Day Trip to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
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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 one of the deepest freshwater cave systems in the United States, featuring naturally formed underwater caverns so deep that 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 in their underwater theater, 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 have 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 mermaid performances include musical numbers underwater. A reimagining of the classic Hans Christian Andersen masterpiece, The Little Mermaid is performed 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.”

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

Are you a mermaid-in-training? They even offer Junior Mermaid Camp for kids ages 7-14 and Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp for adults 30 and up!

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 with water clarity 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.

Kayaking and Paddleboarding down Weeki Wachee

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can kayak or paddleboard down the springs. You can bring your own kayak or paddleboard or rent one through the park where a shuttle service will pick you up from (about three miles downriver from the launch).

Follow the park’s river trip which is an easy float of a little over 2.8 miles or, if using your equipment, opt for a 5.5-mile trip that ends at Rogers Park.

Rentals are available through Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. Rentals start at $35 for a two-hour trip. Advance reservations are required.

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 alongside us while we floated in our tubes.

A note about manatees: During the cooler months of manatee season (November-March) 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.

Wilderness River Cruise and Wildlife Shows

During their wildlife shows, you’ll have the chance to see animals such as alligators, snakes, and a variety of birds. You can also hop on one of their Wilderness River Cruises to explore the river and learn all about the ecosystems in and around it.

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

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.

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 grand any more admission.
  • 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, you aren’t allowed to bring your own floats.
  • You can also rent cabanas for the day.
  • Bring your snacks! Food is permitted at the park, but not in the theater during any of the live mermaid shows.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses, sunscreen, camera.

Details and Info:

Address: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
Website: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Hours: Year-round, 9 am- 5:30 pm
Cost: $13 for adults, $8 for kids ages 6-12. Ages 5 and under are free.
Parking: A public parking lot is available on-site.

Feature image credit: Natassja Prose

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