WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. (FOX 13) - From mermaid shows to up-close encounters with wildlife in crystal-clear water, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is one of Florida’s most unique family destinations.
“Weeki Wachee State Park is one of Florida’s oldest original roadside attractions,” park spokesman John Athanason said. “But yet it’s also one of Florida’s newest state parks.”
The park, of course, is most famous for the underwater mermaid performances. As they have since 1947, their shows take place in the historic theater right above the source of the spring.
“Weeki Wachee Springs is a natural resource, a natural attraction. Everything is centered around this first-magnitude spring,” Athanason explained. “About 70 to 80 feet beneath where the mermaids perform is the opening of the aquifer. It’s a very small opening, and out of that opening comes 117-million gallons of water each and every day, feeding the 12-mile Weeki Wachee River that eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.”
But it’s not just mermaids. The adjacent Buccaneer Bay waterpark features giant slides and water that’s never too hot.
“Our visitors will not swim in a chlorinated pool like you might find at some other waterparks,” Athanason continued. “When they swim here at Buccaneer Bay, they are in this beautiful spring, a 72-degree water temperature year-round -- crystal clear and so refreshing.”
The spring-fed river winds its way west. A variety of Florida wildlife can be seen, from birds to fish to manatees, and even the occasional alligator. The park offers a small riverboat cruise, while kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for solo trips.
Athanason says it’s a great way to experience the Sunshine State the way it used to be.
“It really represents old Florida. It represents how the state really should be seen, with the beautiful natural resources of the spring, the habitat that surrounds it,” he added. “If you’ve never been here before, it’s such a unique magical place that you have to experience it.”
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is located along U.S. 19 at Cortez Boulevard in Hernando County, about an hour’s drive north of Tampa.
LINK: for more information, visit www.weekiwachee.com
VIDEO: Drones aren't usually allowed at the park, but FOX 13 received special access to fly. Watch the video for a unique view from SkyFOX Drone.