Alligator ( Alligator mississippiensis ) yawning - Florida

Wakulla Springs State Park

Top choice in Florida Panhandle

Glowing an otherworldly aqua and overhung with Spanish moss, the natural spring at the center of this 6000-acre state park feels like something from the set of an exotic adventure movie, and indeed parts of Tarzan's Secret Treasure and The Creature from the Black Lagoon were filmed here. Gushing 1.2 billion gallons of water daily, the spring is deep and ancient: the remains of at least 10 ice-age mammals have been found. Fair warning – this spot can get crowded.

Don't miss the chance to take a 40-minute guided boat tour (adult/child $8/5), which glides under moss-draped bald cypress trees and past an array of creatures, including precious manatees (in season), alligators, tribes of red-bellied turtles and graceful wading birds. Tours depart between 11am and 3pm. You can also crash here: The Lodge at Wakulla Springs is an early 20th century classic.

You can swim in the deep, gin-clear waters or dive off the elevated platform.

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