The Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs are a unique attraction in the Gulf Coast Florida city of Weeki Wachee. The name Weeki Wachee means “little spring” or ‘winding river” in the Seminole language. The temperature in the spring is a constant 74 degrees and over 170 million gallons of water rushes through at 5 miles per hour. Divers have gone down to 400 feet and have yet to reach the bottom.
The mermaids first began performing in 1947 after the springs were purchased by Newton Perry. He was an avid diver who saw the potential in the springs which had been used as a dumping ground for years. After cleaning out all the abandoned cars and junk, he set about inventing a breathing apparatus that would give the impression that the divers were able to thrive underwater without having an air tank strapped to their backs.
A small 18-seat theatre was created six feet below the water level of the springs and the mermaids of Weeki Wachee became one of Florida’s favorite attractions. In the days before super highways, Americans were hitting the smaller roads and enjoying the carefree days of sunshine in Florida. The mermaids would run out to the road to entice visitors to visit and since they were chosen as much for their looks as their swimming ability, they were quite successful.
Weeki Wachee Springs became a Florida State Park in 2008 and still offers guests a taste of old Florida with all the modern conveniences. You will be given a map when you enter the park which will help you to plan your day.
The mermaids perform three time daily, at 11 a.m. 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Currently, they offer two different shows “The Little Mermaid” and Fish Tails”. The performances take place in a submerged 500-seat theatre. The doors open a half hour before show time and when capacity is reached the doors close, so plan accordingly.
The mermaids actually eat and drink as part of their show, pretty amazing since they are underwater. They also manage several costume changes in a room beneath the stage which they can access through the spring itself out of visitor sight. Just seeing them maintain their position in the water is incredible when you consider that it is moving at 5 miles per hour.
After the show there is a photo opportunity with one of the mermaids. It was not just the children who were posing with the very pretty young women.
An animal encounter is offer three times daily, at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. It may include alligators, snakes and more. This writer was not able to fit it in with all the other things going on but it is on the list for next time.
Kayaks and canoes are offered for rental. The Weeki Wachee River is a popular spot to take part in these activities. Scuba diving and snorkeling is available with prior arrangement.
Buccaneer Bay is their seasonal water park. It offers exciting flume rides, a lazy river and a sandy beach. Check the website for opening day.
The river cruise is located behind the restaurant and beyond the stage for the animal show. The boat leaves every half hour or so and does have a limited capacity so plan accordingly. It is a leisurely journey with the chance to view some birds, an eagle’s nest, perhaps the resident alligator or his new companion and our favorite, the manatees.
The riverboat shares the river with kayakers and at times it was a little crowded as the water crafts had to pass each other. Be sure to bring a camera, there will be abundant photo opportunities.
An information center for the local area is located in the gift shop and offers lots of suggestions for things to do.
A food concession is available and the food is quite good and well-priced. The park has a family of peacocks who can be found around the outdoor dining area and while not a listed attraction are very entertaining.
Allow several hours for your visit, more if the water park is open. Check their website for additional information.