Vortex Springs in Ponce de Leon, Florida might be best known for its diving opportunities. However, you don’t have to have to suit up in scuba gear in order to have a good time here. While divers can explore the deep spring on the property and a series of man-made vortex spring caves, there’s also a swimming section, nature trails, camping, and more.
If you’re looking for a place to go for a full day of family fun, consider this Panhandle staple. Whether you’re a pro diver, an amateur diver or you prefer keeping your head above water, there’s something for everyone at Vortex Springs Florida.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about visiting the largest diving facility in the Sunshine State.
Where Is Vortex Springs?
Vortex Springs is located near Ponce de Leon, Florida. This tiny town is home to less than 600 residents in rural Holmes County.
Situated in the northern part of the Panhandle, the drive to Vortex Springs from Destin is a little over an hour. From Pensacola, the trip takes about an hour and a half.
Why Is Vortex Springs Worth a Visit?
Vortex Springs is the largest diving facility in all of Florida. Regularly recognized as one of the safest and best U.S. diving destinations, this premier dive resort has been called “the Mecca of dive training.”
The property spans 520 acres and the natural spring pumps out roughly 28 million gallons of pristinely clear water. The water maintains a steady temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and is home to large carp, freshwater eels, and lots of other wildlife.
Both experienced and amateur divers love visiting Vortex Springs. The facilities have two underwater training platforms that are used for Open Water certification. On top of that, there is a “talk box” where divers can communicate while under the surface water.
If you’re an experienced diver, you’ll have the opportunity to dive to 115 feet.
The entire family can enjoy a trip to Vortex Springs. Certified and trained instructors can take you scuba diving, you can swim in the spring, or you can wander the nature trails on the land. They have tons of fun water activities available, including kayaking, canoeing, tubing, diving boards, and so much more.
Anyone who loves snorkeling, diving, or swimming is going to have a blast here. Basically, if you like spending time in the water in any form, you’ll want to check this place out!
Where to Stay Near Vortex Springs
Vortex Springs isn’t just a diving facility, it’s also a resort. Here you can rent lodging that offers all the comforts of home.
There are three cabins at Vortex Springs, FL in addition to Pinewood Lodge, Otter Creek Lodge, Treasure Chest, and Grandview Lodge. The lodges are very suitable for a group getaway with your family or friends.
If you’re interested in spending your vacation a bit closer to nature, there are also camping sites available to rent.
It’s worth noting that Vortex Springs rates include a $15 charge per person on top of the nightly fee. This per-person charge is an additional daily charge, not just a one-time fee. The rates are also sometimes higher during times of increased demand.
Pinewood Lodge vortex springs
Pinewood Lodge has eight bedrooms that each sleep four people. Each room is complete with a 32-inch TV and a full bath. The rate for one of these rooms is $104 per night plus $15 per person.
Otter Creek Lodge
There are six rooms in Otter Creek Lodge, each of which has a kitchenette. These one-bedroom, one-bathroom rooms are rented at a rate of $132 per night plus $15 per person.
Treasure Chest is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a full kitchen. Sleeping up to twenty people, this Vortex Springs lodging option is ideal for large groups. Per night, the rate is $380 plus an additional $15 per person.
Grandview Lodge has two options that sleep up to four people and one that sleeps up to eight. For one of the one-bedroom, one-bathroom accommodations, the rate is $166 per night plus $15 per person. The two-bedroom, one-bathroom lodging costs $239 plus $15 per person each night you stay.
The Cabins in vortex springs
There are three Vortex Springs cabins where you can stay as a part of your adventurous vacation. These are true cabins, meaning they don’t have plumbing or heat. Each cabin sleeps up to six people and costs $124 a night plus a daily fee of $15 per person.
There are more than forty Vortex Springs camping sites with water and electric hookups. While there aren’t any sewer hookups, there is a dump station that campers can use. These sites can fit eight people, two tents, and two vehicles.
The water and electric sites cost $37 per night plus an additional $15 per person. Reservations aren’t required but it’s recommended to ensure that you get a spot when you show up.
There are also primitive camping sites for visitors who don’t need utility hookups. These sites cost $31 per night plus $15 per person.
Additional Vortex Spring Hotels and Lodging
Of course, there are a number of other Vortex Spring hotel options. The Ponce de Leon Hotel is a ten-minute drive from the Florida diving facility. This is an affordable motel with clean rooms and well-reviewed service.
A bit further away in Defuniak Springs, you can find more Vortex Spring lodging options. About thirty minutes away from VS, you can find a Best Western, a Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Defuniak, and more.
Where to Eat Near Vortex Springs
The choices when it comes to Vortex Springs restaurants are relatively few in the town of Ponce de Leon. However, your options expand if you’re willing to drive about half an hour to Defuniak Springs.
The Lunch Box
The Lunch Box is the perfect spot for a quick lunch. They offer burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, shakes, and more. Cute and no-frills, this window-service restaurant hits the sweet spot with delicious food and really reasonable prices.
This is probably the best option when it comes to grabbing a meal right near Vortex Springs. Of course, there’s also a trusty Subway in Ponce de Leon if that’s what you’re craving.
Sizzlin Grill is a nice little hometown restaurant. The prices are good, the food is great, and the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. Stop here to refuel with a bacon cheeseburger and some cheese curds.
Red Bay Market
Red Bay Market is a sweet little country store located in Red Bay, Florida. They offer a nice menu of pizza, sandwiches, chicken tenders, wings, and breakfast foods, too.
Rollout Sushi and Such
If you’ve had your fill of Florida roadside American food, get yourself to Rollout Sushi in Defuniak Springs, Florida. The menu here is small but creative, the service is friendly, and the atmosphere is lovely!
Cafe Nola Defuniak
Cafe Nola Defuniak is a New Orleans-style cafe that offers shrimp and grits, crawfish, gumbo, and everything else that immediately makes you think of the Big Easy. If you’re in the mood for some cajun grub, make the trek to this restaurant near Vortex Springs.
Larumba Mexican Restaurant
Best known for serving large margaritas in glasses roughly fish-bowl sized, this Mexican restaurant offers tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more. If you’re looking to stretch your vocal cords, head there for karaoke on Thursday nights.
H&M Hot Dogs
This is a classic, old-fashioned hot dog stand. Small and clean, this establishment serves chili dogs, Chicago hot dogs, sauerkraut dogs, and more. There’s a lot of nice outdoor seating available here plus eight stools at the counter.
One of the great things about Florida is that there are still hidden gems that capture the atmosphere of old Florida. If your Florida vacation has a more “roadside attraction” bent than a traditional tourist one, definitely stop here for lunch.
Bogey’s Bar and Restaurant
There aren’t that many places where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by photos of Humphrey Bogart, but Bogey’s Bar in Defuniak Springs is one of them. The food and service here are both excellent and the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.
Things to Do Near Vortex Springs
Vortex Springs isn’t the only attraction worth checking out in the Ponce de Leon area. Here are a few other spots you might want to add to your itinerary.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
Just a ten-minute drive from Vortex Springs, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park is named after the explorer who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida. All the way back in 1513, Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth in the wilderness of the new world.
This State Park cheekily suggests that soaking in the beautiful springs here might just help you regain your youthful looks. Even if you come out of the water just as old, though, all agree that it’s a rejuvenating and refreshing dip.
The water here is always 68 degrees Fahrenheit, no matter the season. The primary spring produces fourteen million gallons of water every day!
In addition to splashing in the spring, there are two self-guided nature trails that thread through the lush forest of hardwoods. There are also some nice fishing spots here, where anglers can catch largemouth bass, catfish, panfish, and pickerel.
Ponce de Leon State Park is open every day of the year between 8 am and sunset. The cost of admission is $4 per vehicle.
Morrison Springs County Park
About a fifteen-minute drive from Vortex Springs, Morrison Springs County Park consists of 161 acres of uplands and floodplains that surround Morrison Spring.
This is one of the most accessible and most beautiful springs in Northwest Florida. While there aren’t any marked hiking trails in the old-growth cypress forest, there are boardwalks that are a short walk from the parking lot. You can also find picnic areas here.
Morrison Springs is also a part of a paddling trail in the Choctawhatchee River basin. Developed by DEP, this water trail has places for overnight camping and also opportunities for shorter runs.
Chautauqua Vineyard & Winery
Located in Defuniak Springs, Chautauqua Winery was established in 1989 and features a tasting bar, a gift shop, and more. You can’t make a reservation to visit here, instead it’s first come first serve. One perk is that the tastings of wine are always 100% complimentary!
The Chautauqua Winery is family-friendly, serving alcohol-free juices to those under 21. You can also bring your pet, but they aren’t allowed in the tasting room (unless it’s a service animal).
Walton County Harrison Museum
Walton County Harrison Museum is a classic small-town history museum. Located in the Defuniak Springs Historic District, the museum is housed in a former railroad depot. Admission here is free, but donations are welcome. You’ll find lots of history here about both the railroad and the Confederacy.
If you choose to stop by the museum for a bit of a history lesson, you might always want to wander around the Defuniak Springs Historic District. Here you’ll find 172 historic buildings, the first stone memorial to the Confederacy in the state, and more.
The history of Defuniak Springs is more fascinating than you might think. A popular railroad stop after train operation began here in 1882, and lots of new people started coming to the area. This led to the rise of the Chautauqua, which would become an extremely popular adult education and social movement that spread throughout the entire U.S.
Is Vortex Springs Florida on Your Must-See List?
Vortex Springs, FL is in a rural part of Florida where you can experience both adventure and relaxation. Whether you stop by for the water park or for a day of underwater cave exploring, Vortex Springs has all the necessary ingredients for an exciting day out.
Are you looking for more useful info about vacationing in Florida? If so, check out the rest of our blog for more articles about all of the must-see destinations in the state!