De Leon Springs State Park is a Florida State Park in Volusia County, Florida. It is located in DeLeon Springs, off County Road 3. One of the most popular attractions at the park is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House located next to the natural spring in the park — serving up the best pancakes in the South that you prepare yourself at your table with a hot griddle in the center!
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House: https://oldspanishsugarmill.com/
De León Springs State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/de-leon-springs-state-park
Today I am taking you to one of the most unique places in Central Florida – a place some may consider – magical. About one-hour North of Orlando, you will come across – De Leon Springs State Park – a place rich in Florida history. It is a place the native inhabitants, known as the Mayaca who lived here 6,000 years ago, believed waters had with healing powers.
The place once known as Spring Garden, has a natural Spring, flowing at a rate of 20 million gallons a day with waters that remain 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Renamed De Leon Springs when purchased by the state of Florida, this state park is a natural wonderland. It is also home to one of the best pancake houses in the entire South.
We will take a look at all the activities you’ll find and try the amazing breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, coming up next.
De Leon Springs State Park back in the 1700s was once a plantation for cotton and sugarcane. By the early 1800s, the first water-powered sugar mill in Florida was built here. Falling under attack during the Seminole Indian wars and destroyed during the civil war years, the sugar mill was re-built time and time again. By the late 1800s, the area was known as Spring Garden and became a tourist destination. To attract tourists, local residents changed the name from Spring Garden to Ponce de Leon Springs and referred to the spring as the Fountain of Youth.
By the mid-twentieth century the area became primarily known as one of over 100 roadside attractions in the state of Florida, complete with tropical gardens, a jungle cruise, tram tour, and even a water-skiing elephant named Queeny!
The advent of the national highway system and the growth of air travel spelled doom for the attraction like so many others from the era. The property was then operated as a private recreational park until 1982, when the state of Florida and Volusia County purchased the land and renamed it De Leon Springs State Park.
Today the park encompasses 625 acres with the spring serving as the center piece for cooling off during hot Florida summers. But the park is also known as an excellent place for a myriad of outdoor activities. Canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing are permitted in the spring run. The four-mile Wild PerSIMmon Hiking Trail meanders through hardwood HAMmock, cypress swamp and old agricultural fields where hikers may encounter white-tailed deer, turkeys, wild hogs and the Florida black bear.
Amenities include the swimming area, picnic pavilions with tables and grills, volleyball court, a playground, fishing pier, and boat ramp.
To get a little history of the area, I recommend taking the guided eco-history boat tour that takes you on a trip to the adjacent Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Often along the ride, you may encounter an alligator or two, and even see some racoon babies playing on a tree limb. A park visitor center providing historical and natural history information is also open daily.
By far the most popular attraction at the park is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House located next to the spring in the park. The popular restaurant located in a 100-year-old replica of the original 1830s sugar mill was saved from destruction in 1961 by Peter Schwarze who was a fifth-generation grist miller who began once again grinding flour in the mill building. The setting was perfect and the restaurant and bakery utilizing his flours began. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House restaurant continues under family operation today serving up the best pancakes that you make yourself on hot griddles in the center of your table. There is a selection of two different types of homemade pancake batters, one containing stone-ground corn, wheat, rye, whole wheat and buckwheat flours, and the other made from unbleached white flour.
You can garnish your pancakes with lots of tasty toppings. A more traditional breakfast of eggs with sausage or bacon is available and you can prepare your eggs any style on the griddle too.
Okay, so I’m a better filmmaker than egg flipper, but you get the idea – this is amazing food and a fun way to enjoy a great meal the park.
If you find you need a break from the high traffic areas around the attractions, take a short trip north to the De Leon Springs State Park, the next time you visit Orlando!