There are hundreds of state parks in Florida to visit. One of the most popular state parks in the state is the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. It’s widely popular and known for its incredible mermaid shows, but there is a lot more behind this unique park. Follow along to learn more about it, including the cost to enter, the best time to visit, the wildlife you can encounter, and the many activities.
Where is Weeki Wachee Springs State Park?
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a gorgeous Spring Hill, Florida, state park. It is also in the unincorporated community and former city, Weeki Wachee. Spring Hill is a city in Hernando County. Spring Hill is in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area and is just a short drive from Tampa. The surface area of Spring Hill is 62.30 square miles.
About Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Like many others in the Sunshine State, this state park began as a tourist destination. However, Weeki Wachee had something unique to bring to the table: mermaids.
This state park began as a fun and quirky roadside attraction in 1947. Newton Perry opened this attraction, which featured underwater mermaids using a free-flowing air hose to breathe. At first, visitors could admire the mermaids from an 18-seat theater under the surface of the spring. The first mermaids performed here with underwater ballet moves. By the 1950s, this incredible roadside attraction was one of the most visited tourist attractions in the state. It also featured stunning orchid gardens and boat tours to view wildlife and enjoy the scenery.
So many people fell in love with Weeki Wachee during its earliest days. It was also a popular filming site—scenes for films like Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid and Neptune’s Daughter. The attraction continued to grow. Despite its popularity, it didn’t become a state park until 2008.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Weeki Wachee depends on your interests. There is so much to do at this state park! If you want access to all the activities available, your best bet is to visit during the summer. However, the summer season is also the busiest and hottest. You can see from October to March if you want to beat the crowds. Not everything is open from October to March, though. For instance, sometimes mermaid shows operate on limited showtimes. Fall and winter are also excellent times to visit the park and kayak. You may even spot wildlife like alligators or manatees. During fall and winter, you may still use the beach for swimming and relaxing, but the water park’s slides are often closed.
How To Get There
The Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is easily accessible from Central Florida to Tampa. The nearest airport to this gorgeous state park is the Tampa (TPA) Airport. It’s about 37.5 miles away. Another close airport (42.9 miles away) is the St. Petersburg (PIE). However, if you stay in Orlando and want to escape the theme parks, you can fly into Orlando (MCO). Weeki Wachee is about a two-hour drive from Orlando. It’s worth the drive! If one day isn’t enough time, you can always camp near the park or stay in a hotel.
So, how much does it cost to enter this state park? To join, it’s $13 per adult and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. However, it’s free to enter for children five and under. While inside, you can also purchase rental tubes for floating.
Things To Do
One day truly isn’t enough to explore Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and all it offers. You don’t have to spend all your time swimming in the water. Some boat tours are available throughout the year. Follow along to discover some of the best things to do while visiting.
One of the most popular things to do in this state park is to go for a swim. It’s especially perfect during hot summer days when you want to cool off. You can swim at Buccaneer Bay.
Not everyone likes to swim. Maybe you want to spend some time with nature and kayak. Kayaking is a popular activity within the state park. You can rent a kayak or bring one to the park. Tours are also available. A fan-favorite kayaking tour in this state park is the clear kayak tour offered by Get Up and Go Kayaking. This tour is excellent during manatee season and is great for beginners. You don’t have to know how to kayak to join!
There are very few hiking trails within the state park. On AllTrails, only one hiking trail is listed, the Weeki Wachee Springs River Trail. It’s about 0.8 miles long with an elevation gain of 13 feet. This short, simple, sweet trail is mainly paved sidewalks running through the park near the water. It’s a great way to stretch your legs!
The main attraction of Weeki Wachee is the fantastic mermaid shows! The times vary, but there is at least one a day. Mermaid shows are exciting and for all ages. As of November 2023, the show is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid in a submerged 400-seat auditorium.
You can read more here if you’d like to learn more about the state park’s mermaid shows and the mermaid roster.
Did you know this state park also has an exciting and refreshing water park? Buccaneer Bay is a spring-fed aquatic playground with two water slides. There are rules, though, for each water slide. For instance, participants need to be 48 inches or taller to ride down the Cannonball. However, rides must be 42 inches or taller to slide down the Pirate’s Revenge slide.
Don’t worry, though. If you don’t like slides, you can also relax on the sandy white beach. Apart from swimming, guests can also rent an inner tube to float the lazy river. Also in Buccaneer Bay is the Lil’ Mates Caribbean Cove, a wading pool made for children six years and younger.
One of the best parts about visiting Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is all the wildlife. There are so many animals to see! One of the most iconic animals in Weeki Wachee is the manatee. They are ubiquitous in the cool and refreshing water from November through March. Apart from manatees, visitors also have a chance of seeing American alligators. However, alligators generally stay away from cold springs unless looking for food or cooling down on a hot day. Many times, the only animals you’ll see in the water with you are fish and turtles.
Also in the springs are river otters. Throughout Weeki Wachee, youu can find other animals, not just thoselivinge in the water. This gorgeous state park is a great place to bird-watch, especially when kayaking or taking a boat tour. Some birds to watch include bald eagles, sandhill cranes, barred owls, great egrets, white ibis, northern cardinals, wood storks, and northern bobwhites.
Impressive and gorgeous plants are also found throughout the state park. While visiting, you may see saw palmettos, Florida green eyes, Spanish moss, Florida false sunflowers, and American royal ferns.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Danielle Leonard/iStock via Getty Images
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