crystal river archaelogical state park is located 35 miles north of weeki wachee in the town of crystal river. the park has seven native american mounds and two steles dating back to 500 BC. for those interested in pre-columbian archaeology this is a very interesting park to visit. for more information see my crystal river pages.
homosassa springs wildlife park is located 25 miles north of weeki wachee on US 19. this state park offer a underwater viewing area where you can see fresh and salt water fish and in the winter months manatees. the homosassa springs park is more wildlife orientated than weeki wachee. for more information see my homosassa pages.
crystal river preserve state park is located 35 miles north of weeki wachee on US 19. this state park is a large tract of undeveloped land on the crystal river. the state park offers wildlife trails, canoeing, and fishing. for those interested in nature and florida wildlife this is a very nice park to visit. for more information see my crystal river pages.
located 25 miles north of weeki wachee is the charming fishing village of homosassa. in the town of homosassa is the historic yulee sugar mill ruins state park. david levy yulee established a 5,000 acre sugar cane plantation st this site in 1851. at the state park you can visit the ruins of yulee's sugar mill. for more information see my homosassa pages.
weeki wachee springs state park is one of the most visited tourist attractions of west central florida. the spring was developed as a tourist attraction in 1947. the spring has a underwater viewing area where you can see their "mermaid" shows. the park also has a water park and a river cruise. a interesting place to visit to see an "old florida" tourist attraction.
As longtime VTer from northern Florida, Pete Chamblis observes, this is old Florida. There are waterways with homes that date back to around WWII and before. Few of these homes are on stilts as they should all be, given the risk of higher sea levels and hurricane surges. My friend accelerated to high speed past the red pylons that mark the waterway and putting into a fear of capsizing. But, when he drifted to stop, I noticed that the depth a mile or so off shore into the Gulf of Mexico was till a mere 8 feet deep.
Manatee thrive in this area, despite the encroaching housing along the waterway, because of increased popular concern for these huge animals welfare, and growing awareness of damage caused by speedboats and propellers. They are huge, shy animals that cause a lot of excitement among the kayakers, so it's not hard to spot them.
There is a boat launch, but parking is limited. We had to improvise on a place to leave the car and trailer after launching the boat. Alcohol is illegal in the park, and power boats are limited to 5mph. Most boats are kayaks or inflatable rafts. The meandering waterways are lined on either side with houses that have shoreside access for cars. The manatee can be found swimming in these waters, believe it or not, and during my trip, I was able to see a group of juveniles.
When my husband and I went back to the park in 2006, the park was obviously in decline. There was still a mermaid show, but it was a little different than it was in 1967.
The theatre was still there, underwater. Initially, they had the blinds drawn across the viewing window. Women working as mermaids, but not swimming in that particular show were acting as ushers and as a narrator and they showed a slide show about the history of the place before the main show started. When they raised the blinds, we could see the wildlife of the springs (turtles, manatees) swimming around (photo 3). I do not remember seeing that before.
The mermaids wore mermaid tails for most of the show, and in 1967 there was more emphasis on the show and less on the mermaid aspect of it. The show was not a recreation of a broadway show or movie - instead it was a series of skits. At the end, one of the mermaids did a deep breath-holding free dive to the bottom of the spring.
According to their website, this year they are doing the "Little Mermaid" show.
Of course another difference is that in 1967 we went during the summer when it was warm, and this time it was January and there was a cold snap.
For more pictures of the 2006 show, see the travelogues
We got to Weeki Wachee right when it opened at 10, and the first mermaid show was not until 11:00. So in the meantime, we took the River Cruise which left at 10:15. The boat was propelled with an electric motor which was very quiet. The water of the river was very clear, and the guide showed us lots of birds, particularly the ones pictured (wood storks, anhinga, great blue heron, great egret and brown pelicans). He had fish to feed them, and they sometimes sat on top of the boats to beg for food.
I didn't do the Silver Springs boatride last year because I thought it was too expensive, but this is more or less the same as I remember that boatride particularly in regard to the clearness of the water.
At present, the park is open 10-4 and the River Cruise is included in the entrance price. The boats run 10:15am through 3:00pm. For more photos, see the travelogue.
The website (and also signs at the dock) says: Due to limited seating we can not assure all guests will be able to enjoy this attraction
When we were in Weeki Wachi in the mid 60s it was the heyday of the park. The mermaid shows included recreations of movies or plays. There were lots of little statues around where my kids could climb or could pose for pictures. The seahorse is named Bubbles and was in the Star Garden Hall of Fame. The original was in the Alice in Wonderland show.
Currently, that is not the case. There were a couple of small 'riding' toys (see photo 4 with the saddled dolphin and the skunk), and a big clam shell were people could get in or stand in front and have their pictures taken but that seemed to about it.
There were also mermaid photo-ops (which had to be paid for). Perhaps the old statues have gone over to the amusement part of Weeki Wachi (Buccaneer Bay), or maybe they are just gone.
Since it was in January, and during a cold snap to boot, we didn't feel particularly inclined to do any water park activities. It was closed anyway at that time of year. But the Buccaneer Bay park has four water slides and a beach area on the other side of the river from where the mermaids swim. They are the Pirates's Plunge, the Thunderbolt, the Pirate's Revenge and the Cannonball.
The Western Florida town itself is only of passing interest, with precious little to see or do other than a couple of hours of exploratory wanderings. But Weeki Wachee is a great home base if you are looking for an adventure that includes the surrounding areas. Another major road, Shoal Line Blvd. Runs takes you to the local parks and beaches.
This area of the Western Florida is known as the Nature Coast. Instead of white sand beaches and seaside resorts you will find sea-salt marshes and wild rivers. While this spells bad news for the beach-lovers, it means excellent conditions for wildlife.
Most famous inhabitants are manatees or the sea cows, but the Nature Coast is also home to hundreds of bird species. The ancient manatee used to confuse sailors into beleiving that they had sighted a mermaid. The sailors drank a lot of rum, as the sea cow, with its burlap-like skin and up to 3,500-pound un-girlish figure, more closely resembles the elephant. High tourist season in the area is January - March when you can see the visiting manatees - they come to winter here in warm pockets of water created by natural springs. You can even dive to see manatees in Crystal Rive Manatee Dive tour.
But you can find the live mermaids too (no drinking necessary) - at the Weeki Wachee Springs Waterpark.
Weeki Wachee Springs Waterpark is the main attraction in the area. It has given the town nickname the City of Live Mermaids.
In attempt to make the town famous, local people invented the mermaids show somewhere 50+ years ago (Weeki Wachee Waterpark celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1997) . The mermaids of Weeki Wachee wear green or silver-tailored costumes and take breaths of piped-in air to perform their attraction including eating and drinking underwater and singing "We've got the world by the tail". The Waterpark turns Disney films into its mermaid shows ("The Little Mermaid" of course, but also Pocahontas etc). After show, you have a photo opportunity to pose with a mermaid. Other shows around the park include exotic birds, petting zoo, and birds of pray. Currently they run the show Thursday through Sunday, 11AM - 3 PM. Admission cost is around $30.
Recently, the mermaid story had unusual twist. Director Kim Cummings filmed a short movie here called "Weeki Wachee Girls". As the story goes, two young girls have dreamed of being part of the live mermaid show at the Waterpark. The movie received the Silver Illumination Award at the Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 2001 for the Best Lesbian Short Film.
The park has a dedicated fresh water swimming area that children love. Families like to buy or rent inflatable "islands"--large enough for an entire large family.