EAT WHERE THE LOCALS EAT ON RAINBOW RIVER IN DUNNELLON, FLORIDA (Swampy’s Bar and Grille)

Wanderlust at it again? Why not head out for some adventure at one of Florida’s Springs where you can kayak or canoe among some crystal clear water. I headed out to Rainbow Falls in Dunnellon, Florida yesterday for some time in the great outdoors. While the springs are particularly popular in the hot summer months, I personally find them equally refreshing in the winter months here in Florida, as there are far fewer people there in winter months.

The headsprings begin close to this area within the Rainbow Springs Park. You can arrange to rent a kayak or canoe here in the park to paddle an approximately four hour ride downstream through the Rainbow River and have a shuttle take you back from the end of the river to your car at the park. Along the way, you may see some gaters, otters, birds, and fish in the crystal waters or along the banks of the river.

Before you rent your canoe or kayak, take time to see the beautiful man-made waterfalls in the park while you are there. In January and early February you may catch a glimpse of some of the azaleas. When I went yesterday, February 7, there were only some scattered azaleas in bloom, as the peak of the azalea season had already passed.

At the end of your journey down the Rainbow River, you can stop at Swampy’s Bar And Grill, where the locals eat. This unpretentious and clean eatery has an amazing location and a dock where you can actually tie up your canoe or kayak while you eat. Most of the tables are outside or under a porch roof, although they have a few tables inside. It was breathtaking to watch the birds take flight before my eyes while I sat under some Spanish Moss in the adjacent tree. This is old Florida updated. This is adventure meeting with peace. This is a stop that soothes the soul at the same time if feeds the belly.

For the more adventurous folks in the crowd, there is alligator on the menu. For the less adventurous members of the crowd, there are standard burgers, fish and chips, ceviche, and some Louisiana inspired menu items such as jambalaya and red beans with sausage.

menu courtesy of Swampy’s FB page

The hostess at the hostess stand smiled at me through her mask immediately upon my arrival before seating me, and my server, Josh, greeted me warmly as well. I could see from his eyes that his smile under his mask was warm and genuine, and he made me feel welcomed by his conversation about nearby springs and growing up in the Florida springs.

I am a vegetarian, so I ordered the large garden salad and was satisfied with the freshness, taste, portion, and flavor of the salad, and I would definitely recommend this eatery for anyone wanting to finish up a day at the Rainbow Springs with a local, authentic eatery. Although I visited during the day, Swampy’s looks like a fun spot at night with its Edison lights and fire tables on the sand. Add that to my list to try another time, as my “bucket list” grows daily!

Life is good; carpe diem folks….get out and enjoy the outside during this wretched pandemic.

“May you LIVE all the days of your life.” -Jonathan Swift

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