Located just off US 17, one of the major north-south routes into Florida before the interstate system was built, De Leon Springs became a major tourist attraction drawing motorists off the road with a variety of amusements. Sunshine Sally, the water skiing elephant headlined the "Jim Rusing Water Skiing, Boat and Jumping Show." A jungle cruise led visitors past a giant Cypress tree and a monkey island. And there is evidence that as an attraction, De Leon Springs also had an Alligator Pen, Oriental Bridge and Wishing Well. It was advertised as "Nature's Cameraland."
Today, like many of Florida's surviving vintage attractions, it is a state park. Aside from the swimming in the spring, renting a canoe or peddleboat, or browsing at historical displays on the springs fascinating history, the main draw is the Old Spanish Mill restaurant. Each table has a griddle built into it, and servers bring batter made from flour ground on site, from which you cook your own pancakes. The un-air conditioned building is always packed and it features remnants from the original Spanish mill, including a rebuilt version of the original waterwheel. The pancakes are wonderful and everything is charming at this window into Florida's past.