Warm Mineral Springs-Natural Attraction, Healing Powers
**Update, July 2013: Please note that Warm Mineral Springs will be closed for a few months while Sarasota County decides on future plans to manage and market the attraction. Let’s all hope you can return to its healing waters soon. For more details, here’s a link to a news story about the closing.**
Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida, has a few unique stories to tell.
First, there are its healing powers. Its slogan, “You’ll feel better,” seems appropriate. The water at Warm Mineral Springs has the highest mineral content in the United States and the third highest mineral content of any water in the world–its waters have 51 naturally occurring minerals. Those who suffer from arthritis, skin conditions, and other health problems swear by the springs due to its beneficial mineral mixture. It doesn’t hurt that the water is 87 degrees F year-round. While many enjoy Florida for its beaches, the springs attract visitors who love its consistently warm water and contained relaxing environment.
Second, there’s the spa angle. Visitors looking for a relaxing day at a spa can come to Warm Mineral Springs, take advantage of its exercise classes (included with the $20 daily admission fee), lay out and soak up the sun, eat at the organic Cafe Evergreen, and indulge in spa treatments like a massage or facial at Spa Donya. The cafe has won accolades for its healthy menu, which features a variety of produce grown onsite at Warm Mineral Springs. And Warm Mineral Springs has been declared one of the world’s top skin-healthy vacations by Health.com and Health Magazine. Warm Mineral Springs will play host to The World Wellness Ecofest on March 19-20, when admission will be free, and 150 booths will feature natural living-related exhibits.
Third, the springs make for a good local day trip/staycation for those looking for a change of pace. Those who live in Florida (or who are even just visiting) can make a relaxing day of their visit. They can even bring the whole family, thanks to the cordoned-off and lifeguard-monitored children’s area, where water is knee- to waist-high. And if you’re aiming for historical value with your day trip, Warm Mineral Springs is on the National Register of Historical Places and is said to be Ponce de Leon’s Original Fountain of Youth.
Finally, the fourth story that Warm Mineral Springs can tell is that of its unique international clientele. A large number of visitors to the site come from Eastern Europe and Russia. Apparently, visiting springs such as this one (or other heated bath attractions) are a part of life in Eastern Europe, and the warm water at Warm Mineral Springs is a big draw. You’ll notice the Eastern European influence almost immediately as you listen to nearby conversations and by the large selection of beers and wines from Eastern Europe at Cafe Evergreen–there are even pierogis, an Eastern Europe potato dumpling, on the menu.
Visiting Warm Mineral Springs
As a spa and massage junkie, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Warm Mineral Springs. However, ever since I moved to Southwest Florida, I had seen its promotional material with a youthful-looking smiling woman in the picture, and I had wanted to find out just how it would feel to relax there.
We made the hour or so drive to the springs on a sunny Saturday. Once we paid admission ($20 per day for adults and $10 for children–however, cheaper rates are available for Sarasota County residents and students), we scouted out chairs near the children’s area and took our first steps into the water. Think of a heated pool or Florida’s Gulf beach water in mid-July, and that’s how warm it is. Warm enough to relax easily, although not hot tub warm. When you step in the water, your toes sink into the ground–if you’ve ever swam in a pond, it might remind you of that sensation, although this is obviously bigger and the water much clearer. The smell of sulphur and other minerals in the water hits you pretty quickly–if you’ve ever visited other springs before such as those in West Virginia or other places, the smell does not surprise you. Spa music (think mostly of Spanish guitar and piano) plays in the background, and the resident birds as well as wild birds occasionally sing or call out.
My son began to swim and explore in the kids’ area, where he chased after minnows. A friendly lifeguard said the springs also are home to a baby tarpon, turtles, and alligator gar fish (note that’s alligator gar fish, not actual alligators). I ventured into the adult area, where swimmers followed the current as they laid back on noodles, swam, chatted, and floated (the water’s mineral content makes floating effortless). In the springs’ 9 million gallons of water, there’s a relatively shallow area and then a deep area in the middle–237 feet deep. Before you break out the scuba gear (and I did indeed see someone scuba diving there), keep in mind that you tend not to sink due to the water’s high mineral content.
I did not know until after I arrived that Warm Mineral Springs attracts so many visitors from other parts of the world, so I was initially surprised to hear so many unidentifiable languages–if I had to make a guess, I’d say I heard Polish, Russian, Greek, and German, among others. I felt as if I were in Europe.
Admission to Warm Mineral Springs includes access to free exercise classes, which on this particular day included Hydro-Gyro (a mix of yoga and tai chi in the water), Pilates, and Gyrokinesis. The Hydro-Gyro class included basic moves to warm up the body and provide some self-massage. The class could be good for those with joint issues or even anyone who has been sitting down a long time and needs a good stretch for the spine.
When lunchtime rolled around, we visited Cafe Evergreen for a kids’ hamburger on a multigrain bun, an Avocado Wrap (with hummus, avocado, and veggies in a whole wheat wrap), Sweet Potato Fries with yogurt chive dip, and Frozen Lemonade. I’m a vegetarian and have been searching for good vegetarian food since moving to Florida. The food met and exceeded my expectations, and the lemonade was perfect.
You can spend a full day at Warm Mineral Springs (it’s open from 9 to 5) floating in the water, gazing at the clouds, sleeping in the sun, taking a walk around the grounds, visiting the spa, eating, and reading or talking with friends (I don’t think I spotted more than one cell phone on my whole day’s visit). However, if there is an ache or pain that bothers you, you may want to take advantage of the spa’s healing value.
Nearby resident Bob Bond describes Warm Mineral Springs as “very special.” He visits four or five days a week for about an hour at a time. A wound he had on his chest from open heart surgery seems to have healed much more quickly than it otherwise would thanks to the special mineral content, he says. His right leg, which was hurt in a car accident in 1968 and was even scheduled for amputation several times, has been much easier to manage thanks to his spring visits. “I haven’t needed any medicine for my leg since November 2008,” he says. Other testimonials for the springs can be found on YouTube, according to Bond.
On a visit to the gift shop, you can find organic teas, chocolates, soap, and even water from the springs (meant to be consumed in small doses, otherwise it can be a laxative). Although you might want to take a shower after your visit, an employee says it’s actually a good idea to let the springs’ minerals soak in your body as long as possible.
Still Soaking in the Minerals: Warm Mineral Springs, March 2013 Update
Our recent return visit to Warm Mineral Springs found a growing wellness-0riented business that has expanded its events–you can take advantage of more special musical performances and health-related talks at Warm Mineral Springs. Warm Mineral Springs even has a celebrity endorser–actor and Florida native Ben Vereen, who you can see in a poster basking happily in the spring water.
Cafe Evergreen’s menu continues to focus on healthy offerings–think quinoa pilaf, salads, wraps, sweet potato fries, wheatgrass shots, smoothies, and more. Many of the vegetables use come from local sources such as Worden Farm in Punta Gorda. The cafe even sells wine, but it’s wine that’s sulfite-free or wine from the nearby Rosa Fiorelli Winery in Bradenton.