Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a wild and wonderful place; a quirky old Florida theme park built around a spring of fresh water bubbling from subterranean caverns at a consistent 74 degrees F. I had been dying to go there since I first found out about it over ten years ago. The star attractions are the live mermaids that perform underwater synchronized swimming shows, breathing from air hoses, sometimes accompanied by a surprise guest turtle or manatee.
You can view this amazing feat from an underwater amphitheater that was built into the limestone bed, 16 feet below the surface. The first mermaid show occurred in 1947, when the town of Weeki Wachee consisted of not much more than a two-lane highway and lots of dirt roads. Since that first show, the park has had a fascinating history (visits from Elvis and Esther Williams!) and was almost closed a few years ago due to lack of visitors. This wonderful place is now an official Florida State Park. Even though I knew ahead of time that the mermaid shows were temporarily on hold for repairs, we were staying right down the road and I was determined the visit the park anyway. There are other great things to explore, such as a scenic boat cruise, the Buccaneer Bay water park, and live animal presentations featuring wildlife native to Florida.
On the pontoon boat cruise down the peaceful Weeki Wachee River, we learned more about the historic springs and the wildlife that inhabits it, including manatees, alligators and lots of bird species like bald eagles and anhingas. We saw a ton of people float by in canoes and kayaks and I just wanted to jump in and start swimming!
After our peaceful boat ride we decided to get even more Zen on the Tranquility Trail. We’d been in Florida several days at that point, but I still couldn’t get over the wild jungle plants and I really miss that landscape.
We did try to poke around the underwater theater a bit, but unfortunately it was closed for the aforementioned repairs.
And as I wrote in my last post, we were about ready to jump in the water at Buccaneer Bay when the thunder and lightning started. We tried to wait it out but the storm was taking over an hour to pass through and it was time to check into our rental cabin. Just another reason to come back as soon as possible, and at least we’ll have some more surprises left for when we return!
After Disney World was built in the 70’s, less and less visitors are leaving the bubble of Orlando. But there are SO MANY attractions worth the two hour drive past strip malls and cattle ranches. I urge you to rent a car, even just for one day, and visit the REAL FLORIDA.
And in the end, we did eventually see some mermaids 😉