Pancakes and Water Skiing Elephants at De Leon Springs!

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Florida is full of beautiful state parks.  Lakes and palm trees, what’s not to love?  This one is no different on the surface.  De Leon Springs is state park built around a natural spring about 45 minutes inland from Daytona Beach.   The spring stays at 72 degrees F year round, making it “swimmable” for some (kind of a polar bear challenge for me).

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

The scenery and warm(ish) waters make it a favorite spot for swimming, hiking, fishing, picnicing, and the like.  But there are a few key features that make De Leon Springs stand out amongst Florida State Parks.  While it doesn’t boast mermaids like Weeki Wachee Springs, it does have DIY pancakes and a water skiing elephant.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

De Leon Springs is home to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill,  a breakfast spot featuring DIY pancakes housed in a historic replica sugar mill.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill in De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

Some of you may remember my excitement at the concept of DIY pancakes at Funky Brunch in Savannah. This place was equally exciting, though there are some differences.  The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is decorated like an old country store or rustic lake house.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

They offer two different kinds of pancake batter, a more traditional pancake batter and their signature 5 flour batter and numerous mix-ins.  While the batter does not lend itself to artistic interpretation quite as easily as at Funky Brunch, it still taste delicious and they offer molasses as a topping, which I wholeheartedly support as it is the closest thing around here that I can get to Steen’s Cane Syrup.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

Another difference between Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Funky Brunch that I support less wholeheartedly is that you can cook your own eggs on the griddle.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

The general population shouldn’t be trusted to cook raw eggs, especially while handling community syrup handles.  Perhaps that’s just my semi-rational fear of food-borne illness talking, but it seems like a bad idea.

Now the interesting part, the water skiing elephant!

Water Skiing Elephant at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

There is a small information center at De Leon Springs State park covering the history of the park and the general area from the time it was inhabited by Seminole Indians, to the Civil War, to present.  The most interesting period however was 16 years starting in 1953 that it operated as Ponce De Leon Springs, featuring a jungle cruise (which I was pretty excited about having worked at the Disney version of it’s name sake),

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

tram tour, and the star of the show, a circus with a water skiing elephant.

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

It was one of many roadside attractions in Florida that fell by the wayside with the advent of bigger amusement and theme-parks and widespread air travel.

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

Here’s a fun fact, when the tourism dried up and the circus was forced to pack up and leave town, apparently the monkeys were a bit too much to pack up and take with them.  The circus operators figured, “hey, Florida is pretty much the jungle.” and they weren’t wrong, the monkeys now have a breeding population that you can sometimes see on a few of the De Leon Springs hiking trails.

De Leon Springs State Park in Florida

So what looks like just another pretty spring in Florida is actually full of monkeys and pancakes.  That in itself is worth a visit!

12 thoughts on “Pancakes and Water Skiing Elephants at De Leon Springs!

  1. Oh, Florida… I’m just glad there’s no longer an actual water-skiing elephant.
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted…How to balance career, family, and travelMy Profile

  2. That poor elephant!! lol But I love the idea of make your own pancakes! That’s cool! 🙂
    Cailin recently posted…Room Review Onboard A Viking River CruiseMy Profile

  3. Oh this place looks great! I wish I knew about it the last time I was in Florida! Will have to remember for next time. Those pancakes looked good!
    Sophie recently posted…Freelancing is hard – How to CopeMy Profile

  4. Oh, reading your post at night in a hotel room without any food was a mistake. Look at those pancakes!
    Lesley recently posted…Nature Bucket List in DominicaMy Profile

  5. Wow that really looks amazing…times have changed…well sometimes!
    Will recently posted…TOP 5 CRAZY PARTY HOSTELS IN USAMy Profile

  6. Crazy that I lived in Florida for a few years and never managed a trip to the park. The history is quite amazing – I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a water skii-ing elephant before! We’re heading back to spend some time with family in a few months, so I’ll definitely plan for a side trip. Thanks!
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…Alaska Travel Essentials: Tips For Bear Safety + Our Favorite Photos of BearsMy Profile

  7. Filled with monkeys and pancakes, sounds awesome! I’ve never been to a place with DIY pancakes before but I love the concept. I’ll be sure to check out this place next time I’m in Florida.
    Amanda Zeisset recently posted…Muéstranos Tu Ruta de Trekking: Abel Tasman Track, Nueva ZelandaMy Profile

  8. A water skiing elephant- that’s just harsh! I’m relieved to hear that was in the past, I would not visit a place with irresponsible tourism practices.

  9. Jen

    Water-skiing elephant! That must have been something to see. The DIY pancakes look like fun to make, what a fun day trip!
    Jen recently posted…Sunrise QuesadillasMy Profile

  10. You had us at eggs on a griddle!!!! lol
    Uncover Your Caribbean recently posted…Jamaica: Club MobayMy Profile

  11. 72 degrees is cold to me too hahah! Cool place! The elephant would have been a sight to see!

  12. You had me at pancaked! 🙂 This spot looks special. The weather seems perfect too.

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