Not sure if this is how it worked for Ponce De Leon, but here’s another refreshing and youthful way to enjoy a hot summer day in central Florida:
Start off the morning with hot pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill at DeLeon Springs State Park in Deland, Florida. The kids (and the kid in you) will love them, and it’s an adventure since you get to make them at your own table. For an old fashioned taste you won’t find at any IHOP, try the stone ground pancake mix and top it off with some thick black molasses. Or mix and match with an assortment of fruit and candy toppings to invent a pancake that’s uniquely your own.
This historic DeLeon Springs sugar mill dates back to the early 1800s plantation era. It was the site of skirmishes during the Second Seminole War and supplied confederate troops during the Civil War. Some of the historic mill machinery is located around back, along with some well designed historic panels.
In the late 1800’s the plantation turned to developing a good crop of tourists by billing itself as a health resort, and the architecture of the old inn and casino (now the bath house) dates from the 1920s. Promotional literature promised “a fountain of youth impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulphur.”
Hard to imagine now, but the resort was once the winter home of the Clyde Beatty Circus and had hosted jungle cruises and a circus featuring an elephant on water skis. Some fascinating memorabilia is on view in the park museum.
Stuff yourself good, then take a nature walk through the nearby forest or rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboat and tour the Spring Garden Run into the Woodruff Federal Wildlife Refuge. This scenic area is full of wildlife, and it was inhabited by native Americans as long as 6,000 years ago. Make sure you work up a good sweat.
Then wait until the day heats up to about 95 degrees and the humidity becomes stifling. Hold on until you can’t stand it anymore.
Now change into your swimsuit and walk around to the deep end of the spring, which as been corralled into a large community swimming area. Don’t dip your toe in the water. Just dive in without a thought.
From the crushing midday heat you’ll crash into a wall of 72 degree water, and in an instant, a fraction of a second, you’ll have left the summer heat behind. If the heat had previously sapped your energy and enthusiasm, now you’ll find yourself alive and awake.
Fountain of Youth? You betcha!
DeLeon Springs State Park Info:
Directions: DeLeon Springs is located six miles north of DeLand, Florida on Highway 17. Google Map.
The park is open 8 a.m. until sundown year round. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Fees: Entrance fee is $6.00 per vehicle, with 2-8 people or $4.00 for single occupant vehicles and $2.00 for pedestrians and others. Picnic pavilions can be rented for $45.00 per day (small) or $75.00 per day (large).
More Park Information:
601 Ponce DeLeon Blvd./PO Box 1338
DeLeon Springs, Florida 32130
Side Trip: Strawn Historic Citrus Packing House
Just around the corner from DeLeon Springs, on 5707 Lake Winona Road, you’ll find the picturesque ruins of the Strawn Historic Packing House District. The citrus packing house, which dates from 1882, has been abandoned since the freeze in Christmas of 1983. It is now a U.S. Historic District.