Florida’s Healing Waters: Gilded Age Mineral Springs, Seaside Resorts, and Health Spas


Florida Book Awards, Silver Medal for Florida Nonfiction
Florida Historical Society Stetson Kennedy Award
A colorful look at a forgotten era of Florida tourism

The origins of modern Florida’s tourism-based economy can be traced back to the 1700s when a narrative of an untamed paradise was created to encourage settlement in the Land of Flowers. With more than 1,000 freshwater springs, 1,300 miles of coastline, and 30,000 lakes, Florida counts water as one of its most abundant resources.

In the nineteenth century, water was also seen as a source of healing and rehabilitation, and invalids began to flock to Florida for its warm climate and salubrious waters.

This book traces the phenomena of taking the waters, from ancient cultures that saw the divine lurking beneath the surface to contemporary spa resorts.

It will shed light on a golden age of bathing in Florida when the state was a prime destination for visitors seeking restoration and romance in springs, surf, and spa – a golden age that lasted well into the first quarter of the twentieth century. Today, most of the surviving spa facilities have transitioned to recreational amenities for a culture more about sun and fun than physical renewal, yet some people still find Florida waters to be sacred.


  • Language: English
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Book Format: Paperback
  • Number of Pages: 240
  • Author: Rick Kilby
  • ISBN-13: 9780813066530
  • Publication Date: September 2020
  • ISBN-10: 0813066530
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