110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Susan Young
Ecotours offer opportunities to experience natural Florida firsthand. Imagine cruising the St. Johns, listening to pioneer stories and looking for rare birds. Or roaring along in an airboat, then stopping to hear an alligator roar, instead. On the coasts, in the swamps, and on the rivers, history and nature are waiting for you.
VOLUSIA COUNTY TOURS
Blue Heron River Tours
Blue Heron River Tours at Hontoon Landing in DeLand, Florida brings a passion and love of the St Johns River watershed to every tour. Daily cruises at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm travel south on the St Johns River past Blue Spring State Park, where manatees are often seen. The cruise continues through "Bird House" canal, and finishes in the Hontoon Dead River, arguably one of the most beautiful rivers in our area.
Call (386) 873 4843 or visit blueheronrivertours.com.
St. Johns River Cruises
St. Johns River Cruises launches from Blue Spring State Park. Cruise at 6 mph with your nature-tour guide to see and hear eagles, ospreys, gators, and other wildlife. Manatees visit in the winter. Kayak and pontoon-boat tours are offered, and there are rates for charters and school groups.
Call (386) 837-5537, or visit sjrivercruises.com.
Fountain of Youth Tours
Fountain of Youth Tours takes you on an eco-history boat tour from DeLeon Springs State Park to Spring Garden Lake or Lake Woodruff. Look for otters, alligators and wading birds. Group rates are available.
Call (386) 837-5537, or visit FOYtours.com.
The Rivership Romance launches from Sanford, featuring themed entertainment, dining and dancing through a beautiful river cruise on a 98-foot triple-decker.
Call 1-800-423-7401, or visit rivershipromance.com.
His Helicopter Service
His Helicopter Service will whisk you up from the DeLand launch site on a scenic half-hour flight. The tour accommodates up to four passengers and is available for special events.
Call (386) 801-1234, or visit hishelicopterservice.com.
Discover Diving Center
Discover Diving Center guides you on an underwater ecotour of offshore Daytona Beach wrecks and reefs, and also leads dives in area springs. SCUBA classes and equipment rental are available.
Call (386) 760-3483, or visit divefl.com.
Sandy Point Progressive Sports
Sandy Point Progressive Sports offers kayak tours on the saltwater Halifax River on the first and third Saturdays monthly.
Call (386) 756-7564, or visit progressivesports.com.
Cracker Creek Canoeing
Cracker Creek's pontoon-boat tours cruise the shady blackwater turns of Spruce Creek in East Volusia. See wading birds, manatees and the historic Gamble Estate. Kayak and canoe rentals are also available.
Call (386) 304-0778, or visit oldfloridapioneer.com.
Deep Creek Stables
Deep Creek Stables takes you on guided horse rides through the Lake George State Forest in Northwest Volusia. Look for wild turkeys, deer, bobcats and other wildlife. Rides can be long or short, and carriage rides are available, too.
Call (386) 985-0520, or visit deepcreekstables.net.
BEYOND VOLUSIA COUNTY
Grasshopper Airboat Ecotours
Grasshopper Airboat Ecotours invites you to climb aboard the “Grasshopper,” a state-of-the-art airboat, for a thrilling ecotours along the St. Johns River.
Call (321) 631-2990, or visit airboatecotours.com.
Nature Conservancy Swamp Buggy Rides
The Nature Conservancy offers Sunday-afternoon swamp-buggy rides through the Disney Wilderness Preserve from October through May. Reservations are required.
Call (407) 935-0002, or visit nature.org.
Warbird Tours fly over Central Florida’s cypress swamps and lakes from a MASH helicopter. Even fly it yourself, if you desire!
Call 1-800-386-1593, or visit warbirdadventures.com.
Bob's Hot Air Balloon Rides
Lifting off near Orlando, Bob's Hot Air Balloon Rides float silently at sunrise, just above the treetops, watching for deer and other wildlife. Champagne-brunch tours are available.
Call 1-877-824-4606 or visit bobsballoons.com.
Sail aboard the Schooner Freedom, billed as St. Augustine's premier tall ship, on midday or sunset excursions, and watch for dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and more. You can even take the helm!
Call (904) 810-1010, or visit schoonerfreedom.com
Washington Oaks State Park Kayak Tours
Choose double kayaks, perfect for beginners, for the Washington Oaks State Park Kayak Tours. Birding and Native American-themed tours are available.
Call (904) 471-4144, or visit coastaloutdoorcenter.com.
Gator Ventures Airboat
Catch the Gator Ventures airboat at Black Hammock Fish Camp and ride on Lake Jesup, Florida’s most “gator-full” water. Thrilling night rides are available.
Call (407) 365-1244, Ext. 101, or visit blackhammockairboatrides.com.
A Day Away Kayak Tours
A Day Away Kayak Tours is known for “glowing” bioluminescence tours on summer nights, and birding tours in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Call (321) 268-2655, or visit adayawaykayaktours.com.
Captain Peggy's Tours
Captain Peggy offers spring and river ecotours, photo tours, and dive-and-snorkel tours on the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers near Ocala. An award-winning photographer, she also is certified to teach people with disabilities how to canoe and dive.
Call (352) 591-1508, or visit goldenimages-photo-scuba.com.
Ace of Hearts Ranch
Ride a gentle horse on a shady trail at Ace of Hearts Ranch, and enjoy wildflowers, birds and interesting terrain near Cocoa and Titusvillle.
Call (321) 638-0104, or visit aceofheartsranch.com.
Tours with Alligator Bob
Alligator Bob's Ecotours offers full-day and half-day walks and paddles in the Tampa Bay area. Hike through pristine coastal and wetlands ecosystems, or canoe nearby river systems to see alligators, otters, turtles, and more. Private and group tours are available.
Call (813) 986-3008, or visit gatorbob.com.
Florida native Susan Young is an award-winning freelance outdoors writer, photographer and illustrator. Susan's professional affiliations include the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, and the League of American Pen Women. Her specialties include fishing, kayaking, hiking, birding, eco-tourism, environmental education and native plants.
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