Realty Executives Oceanside

Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson

Broker Associate

Realty Executives Oceanside


Where the Locals Go: Ocala National Forest

(Published on - 1/27/2022 4:09:42 PM)

Nestled between well-known theme parks and white, sandy beaches, the jewels of the Ocala National Forest attract visitors from around the world. A travel destination in its own right, the Ocala features more than 600 lakes and rivers where visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and boating. From migratory birds and playful manatees to delicate freshwater springs and some of the world's rarest plants, the Ocala is a haven for people (and animals) to escape to one of Florida's remaining wild places. Opportunities abound for all to bask in the wonders of Mother Nature 365 days a year. 

Kayaker on a sub-tropic forest river.



The Ocala National Forest is located in north-central Florida between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers. Encompassing approximately 387,000 acres, it is the southernmost forest in the continental United States and protects the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest. Despite its high, dry, central scrub ridges, the Ocala National Forest is rich in water resources with more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs.

Four major natural springs of crystal clear water can be enjoyed at the popular recreation areas of Juniper SpringsSalt SpringsAlexander Springs and Silver Glen Springs

The Ocala National Forest is located in North Central Florida, two hours north of Orlando and an hour west of Daytona Beach. Although it is spread across three counties - Lake, Marion, and Putnam - the majority of the forest lies inside Marion County, with its western boundary less than a dozen miles east of the county seat of Ocala. The core of the Ocala National Forest, the Big Scrub, was first protected in 1909 by Theodore Roosevelt as the first National Forest east of the Mississippi River. Over the decades, land acquistion has more than tripled the size of the forest, protecting rare and endangered species of plants and animals on some of the most ancient land in Florida.
Since the forest grew around existing communities between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers, there are many private amentities to be found along its major highways, SR 40 and SR 19, including campgrounds from basic to luxurious, fish camps along Lake Kerr and Lake George, and several small lodges. Outfitters in Eureka and Salt Springs provide guide services and livery / shuttle services. Dining options in the Ocala National Forest include clusters of down-home restaurants in Forest Corners, Salt Springs, and Astor, and some stand-alone favorites along SR 40 specializing in BBQ or seafood.


What to Do

Red tent in foreground on grass with multiple RVs in the background.The forest hosts a variety of recreation, scenic and historic areas. The recreation activities are as diverse as the environment, from canoeing in wilderness waterways to swimming in crystal clear constant 72° springs. Visitors can enjoy year-round camping, picnicking, fishing, birding, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and four-wheeling on designated jeep and ATV trail systems.

Cabin Rentals

The Ocala offers two Civilian Conservation Corps cabins for rent. The Lake Dorr Cabin is nestled on the south end of Lake Dorr and can accommodate 10 people. The Sweetwater Cabin overlooks Sweetwater Spring, a freshwater spring that flows into Juniper Run, and can accomodate 12 people.

Campground Camping

Sleeping under the stars next to a sparkling lake or in a shady forest is a great way to reconnect with the outdoors. A relaxed evening in a tent or trailer prepares you for the coming work week. Of Ocala's 14 developed campgrounds, only Salt Springs offers full hook-ups. However, several campgrounds have dump stations and shower facilities. Others offer limited amenities.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area

Alexander Springs Campground

Big Bass Campground

Big Scrub Campground

Clearwater Lake Recreation Area

Clearwater Lake Campground

Fore Lake Recreation Area

Fore Lake Campground

Hopkins Prairie Campground

Juniper Springs Recreation Area

Lake Delancy East

Lake Delancy West

Lake Dorr Recreation Area

Lake Eaton Campground

Salt Springs Recreation Area

Salt Springs Campground

Shanty Pond Campground

Wildcat Lake

Dispersed Camping

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of dispersed camping - camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers with few services or facilities. Additional skills are necessary for a successful trip. It is your responsibility to know your limits and abilities before you try this experience. Certain rules and regulations will make your experience safe and ensure settings remain scenic and unspoiled.

Group Camping

Plan a family reunion or a social gathering at a beautiful group campground that offer a variety of amenities. Available by reservation only.

Buck Lake Group Camp

Doe Lake Recreation Area

Lake Shore Group Campground

Mill Dam Recreation Area

River Forest Group Camp

RV Camping

Recreational vehicles are welcome at the largest developed campgrounds, where partial and full hookups let you make the most of your vacation spot.

Alexander Springs Campground

Big Bass Campground

Big Scrub Campground

Salt Springs Campground


Learning Center

The Ocala National Forest is full of places where families can play together in the outdoors. In the summer, swimming and snorkeling in our springs means coming face-to-face with fish and, at Juniper Springs, American eels. In the cooler months, there are lots of trails to wander, ride, and paddle.

Let your parents know where you want to play outdoors in the Ocala National Forest! Here are some adventures you can enjoy as a family.
See Fern Hammock Springs - You can't swim in this bubbly place (although you can swim at Juniper Springs at the other end of the nature trail), but the burps and blobs and tiny sandstorms underwater are fun to watch.
Find the Spring Boils - This is another spot where tiny bubbles push water to the surface and create a little creek. If you read the book The Yearling, you'll discover that this is where Jody played with his fluttermill along the spring run.
Go in search of giants - Walk back to an ancient forest along Salt Springs Run and see some of the tallest cypress you'll see in a National Forest.
Photograph the fish - Take an underwater disposable camera with your mask, snorkel, and fins to Alexander Springs to get some most excellent photos of fish darting around the springs.
There are many. many more family adventures to enjoy in the Ocala National Forest. 



If you're interested in buying or selling in the Ocala area, be sure to contact me, Mary Erickson! 

Mary Erickson


Phone: 386-444-1924





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