Day Trip to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
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By Natassja Prose, IG @proseandcompany

 

About an hour north of Tampa in Hernando County’s city of Weeki Wachee, you’ll find a little nostalgic Florida gem, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Buccaneer Bay Water Park, a quintessential Old Florida site. As Florida’s one and only spring-fed water park, this would make for a perfect summer day trip!  And it’s particularly exciting for mermaid enthusiasts of all ages!

 

Weeki Wachee Springs park is actually one of the deepest freshwater cave systems in the United States, featuring naturally formed underwater caverns so deep, the bottom has never been found!

 

The seemingly enchanted spring is the start of the pristine waterway of the Weeki Wachee River, a pristine waterway of the Weeki Wachee River, which flows 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Weeki Wachee Springs is a first magnitude spring, with an average discharge of 172 cubic feet per second.  In fact, most of the pristine Weeki Wachee river’s flow starts with this first-magnitude spring. That’s 111 million gallons of water per day! Several smaller springs also add to the river’s flow.  Lots of numbers right – cubic feet per second, millions of gallons of water, blah blah blah – so let’s translate.  That much massively powerful water flow means that all – one hundred percent – all of the river’s water is totally and completely replaced every sixty minutes!  With such an incredible flow of crystal-clear water, it’s no wonder the river is so amazingly clear.

 

Plus, the upper section of Weeki Wachee springs and river has avoided the man-made development problems that have spoiled so many other natural gems – no man-made structures, just magnificent trees and natural surroundings.  And because so much of the river’s bottom is white sand, it looks even more clear and clean.

 

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Buccaneer Bay is a fun spot to discover one of Florida’s crystal clear enchanted springs. There’s so much to do at Weeki Wachee, including catching one of Weeki Wachee’s iconic mermaids at a mermaid show, but the fun doesn’t stop there.

 

Iconic Mermaids of Weeki Wachee

 

How’s 75 years sound?  That’s about how long visitors have been coming to visit these famous pristine waters.  Beginning around 1947, the dazzling waters and underwater ballet of pretty girls dressed as mermaids has attracted thousands of travelers annually.

Weeki Wachee mermaids
Weeki Wachee’s enchanted iconic mermaids | Image credit: Florida State Parks / photo by Phillip Grierson

 

The beautiful mermaids perform to musical numbers underwater, even eating and drinking!  They even perform their version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen masterpiece, The Little Mermaid live in the specially designed 400-seat submerged auditorium.

This performance of the classic story isn’t just a copy of the animated film – it’s told unlike any other version as the Little Mermaid celebrates her birthday and comes face to face with her prince!  Yearning to have legs like him, she makes a deal with the sea witch to give her what she wants in exchange for her beautiful voice.  As the prince struggles to save the Little Mermaid’s beautiful voice, a fierce battle ensues between him and the evil sea witch. The prince prevails, proving that “love conquers all.”

Mermaid shows are offered at 11am, 1:30pm, and 3pm. Seating is first come, first serve. 

Buccaneer Bay Water Park + Things to do at Weeki Wachee Springs Park

Inside Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is Buccaneer Bay, a splishy splashy family fun water park.  Buccaneer Bay features 2 tremendous water slides, a sandy white beach, crystal clear springs water that makes the ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling, and a naturally flowing lazy river that flows around the whole swimming area.

 

You can swim, float, snorkel and even slide directly into the spring. The Cannonball and Pirates Revenge waterslides let you feel the rush of excitement as you slide down them again and again. And it’s kid-friendly, too, with lifeguards everywhere and a special pool for younger kids.  The waterslides do have a height requirement of at least 42 inches for one and 48 inches for the other, so a quick height check would be a good idea before planning the visit.

 

If tubing down a natural lazy river or paddling adventure along the chilly spring waters is more your speed, you can do that too! Tubes are available for an additional fee to relax and float down the lazy river of Weeki Wachee Preserve. You might even see some beautiful wildlife. We spotted turtles and fish swimming along beside us while we floated in our tubes.

A note about manatees: During the cooler months of manatee season, November 15th-March 31st, you will most likely encounter some manatees. A few of these graceful creatures hang around year-round, but you’ll increase your chances of seeing manatees in the wild if you visit during the winter months.

 

Once you’ve played in the spring water, you can break for lunch! Couples can bring a cooler with packed lunches or enjoy one of the four dining options at the park. Our family enjoyed grab and go options from Pirate’s Grubb and ate on one of the many picnic tables near the beach area.

 

After lunch and when you’ve warmed up from the cool spring water, reserve tickets ahead of time to watch one of the live Mermaid Shows at the park with Weeki Wachee’s iconic mermaids. The magical allure of the mermaids is an iconic part of Weeki Wachee history.

 

Additional activities like kayaking or paddling are available but require reservations in advance. Rentals are available through Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. Rentals start at $35 for a two-hour trip.

 

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park kayaking
Image credit: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Tips for planning your day trip to Weeki Wachee Springs:

 

  • Plan to arrive early, as in before the park opens. The park reaches capacity early in the day and once it does, they do not sell additional tickets for the day.
  • Pack for a beach day! There is a white sandy beach area with a few beach chairs up for grabs, but they do fill up quickly. It’s a good idea to bring your own or a beach blanket for the white sandy beach area.
  • Tubes are available for rent for the lazy river, so you aren’t allowed to bring your own floats.
  • Bring your snacks! Food is permitted at the park, but not in the theater during any of the live mermaid shows.

 

How much does Weeki Wachee Cost?

 

One of the most asked questions is, how much does Weeki Wachee cost?  Cost to enter Weeki Wachee state park are $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Ages five and under are admitted free.

 

Feature image credit: Natassja Prose

This article originally appeared in our sibling publication, Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine

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