Who doesn’t love a mermaid? That was what champion swimmer Newt Perry thought when he invented an breathing tube that would allow swimmers to perform choreography underwater without bulky scuba tanks or tethered hoses. He paired his invention with willing young ladies and one of Florida’s most accessible first-magnitude springs and opened Weeki Wachee Springs to the delight of a war-weary public in 1947. In the 1960s, when we first visited as kids, it was still a charmer, especially when “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” debuted here.
It’s the paddling trip, however, that draws most visitors to Weeki Wachee during the hot summer months. The spring-fed river offers an outstanding immersion into natural habitats for more than five miles.
Location: Weeki Wachee
Fees: $13 adult, $8 ages 6-12
Open: 9 AM until 5:30 PM daily
Admission to the Buccaneer Bay Water Park is included with admission.
Like most Florida roadside attractions, this one fell by the wayside – but stayed open, barely – as interest in big theme parks rose. A “save our tails” campaign by the staff caught the governor’s eye in 2004, and the state took the plunge of investing in the mermaid show, water park, and scenic boat ride that remained. It’s a great place to take the kids, and a perfect launch point for a paddle down a river that’s barely changed over the ages.
Explore the park
- Three Days of Nature Coast Springs - Between New Port Richey and Crystal River, explore a variety of springs along the Nature Coast that provide splashing fun in summer and manatee watching in winter.