freshwater springs
The St. Johns River near Astor has some of Florida’s most beautiful natural freshwater springs.

Visit Astor, Florida

Just a 40-minute drive from the race track in Daytona Beach is a St. Johns River paradise in Astor, Florida. Astor contains several attractions that make it a great place to visit and experience the natural beauty of North Central Florida.

Natural Springs

The St. Johns River near Astor has some of Florida’s most beautiful natural freshwater springs. The springs stay at a constant 72-degrees no matter what the temperature outside is and have crystal clear water for snorkeling lovers. You can also spot manatees this time of year in the warm springs.

De Leon Springs State Park

De Leon Springs is a water paradise full of boat ramps, swimming areas, and canoe and kayak rental opportunities. Picnic tables, grills and a playground for the children make this a great family spot to enjoy a freshwater spring that produces 19 million gallons of fresh clear water a day.

daytona 500 fans visit florida
Daytona 500 fans should plan their trip off the beaten path this year in Astor, Florida.

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is full of natural springs and a great spot to do some hunting. A nationally protected forest of 607 square miles, there are also great opportunities to camp in the forest along the St. Johns River.

Lake George

Lake George near Astor is the state’s second-largest lake behind Lake Okeechobee. A freshwater lake full of bass, it is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River. Enjoy some boating, fishing and sunset viewing on Lake George.

Dine at Local Restaurants

Astor is also a great place for Daytona 500 fans to grab a bite to eat in a less crowded atmosphere. Visit these five must-stop dining spots that serve up a variety of fresh seafood and waterfront dining options along the St. Johns River. Some restaurants offer boat docking access from the river and most Astor restaurants are also motorcycle-friendly for those who enjoy driving the picturesque State Road 40 that runs through town. Make sure you check out the local dining options when you come to Astor!

daytona 500 fans visit florida
Daytona 500 race fans can watch the race in Daytona and plan a peaceful stay along the St. Johns River.

Rent a Cottage on the River

Are you looking for a peaceful place to stay during the Daytona 500 race week? Look no further than Castaways on the River in Astor. Guests can enjoy quaint cottages and motel rooms overlooking the St. Johns River. Enjoy the serenity of the St. Johns River in a setting that’s a short drive to Daytona Beach. Check out these other eight must-visit spots in Astor while you are in town too.

Rent a Boat

While you are here, make sure you rent a boat to enjoy some boating and some fishing on the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and your Daytona 500 accommodations today!

6 Must Make Pumpkin Fish Recipes for Fall

Pumpkin is the rage right now. Pumpkin everything is on grocery store shelves, in coffee and even corn chips! Why not combine your love of fishing with all things pumpkin? Pumpkin is a delicious squash that adds a lot of nutrition to your plate. If you’re ready, we have the six must make pumpkin fish recipes to turn your catches into fall season entrée masterpieces.

pumpkin fish recipes
We have the six must make pumpkin fish recipes to turn your catches into fall season entrée masterpieces.

Baked Fish With Pumpkin Curry Sauce

This is the time of year to reel in some large mouth bass in the St. Johns River. We have the fall bass fishing tips guide you need to prove it. Once you bring home that bass, ignite your taste buds with this baked fish with pumpkin curry sauce recipe courtesy of Budget Girl.

This recipe can also include a ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice if you want to kick the pumpkin in your recipe up a notch. The main course pairs nicely with some brussel sprouts as a vegetable and some pumpkin pie for dessert.

Pumpkin Risotto with Salmon

Add a pumpkin risotto recipe with any great fish dish to make a more fall festive dinner. Yummly’s Pumpkin Risotto with Fish and Cherry Tomato recipe creates a hearty meal with a Parmesan cheese mix twist. Serve immediately with fish, cherry tomatoes and a lemon wedge.

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Book a stay at Castaways on the River to catch some fillets for pumpkin fish recipes.

Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry

Looking for a pumpkin seafood recipe with some Southern charm? The Food Network’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry recipe satisfies your cravings. The recipe calls for shrimp and salmon fillets. This dish pairs nicely with a nice fresh loaf of French bread to sop up the flavorful curry at the bottom of your bowl.

Apple-Stuffed Baked Fish

Add some fall apples to your fish recipe! The Cooper Cookin’ Apple-Stuffed Baked Fish Recipe, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Everyday Cookbook Almanac, creates an apple-based stuffing that pairs well with a number of fish fillets.

Pumpkin Seed Fish Sticks

How about a fall take on the tried and true fish sticks? Yummly’s Pumpkin Seed Fish Sticks recipe allows you to toss in some pumpkin seeds along with your breading mixture to create a nice crunchy, fall fish stick.

pumpkin fish recipes soup
Fish fillets and seafood pair nicely in pumpkin-based stew and soups.

Pumpkin and Fish Stew

Seeking to enjoy some of your fresh fish on a cool day? Keep warm and enjoy fall with A Day in the Life on the Farm’s Pumpkin and Fish Stew Recipe. Fish fillets pair nicely in the pumpkin-based stew with tomatoes and chicken stock.

Book Your Fall Fishing Visit

Your fall fish recipes are in place and will excite and wow your friends and family. Now you need to book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing and catch some fillets for those pumpkin fish recipes. The marina can handle all of your boat rental needs. We offer cozy cottages and motel rooms so you can enjoy fall on the St. Johns River while you go fishing. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and fishing adventure today.

Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Guide

North Central Florida hunting season is in full swing! The wildlife is abundant in the Ocala National Forest, where you will find plenty of turkeys, deer, ducks and more to hunt during the appropriate hunting season. We have the information you need to plan the perfect hunting trip in our Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Guide.

Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Guide deer photo
Follow our Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Guide to hunt white-tailed deer.

Hunting White-Tailed Deer

Florida White-tailed deer are located from the Panhandle all the way to the Florida Keys. They are the most popular game species in Florida. Here are the Florida deer hunting season requirements and dates.

Hunting Wild Pigs

Wild pigs, also called wild hogs or wild boar, are the second-most popular large animal hunted in Florida. They live in all of Florida’s 67 counties. Peruse pig hunting season dates before you start hunting wild pigs.

Duck/Waterfowl Hunting

Wetland habitats in Florida offer a variety of places for hunters to find duck and other waterfowl available for hunting.

Canada geese season in Florida is through Jan. 30. Duck and light geese hunting season begins Dec. 10 and runs through Jan. 29.

Hunting Florida Black Bears is Off Limits Right Now

The state’s largest land mammal is the Florida Black Bear. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to postpone bear hunting in Florida in 2016 and might consider future bear hunting in 2017. The last limited Florida bear hunt was in October 2015.

There are more than 4,000 bears in Florida and many of them can be spotted in the Ocala National Forest for sightseeing only at a safe distance away.

Osceola turkey
One of the most sought-after species to hunt in Florida is the Osceola turkey

Hunting Osceola Turkeys

One of the most in-demand species to hunt in Florida is the Osceola (Florida) turkey. These turkeys do not live anywhere else in the world. Follow these Osceola turkey hunting requirements and seasonal hunting dates so you have the best chance of bringing home the bacon (or turkey)!

Hunting Small Game

You don’t always need to go big or go home. Florida has a variety of small-game hunting opportunities. Some of the most popular small game species in Florida include gray squirrels and rabbits.

Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Tips

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages the Ocala National Forest. Hunters must obtain a special permit to use hunt camps during deer hunting season in the Ocala National Forest. These permits can be picked up at the Lake George Ranger District Station or the Seminole Ranger District Station.

There is a $5 per day use fee to access the hunt camp and a $5 launch fee to use the boat ramp at Farles Lake Hunt Camp.

woman hunting
Find all the wildlife you need to hunt in the Ocala National Forest.

Florida Hunting Licenses

A valid Florida hunting license is needed to hunt in the Ocala National Forest. Hunters must adhere to all FWC hunting regulations. The FWC oversees the distribution of all recreational hunting licenses. Licenses for residents and non-residents are available with the FWC and can be purchased online.

Hunting licenses vary in price and are more expensive for non-residents, but you don’t always need a hunting license in Florida. If you are a child less than 16 years of age or hunting wild hogs on private land, a license isn’t needed.

Plan a Hunting Trip Along the St. Johns River

After an amazing day of hunting and watching wildlife in the Ocala National Forest, you will need a calm and relaxing place to stay. Make sure to spend some time enjoying the beautiful St. Johns River when you visit North Central Florida. Castaways on the River offers comfortable cottages and motel rooms just steps away from a marina full of rental boats for your use. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your next hunting trip adventure today!

Snorkeling In the Springs

The network of freshwater springs along the St. Johns River in the Ocala National Forest provides visitors with spectacular opportunities to explore this unique environment and the life that thrives there. Snorkeling in the springs is a popular way to get an up close view of this underwater paradise.

Visitors are drawn to snorkeling in the springs along the St. Johns River since the crystal clear water maintains a constant average temperature of 72 degrees year round. And be sure to do your homework ahead of time to learn whether snorkeling is permitted in a particular spring.

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Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving

While snorkeling is permitted in a majority of the freshwater springs in the Ocala National Forest, those same springs largely prohibit scuba diving. So what’s the difference in the two activities?

Snorkeling – uses a snorkel tube that extends above the surface of the water for breathing while the face is submerged.

Scuba diving – the diver is equipped with an independent source to breathe while totally submerged underwater.

In addition to a snorkel tube, those wanting to take part in the activity should also be outfitted with:

Mask – properly fitted so you can see clearly while underwater.

Fins – a set of fins to move around better in the water like the fish.

Optional equipment may include a wet suit, snorkeling vest and additional gear designed to block the sun.

Springs for Snorkeling

Snorkelers flock to the popular Silver Glen Springs off the northern shore of Lake George in the Ocala National Forest. The spring is located north of Astor, Florida and is known for the sightings of manatees warming up in the winter. Silver Glen Springs produces an average 65 million gallons of water each day from two vents. The spring is home to a wide variety of fish.

Did You Know: Silver Glen Springs is an important archeological site and considered sacred space for Native Americans?

The depth of Silver Glen Springs is shallow in comparison to other springs in the region so children can explore it too. A number of other great springs for snorkeling in the area include Juniper Springs and DeLeon Springs.

While snorkeling consider taking photos of what all you see underwater to capture the moment. A good waterproof camera can come in handy.

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Getting To the Springs

Most of the freshwater springs along the St. Johns River in the Ocala National Forest are best reached by boat. In case you are wondering when you’ve arrived at the actual spring, most are marked with signage as you enter the spring run. However a sure sign that you are close to a spring is that the water will appear crystal clear and seem to bubble to the surface. In fact that’s exactly what it’s doing as it flows from the spring head.

Snorkeling From The Boat

Coming to visit us in Astor soon and you want to plan a couple of fun days in the area? Make sure to reserve a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River and get ready for snorkeling in the springs. Castaways On The River in Astor, located on the edge of the Ocala National Forest, also offers accommodations either quaint cottages or spacious motel rooms. Contact Castaways On The River at (352) 759-3442 or to reserve a rental boat, a cottage or hotel room or need assistance with other plans.

 

Plan A Perfect Summer Barbecue

Enjoying lazy days in the sun and on the water is a great time to plan a perfect summer barbecue party. Family and friends will want to be included in all the fun, and of course the main attraction will be the food.

As for what is on the menu, it will depend on a variety of factors like who is doing the cooking, how many people are attending, and what time the food will be served? Will it be an all-day affair or have a designated timeline? Will food be served in shifts? Served at a specific time? These are questions you’ll need to answer up front so your guests know what to expect.

It’s best to have an idea early on of how large the gathering will be to determine how much food will be needed. This will help with the overall food shopping and delegating who can supply what item.

Before we get too far along, let’s clear up a question that may be a matter of preference. Is it a barbecue or cookout? Technically the two can be considered the same in terms of events. There is no right or wrong menu item when it comes to chowing down. A barbecue just means cooking outside on the grill.

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How to Plan A Perfect Summer Barbecue Party

So now that we’ve settled that, let’s move on to figuring out the menu. The typical summer barbecue party menu includes burgers and hotdogs. Some gatherings may include more elaborate fare to enjoy such as the days’ fresh catch from the St. Johns River.

The seasonal fishing calendar forecasts it’s a good time to catch Bass, Bluegill, Redear, Specks, Stripers and Catfish. So anglers let’s see what you add to the barbecue. When you return to the boat dock here at Castaways, use the convenient fish cleaning station to get everything ready for the grill just a few steps away.

And don’t forget about all the great side dishes to go along with the main entrees from salads, beans, and other tasty treats and appetizers. Invite everyone to provide their favorite dish to help feed the masses. Get ready for recipe sharing or be prepared to protect the secret ingredient.

And since we are talking about summer time, get the ice cream churn out and put the popsicles on ice so everyone young and old can enjoy a variety of cool goodies.

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A good grill master must be included to plan a perfect summer barbecue .

Barbecue Grill Duty

Before everyone digs in to enjoy the spread of food, make sure to thank the person who handled the grill duties. This is often a hard, hot and thankless job. Remember without someone on the grill, it’s just eating out. Tips to show your thanks is to make sure the grill master has a cold, refreshing beverage close by to enjoy. It’s likely to already be hot, then add to that the heat and smoke from the grill. Keep the cook cool and comfortable.

It’s also a good idea to designate helpers for the grill master so they can play close attention to the food and not have to worry about carrying it to the serving area. They may need other tools and supplies so extra pairs of hands are often appreciated.

Plan Ahead

Consider creating a list of all the items needed to pull off the perfect summer barbecue party. It’s always the little things like forgetting a special condiment that can derail a good plan. If you are heading to a remote area, it may be difficult to run to the nearest supermarket or big box retailer to pick up a few items. So pack what you’ll need ahead of time to ensure everything arrives at the barbecue.

Also who is bringing the plates, cutlery, napkins, drinks, ice etc.? Yes those are all the things that round out your barbecue that need to go on the plan ahead list.

It may also be wise to have a backup plan in case of rain on the day of the barbecue. A quick rain shower or rolling thunderstorms is a daily occurrence in Florida during the summer months. Check the local weather report to see when rain is forecast. The information can help if you need to change the start or end time of the barbecue. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the clouds if those attending the barbecue go out on a boat.

Barbecue Party Accessories

Bring a few board games for all to enjoy or a deck of cards to see who has the best hand. This is where the fun begins with plenty of laughter and great memories are made. Pose for a selfie or two to capture the moment.

Board games also come in handy while waiting for the weather to clear up outdoors.

And what’s a party without some good tunes on the speaker? Designate a DJ to make sure the music is playing and everyone gets to hear a favorite song. Create a play list to get the party started. Dancing is a good way to work off a few of those calories you enjoyed from the grill.

Don’t forget to plan for everyone to enjoy time in the sun or get out on the water. All that fun is sure to work up hearty appetites which will be ready to feast on a barbecue spread.

Let us know how we can help you plan a perfect summer barbecue party here at Castaways.

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Plan Your Party Along the St. Johns River

Castaways On The River in Astor, Florida has space, outfitted with grills, to plan the perfect summer barbecue party. The resort has rental cottages and motel rooms to accommodate guests. Also inquire about our fleet of rental boats to get out on the St. Johns River to fish and to enjoy nature at area attractions like nearby freshwater springs. Castaways is nestled on the eastern edge of the Ocala National Forest, located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along State Road 40. Call Castaways On The River at (352) 759-3442 to book a rental boat, reserve rooms and to arrange additional plans.

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What to Do During A Storm On A Boat

Storm season presents many challenges to Florida boaters. It’s best to be aware and prepared for what may come rather than being caught by surprise without an action plan.

A saying in Florida is true, it’s not if a storm is coming especially during the busy summer months, but rather when is it coming? Typically you can set your watch by Florida’s predictable afternoon summer storms. If you are heading out to enjoy a fun day on the water or to get in a little fishing, there are a few tips to follow to ensure you know what to do during a storm when boating.

Make Your Boating Plans Known:

Make sure someone knows your boating plan for the day. Whether it’s a family member not on the boat with you or the staff at the boat rental facility, inform others of where you are headed on the boat. In case a storm rolls in and you are unable to return, they will be able to notify authorities of where to search should you need assistance.

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Make sure everyone has on a life vest. It’s Florida law for children age 6 and under to wear a life vest at all times on a boat.

Wear Life Vest While Boating:

This next tip is common sense, but few take time to heed it until it’s too late. Take a moment to put on a life vest or other personal flotation device (PFD). It simply can save your life if the weather turns bad and you are separated from the boat. And remember, it’s the law in Florida that children age 6 years and younger must wear an approved life vest while the vessel is underway.

Check the guidelines for life vests, life jackets, or personal flotation devices. Note: inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited.

Note: The National Safe Boating Council promotes National Safe Boating Week annually in May.

The Boat U.S. Foundation is a reference for free online boater safety courses. In order to rent at boat at Castaways On The River, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a boating safety card.

Check The Weather Before You Leave The Dock:

Be sure to check the weather for your planned boating day. A storm prediction may mean altering your plans a bit. Instead of going out in the afternoon, it may be best to boat in the morning and return to shore well ahead of the storm.

Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.
Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.

Be Prepared – Know What To Do On A Boat During a Storm:

It is not uncommon in Florida to have a fast moving storm approach without any warning. If you are caught out on the water, a survival kit of sorts may come in quite useful until you can make it back to shore. Include:

  • A secondary source of communication should the boat radio become disabled.
  • A backup power source is a good item to include in your kit.
  • Extra water and food to tide you over just in case.
  • Flashlights, a first aid kit.
During a storm it's advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.
During a storm it’s advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.

Take Down the Boat Top:

Usually the roll of storm clouds in Florida means lightning in most cases is not far behind. If your boat has a top, the high winds may make it dangerous to navigate and it becomes a target for lightning strikes. At the first rumble of thunder and increasing winds, it may be best to stop and take the boat top down. It may mean being wet as the rain falls, but it may make your return to shore safer.

Florida’s tropical climate and warm water temperatures are the perfect ingredients for lightning strikes. The state has the nickname as the Lightning Capital of the U.S. So when you see storm clouds moving in your direction keep an ear out for thunder and prepare to get to safety. It’s better to be cautious than to deal with the consequences of a lightning strike on open water.

Head to Shore Out Of The Storm:

Take a look around to see where you are when you realize a storm is approaching. Once you make the decision to head back, your return route may be altered to ensure the quickest and safest path. This is not the time to speed recklessly, you could cause unnecessary damage. During a storm, take your time and guide the boat safely back to shore.

Plan Your Boat Rental and Stay on the River

Spend the day boating along the St. Johns River from the dock at Castaways On the River here in Astor, Florida. We can help you with a checklist of Florida boating regulations, navigating what you need to know to rent a boat, and plan your stay with us. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and area travel plans today!

Daytona Bike Week Fans: Plan Your Florida Backroads Trip

Enjoying the open road on your motorcycle is a beautiful thing. For motorcycle enthusiasts, Daytona Bike Week in Florida is the best time of year. Bikers seeking an experience on true Florida backroads need to drive through Astor, Florida and take advantage of an area that opens its doors to bikers.

daytona bike week
Bikers seeking an experience on true Florida backroads need to drive through Astor, Florida.

State Road 40 Caters to Daytona Bike Week Crowd

The mostly two-lane State Road 40 cuts through North Central Florida and provides you a direct route to Daytona Beach for Bike Week. The road is a popular spot for bikers on the weekend and gives motorcycle enthusiasts a breathtaking view of Old Florida.

Motorcycleroads.com ranks the State Road 40 drive through the Ocala Forest as the 15th best Florida motorcycle route, calling it “a mixture of forest, lakes and wetlands, the route is popular with local riders.” Come check the route out for yourselves!

Visit Astor, Florida Dining Spots

Looking for some motorcycle-friendly restaurants? Look no further than Astor, Florida along the St. Johns River. There are five must-stop dining spots that offer a variety of fresh seafood and waterfront dining options. Many of these are popular motorcycle spot for bikers that have parking spaces ready to accommodate large biker groups.

Visit the Ocala National Forest

While you are here, take a hike through the Ocala National Forest and do some hunting in a nationally protected forest that covers 607 square miles.

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Sunsets along Florida’s backroads and near the St. Johns River are a sight to behold.

Look for Bears and Wildlife on the Scenic Byway

The nationally-designated Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway in North Central Florida is a great place for bikers to catch a glimpse of Florida black bears, deer and other Florida wildlife. The east-west segment of the byway takes bikers along State Road 40 near the St. Johns River.

Use an app to find black bears and learn how to improve your black bear spotting skills.

Enjoy a Lake George Outing

Do you like to fish? Lake George and the St. Johns River near Astor are full of bass. Enjoy some Lake George fishing, boating and a stunning sunset on beautiful Lake George.

Look for Manatees in the Natural Springs

The St. Johns River near Astor is home to some of the state’s most popular freshwater springs, which stay at a constant 72-degrees year-round. Make sure you look for manatees while you visit the spring.

Hike the Florida National Scenic Trail

Hike the central portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail in Astor to search for wildlife and enjoy the peacefulness of the nearby St. Johns River. This nationally protected trail carves a path right through North Central Florida.

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Enjoy the serenity of a backroads motorcycle trip on your way to Daytona Bike Week.

Rent a Cottage on the River

Are you looking for some peace and quiet before you head to Bike Week? Castaways on the River in Astor offers comfortable cottages and motel rooms overlooking the serene St. Johns River.

Rent a Boat

Who says you can only ride your motorcycle during Bike Week? Just 40 minutes from Daytona Beach are rental boats waiting for you to go boating and fishing on the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book you boat rental and your Daytona Bike Week accommodations today!

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How to Plan the Perfect Day at Silver Glen Springs

Florida natural freshwater springs that stay a constant 72 degrees all year long are some of the state’s most important natural treasures. A short hour boat ride from Castaways lies Silver Glen Springs. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service monitors the springs in northwest Florida. It’s one of the most popular springs for residents and tourists each year. Here’s how to plan the perfect day at Silver Glen Springs.

 

silver glen springs
Silver Glen Springs is one of the most popular springs for residents and tourists each year.

Enjoy the Water

Many residents and visitors claim Silver Glen Springs has the clearest water of all the springs in Northwest Florida. You can actually see rainbows shine across the bottom of the spring when the sun hits the clear water just right. The turquoise water also makes it excellent for swimming and snorkeling.

Look for fish and other marine life in the water and make sure you take your goggles to truly appreciate the water from down below. Scuba diving, though, is not permitted in the spring. Silver Glen Springs is also shallower than most other springs, making it a great spring for children to enjoy too. Utilize our seven tips for swimming in freshwater springs.

silver glen springs infographic

 

Utilize the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area

Silver Glen Springs hours vary by season. Day use fees are $5.50 per person. The Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area makes up a protected swimming area that doesn’t allow boats and adjacent uplands that are used for trails and picnic areas.

The upland area forest consists of several trees and places to see birds. Those that love photography should bring their camera to take pictures of the area with Silver Glen Springs in the background.

Traverse the Spring Boils Trail and take a walk on the Lake George Trail too to see the beautiful cypress shoreline of the second largest lake in Florida: Lake George.

silver glen springs
Many claim Silver Glen has the clearest water of all the springs in Northwest Florida.

Picnic in Silver Glen Springs

There are picnic tables and barbecue grills located at Silver Glen Springs, making it a great place to bring a picnic lunch and eat a nice meal while enjoying the great view of the turquoise water. There is also a nature walk for families to enjoy.

Bears, raccoons and crows are known to steal food and shiny objects on picnic tables, so remember the spring is located in the forest and don’t leave your table without removing those items.

Look for Manatees

During the cooler winter months, manatee sightings are frequent in Silver Glen Springs as manatees seek warmer spring waters in the middle of the state. Follow our guide to learn how to spot manatees.

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Take your goggles to truly appreciate the clear water.

Explore the Ocala National Forest

Silver Glen sits within the Ocala National Forest. Make sure you take some time to explore the forest and all that it has to offer during your visit. Visit the Ocala National Forest Hunting Season Guide to learn more.

Silver Glen Springs Fun Facts

There is so much to learn about Silver Glen. Here are some fun facts to get you excited about your trip to the springs:

  • The spring’s two vents produce an average of 65 million gallons of water daily.
  • The springhead is 200-feet in diameter
  • The spring and encompassing area encompass 22 acres of water.
  • The Spring Boils Trail near Silver Glen Springs leads to nearby Jody’s Spring, which is named for the spring described by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in her book, “The Yearling.”
  • Silver Glen Springs funnels and flows 3,300 feet into Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida behind Lake Okeechobee.
  • The spring is also an important archaeological site. Large mounds behind fences are marked and considered a sacred space for Native Americans.

Rent a Boat

Visiting the springs is fun and so is renting a boat on the St. Johns River. Castaways on the River offers rental boats for your trip. Your marina rental boat operators can provide you with tips and directions to captain your rental boat to Silver Glen Springs. Castaways on the River offers quaint cottages and motel rooms with views of the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to plan your trip to the area today!

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Top 7 Attractions to See Near Astor, Florida

North Central Florida in Astor, Florida near the St. Johns River is a must visit spot this time of year. There is so much to do in Astor and in nearby Ocala and Daytona Beach. The great part about Astor is it’s just a 45-minute drive to Ocala and 45 minutes to Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach. Circle these seven attractions near Astor, Florida on your map to visit this year.

Lake George

Lake George near Astor, Florida is the state’s second largest lake behind Lake Okeechobee. It is a beautiful freshwater lake ripe full of bass and other fishing opportunities. At approximately six miles across and 11 miles around, Lake George is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River. Get out there and enjoy a sunset and do some boating on Lake George this year.

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The St. Johns River near Astor, Florida is home to some of the state’s most breathtaking natural springs.

Natural Springs

The St. Johns River near Astor is home to some of the state’s most breathtaking natural springs. The springs contain crystal-clear water that stays constant 72-degrees year-round. Make plans to go snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking. During the winter months, head to the springs to spot manatees that are staying warm in the springs until the coastal waters warm back up again.

Follow these tips for swimming and enjoying the local springs.

De Leon Springs State Park

De Leon Springs is a 525-acre park that produces 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round! The park consists of boat ramps, swimming areas and offers canoe and kayak rentals. Picnic tables, grills and a playground are also available for families.

While you are there, be sure to have one of the best breakfasts around at the Sugar Mill Restaurant, which is located in a 100-year-old 1830s sugar mill.

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is a nationally protected forest of 607 square miles of nature exploration. Full of natural springs and hunting opportunities, you can spot manatees, bears, deer, birds and other wildlife at certain times of the year.

Learn how to camp along the St. Johns River and the forest’s hunting guidelines.

attractions astor, florida horse jumping
Less than an hour from Astor is Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, home to world-class golf courses and equestrian events .

Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club

Are you an equestrian lover or a golfer? Less than an hour from Astor sits the Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, home to world-class golf courses and equestrian events that include the Ocala Breeders Sales, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and the Live Oak International among others.

Daytona Beach

One of the most popular beaches in the country, Daytona Beach is a great place to relax and enjoy spring break. It is also home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and Bike Week in February. In July, the speedway is home to the Coke Zero 400, a Biketoberfest in October and other racing events. The beach along the Atlantic Ocean is a Spring Break hotspot and a great place to visit year-round.

attractions astor, florida daytona 500
Daytona Beach is home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500 The race track is a short drive from Astor.

Rent a Cottage

Need a place to stay that’s right in the center of all of the above attractions? Look no further than Castaways on the River in Astor. Guests can enjoy quaint cottages and motel rooms overlooking the St. Johns River. Enjoy the tranquility of the river in a setting that’s close to all the attractions and events in Central Florida you plan on attending this year.

Rent a Boat

While you are here, make sure you rent a boat to enjoy some boating and do some fishing on the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and your North Central Florida accommodations stay today.

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How to Spot Manatees in North Central Florida

The St. Johns River and the crystal clear all-natural Florida freshwater springs are home to many species of marine life, including the Florida manatee, also known as the gentle sea cow. Follow these tips to find out how to spot manatees in North Central Florida.

how to spot manatees
Follow these tips to find out how to spot manatees like these near the St. Johns River.

How to Spot Manatees in the Water

Learning how to spot manatees in the water is your first step. Look for bubbles floating to the surface of the crystal clear water. The bubbles are the oxygen from manatees breathing and lurking beneath the water! They surface for air every five minutes, so be patient.

When to Spot Manatee in North Central Florida

The months of November through April are the best months to spot manatees in freshwater springs. Manatees are seeking refuge in the warmer inland waters during this time period and retreat back to the coastal waters in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean during the summer months.

Listen for Manatees

You will likely hear a whoosh of air and water snorts at the same time. These are the sounds of the manatees surfacing for a large gasp of air that allows them to go back under water for up to five minutes before they resurface again.

Look For Manatees in the Vegetation

Manatees are herbivores that love to munch on vegetation. Look for manatees in and around freshwater plants, where they are likely grazing in flats and sea grasses enjoying a long snack.

Stay in Shallow Areas

Manatees do not like cold weather and cold water. You are likelier to find them in shallower water because it stays warmer and allows them to regulate their body temperatures better.

Search for Manatees in the St. Johns River

Manatees heading to the springs for the winter use the St. Johns River as their river highway to come inland. You will spot them swimming in the river to get to warmer spring water.

how to spot manatees
There are great spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida to enjoy manatee sightseeing.

Get in the Water and Snorkel

If you are willing to brave the constant 72-degree temperatures of Florida freshwater springs in North Central Florida, snorkeling is the best way to get an up close and personal view of Florida manatees. They are docile creatures and will not harm you.

Follow these seven tips for swimming in freshwater springs and find out everything you need to know about wildlife near the St. Johns River.

Tips for Watching Manatees Safely

Manatees are gentle creatures but you can’t get too close to them. The general rule mandated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is “you can look but don’t touch.”

You must also never:

  • Pursue or chase a manatee seeking to avoid you
  • Poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object
  • Attempt to ride a manatee
  • Enter a “No Entry Manatee Refuge” location.

The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it illegal to harass, hunt or capture the species. Anyone violating federal or state manatee laws can face a $500 fine and/or up to 60 days in prison. Check out state-mandated viewing guidelines for more information.

how to spot manatees
Make your manatee experience  memorable by renting a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River.

Book Your Manatee Viewing Trip

North Central Florida’s freshwater springs and the manatees that are enjoying them are a sight to behold. There are great spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida to enjoy sightseeing. Book your manatee viewing trip at Castaways on the River to spend some time along the river. Castaways on the River offers cozy cottages and motel rooms right along the St. Johns River near freshwater springs.

Rent a Boat

Make your manatee viewing experience even more memorable by renting a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River. Castaways on the River offers a variety of rental boat options. Our marina rental boat operators will provide you with the tips and navigation advice you need to spot manatees and find some good fishing spots. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental, a fishing charter and lodging accommodations today.

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