Have you always wanted to see a mermaid swim in the open water? It’s possible at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park! This park is the only place where you’ll find mermaids as state employees. Visiting Weeki Wachee is like taking a trip back when roadside attractions ruled the Sunshine State.
NOTE: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is closed until further notice due to COVID restrictions, Kayak launching is open, but riders must wear a mask if taking the rental tram back to the park.
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History of Weeki Wachee
About an hour’s drive from Clearwater and Tampa, Weeki Wachee Park opened in 1947. Named by the original inhabitants, the Indigenous Peoples of the Seminole tribe, Weeki Wachee means’ winding river’ or ‘little spring.’ However, Weeki Wachee is no little spring. The natural springs in the area push out more than 115 million gallons of fresh water each day. The currents under the water where the mermaids swim can be as fast as 5 miles per hour. And the bottom has never been found.
Former Navy man Newton Perry helped the Navy frogmen of World War II train underwater. In 1946 he came across Weeki Wachee Springs and decided to open a business. After removing rusted appliances and cars from the springs, Perry came up with a way to breathe underwater with a tube. He then found girls to become his mermaids, built a viewing area underwater, and opened the park. The 1950s were a booming time for the park, with visits from stars including Elvis Presley and Esther Williams.
As time went by and the roadside attractions lost visitors to the attractions near Orlando and more people flew to the state than drove, Weeki Wachee’s attendance declined. Fortunately, the state of Florida purchased the property in 2008 and now Weeki Wachee Springs is a permanent fixture in the state.
Things To Do At Weeki Wachee
Weeki Wachee isn’t a large park, so don’t go expecting to spend all day there unless you also head to Buccaneer Bay (more on that in a bit).
The park has a featured animal of Florida presentation. You’ll get to see baby alligators, snakes, native birds and other animals. If you live in Florida and enjoy being outdoors a lot, you won’t be surprised by much of the show. But visitors or residents who aren’t able to get into natural Florida much will enjoy it.
Take a ride on the river cruise that goes one mile down the Weeki Wachee River. The water is crystal clear. You can see fish, and if you visit at the right time of year, see some manatees. The captain gives a useful presentation of the plants and animals that live in the area. You’ll also get some history lessons about the area.
You can also explore Buccaneer Bay, a water park on-site. There’s no additional fee to enter. You can enjoy waterslides, a lazy river, a kiddie pool area and a beach area. Buccaneer Bay is open during the summer months.
There are several locations along the river where you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the springs at your own pace.
And there’s the mermaid show. There are three scheduled shows a day. Two of them will be different so try to catch those and get two chances to see the mermaids swim. The shows have themes like The Little Mermaid or an Americana themed show. It’s fascinating to see the trained women do ballet and tricks underwater. You’ll barely notice the women’s breathing tubes because you’ll be mesmerized by the performances. One time we were there, a manatee swam behind the mermaid’s show, so keep your eye out for underwater inhabitants. After the show, there’s a chance to take pictures will the mermaids too.
The theater where you watch the shows is located 16 feet below the spring’s surface, and the water is always 74.2 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take up to a year for a mermaid to get fully trained. The mermaid auditions take place every few years and the audition process includes treading water for 10 minutes and swimming 300 yards within a set amount of time. Not ready to be a full-time mermaid, but interested in taking an adult camp? Sign up for the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp!
Food & Restrooms
There are a few places in the park to grab a bite to eat. They’re all quick-service style, but the food is good and the prices aren’t bad. Beware the peacocks roaming around – they’ll try to steal your fries!
Restrooms are throughout the park.
Pets are not allowed inside Weeki Wachee Park or in the river.
The cost to enter Weeki Wachee Springs is $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12 (children five and under are Free).
Weeki Wachee is one of the specialty state parks, so there are no specials for anyone with a pass. Those with a Florida Individual Annual Pass get entry for one person to Weeki Wachee. With a Florida Family Annual Pass, park entry is good for two people.
Entry to Weeki Wachee Springs includes access to the mermaid show, pontoon boat, wildlife and Buccaneer Bay.
Weeki Wachee Spring State Park is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm. Waterslides and Lazy River at Buccaneer Bay are open from 9 am to 5 pm, June to September.
Getting To Weeki Wachee
Weeki Wachee Springs is off US Hwy 19 N at 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL 34606.
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