We went down to the Juniper Springs Campground in the Ocala National Forest not really knowing quite what to expect. It was great!
There are no hookups at the campground, but the sites are spacious with lots of saw palmetto, oaks, and pines to create shade and give some privacy between sites. The sites have asphalt drives, picnic tables, fire rings, barbecue grills, and lantern posts. There are potable water sources every three sites. We had site #12, which was very close to the bathrooms which also have warm showers and a dishwashing room.
Just beyond our campsite about 100 feet through the woods was Fern Hammock Springs, which is protected (no swimming or fishing) and beautiful. About 100 yards on the other side of the loop is the main Juniper Springs where you can go swimming (20 feet deep!). Just a short walk to the swimming hole. Nearby is also a small camp store and canoe rental area and put-in for canoeing the Juniper Springs Run which passes through the large Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area which we found was PACKED with wildlife. We saw everything from turtles and alligators to raccoons, white-tailed deer, and turkey. There are bears in the area who often raid the camp dumpster, but we never saw one.
If Juniper Springs is not enough for you, nearby are several other huge springs:
Alexander Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Salt Springs, Silver Springs, Sweetwater Springs, and Rainbow Springs. (I'm probably forgettings one or two springs, but if I do I'll post them later.)
In addition to the canoe ride on Juniper Springs (we took our fiberglass
canoe with us), we also took a long canoe ride down the Silver River to Silver Springs (without having to pay the $30 admission fee!). Along this canoe trip we saw alligators, cormorants, egrets, turtles, and the wild monkeys (rhesus monkeys) that escaped from an enclosure in the early 1950s and who now form a breeding colony of several hundred along the river. We were told that there are also spider monkeys that have established breeding troups in the forest, but we didn't see any of those.
We also went to the village of Micanopy about half an hour from the campground where the town has been remade into a series of antique stores, specialty shops, and restaurants. It's very nice and we highly recommend the side trip.
All in all, we had a blast! Growing up on the GA/FL border I generally spent my summers in Florida with the heat, humidity, biting bugs, and threat of hurricanes. I couldn't get the appeal for the state from my Yankee relatives. Of course they knew to go there in the winter and early spring when the nights are cool, the days are warm, there is no rain or humidity, and no biting insects!
Here's a photo my wife took of me swimming in Salt Spring about 18 miles from Juniper Springs. We spent the day swimming there. 100 miles from the coast, it is full of salt-water fish and creatures due to the high mineral content of the spring water (not really "salty" in the classic sense, but salty enough for the fish). It was strange to see huge blue crabs in the spring. I could not get enough of swimming in this deep, beautiful mineral spring. We stayed there about six hours splashing around and having a lot of fun.
Also a large shot of Salt Springs showing its limestone floor. Keep in mind that the water is much deeper than it looks in the photo.