We’re in Florida! It’s early afternoon and the sunshine ricochets off the rental car windshield. Somehow, the sun seems brighter here, as I pull out my sunshades for our quick ride from Orlando to Weeki Wachee, Florida.
Mermaids, beaches, and a crisp gulf coast breeze are the ideal formula for a weekend getaway. We’re spending a few days with family in Hernando County, Florida. Our destination is a stone’s throw from some unexpected tourist attractions and we benefit from having local connections eager to reveal a multitude of quirky tourist treasures.
Blessings of Travel…and Family
Our trip to Weeki Wachee, Florida was a perfect opportunity to explore. We’ve had a few different trips to this region of the country and decided to compile a suitable weekend itinerary, suitable for solo travelers, couples, or a large family.
Day 1 – Relax, Just Relax
We’re kicking off the 48 hours in Weeki Wachee with a relaxing day of exploring and self-care.
My day always begins with gratitude. On this occasion, I was grateful to find Reflections Spa & Wellness Center just a few blocks from Cody’s RV Park where we were staying. The front desk scheduled an appointment for a one hour Swedish Massage, but seriously, I could spend an entire day here just relaxing and being pampered. My massage therapist, Dorothy, began the session with a quick evaluation and explanation of the aromatherapy oils and lotions that would be used in the treatment.
Gentle lavender and frankincense not only smell great, but offer a variety of health benefits, including relief for stress, anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Ahhh…just what I needed. My session was perfect in every way. Afterwards, I visited with the team and learned that they also offer such additional pampering services as manicures, pedicures, facials, reflexology treatments, waxing and permanent makeup. Yes, it would be easy to spend an entire day with the folks at Reflections Spa & Wellness Center.
Extend the day of relaxation with some quiet time on a pier, just you and your fishing pole. The historic Bayport Park on the gulf shore is popular for fishing, jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards. There is no fee to enter the park and ample parking near the elevated boardwalk. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy the day.
This park was developed in the 1950’s and provides about 10 acres for leisure and recreational activities. There are markers describing the history and significance of Bayport, Florida during the American Civil War.
We strolled along the boardwalk with our cameras and enjoyed the time outdoors.
Gennaro’s Pizza & Restaurant
Pizza or pasta, the talented chefs at Genarro’s Restaurant will ensure that no one leaves hungry. Generous portions and authentic flavors are all the rave with the local patrons. We started with the garlic knots and salads. The main feasts for the evening were the cheesy baked lasagna and spaghetti & meatballs entrees. We didn’t expect to find Italy at our doorstep during this visit, but we did. The food was piping hot and the service was warm and friendly. The restaurant is located in a small shopping center with ample parking. They offer carry-out service, too.
Day 2 – Fun in the Sun
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee Springs is a nature-lovers tourist attraction located in Weeki Wachee, Florida. The springs are and estuary of the Weeki Wachee River which flows for 12 miles into the Gulf of Mexico.
The name is from the Seminole Indian names for “small” and “spring” which describes either the water source or that the location is an extension of a local town named Spring. Either way, the Weeki Wachee Springs are the deepest naturally occurring spring in the United Sates. Measuring about 150 feet wide and 250 feet long, the spring contains an average of 150 million gallons of crystal clear natural water. The depth of the springs and the many underwater caves are still being explored.
The Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid attraction was established in 1947 by Newton Perry. He created a roadside venue using underwater air hoses and a specific breathing technique to enable performers to become “mermaids”. The showgirls performed complicated routines and wowed their audiences. Visitors could see the underwater show from an 18-seat theater embedded into the lime rock of the spring with views of the underwater performance. In the 1960’s the attraction was owned by the American Broadcast Company (ABC) and gained international recognition.
The park is currently owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is included in the Florida State Park System. As such, the park is undergoing some significant renovations and access was limited on the day that we visited.
The park admission includes access to Buccaneer Bay. This water park includes a white sand beach (with plenty of lounge chairs), several water slides, and a lazy river. These activities have turned the park into a day-long excursion with fun activities for the entire family.
There are concessions available inside the park and covered pavilions for dining. Guests are welcome to bring snacks, purchase from the concession stands, or dine at the seasonal restaurant on site.
Parking is free in the parking lot near the ticket booths and there is a staffed information kiosk available to answer any questions you may have.
Due to the renovations, the mermaid show was not available. We walked through the park, and marveled at the sparkling crystal spring water. The beach and swimming areas were open along with the kayak and lazy river experience,
Go Exploring – Dinosaurs to Space Age
After our time at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, we headed back to Cody’s Catfish Pond and RV Park. This park is situated on 15 acres and offers both RV spaces and tent camping. Our visits to Cody’s RV Park have been filled with warm hospitality and we return each year to visit family who have homesteaded in the park. This RV park is like a small community and guests are welcomed into the community whether visiting for one night or snowbirding for the season. The park is family-friendly and pet-friendly.
RV Experience at Cody’s RV Park
Our RV experience at Cody’s RV Park was simply perfect. We traveled by plane on this trip but wanted the vacation days to center around activities with our family. We’re not tent campers. Our solution was a rental unit through Outdoorsy.com. Our host, Martin Quinn, delivered a 31′ Heartland Wilderness unit to our assigned space and quickly completed the setup and a brief walk through to tell us about some features of the trailer.
While this park has some full-time residents, the much-coveted RV spaces with water views are typically available for overnight stays.
Yes, we had a beautiful water view from our pull-through site! But that’s not all…
We enjoyed other amenities like full hook-ups, a picnic table, and easy access to the laundry facility (first photo below). Those arched windows in the laundry room provide a view of the lake while guest are waiting for laundry cycles to complete. There are also tables and chairs inside. These little touches really bring hospitality forward and make this location unique.
The Exploration Begins
Cody’s Catfish Pond and RV Park takes pride in its charming quirks. The many over-sized sculptures add so much charm to this park. There are dinosaurs on every path and a giant seahorse sculpture. Another path leads to the covered swimming pool, the concrete-block pavilion (Bingo on Wednesday nights!) and a castle-like fortress. Sharp eyes will also find a cannon and a replica helicopter on the grounds. Stroll near the lake to discover wildlife and local plants, or a nearby Asian-themed mini-park with bamboo stalks and a zen statue.
The lake is a main attraction, though. Canoes and kayaks are available for guest use and many visitors were enjoyed some catch and release fishing time. The lake is large enough to find a secluded spot for reflection or to join in with a group for a fun time.
Dinosaurs and Seahorses
Artwork and Quirky Discoveries
Explore the grounds with childlike wonder. Every path becomes an adventure. Beyond the artwork and quirky sculptures, there are activity stations for bow and arrow practice or a pick-up game of basketball.
Sam’s Beach Bar
To round out a busy day, head to Sam’s Beach Bar for the evening. The menu features local cuisine and there are specialty flavored fruity drinks available. We recommend the “Crabby” cakes appetizers along with your choice of local seafood for an entree. Enjoy the food, but put the phones away and absorb the water views from the outdoor deck. As the sun begins to set to the west, the sky changes by the minute.
It’s a wonderful way to wind down from a busy day.
As you can see, Weeki Wachee and Hernando County, Florida have much to offer their visitors. We had a wonderful time and are eager to return and learn more about the history and culture that is ingrained in the west Florida lifestyle. But, as we head back to the airport, and to our home, we’re relaxed from the massage time and quiet walks…envigorated and inspired by the mermaid springs…and fulfilled from having great laughs and special memories with our family.
If You Go:
Reflections Spa & Wellness Center, 7383 Commercial Way (U.S. 19), Brooksville, FL (352) 597-9777 – Mon -Sat 9am-5pm
Sam’s Beach Bar, 6325 Clark Street, Hudson, FL (727) 868-1971 *Tip – Check the website for live entertainment!
Bayport Park, 4140 Cortez Blvd, Spring Hill FL
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (Mermaid Show and Buccaneer Bay), 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL
(352) 592-5656 *Tip – Check the website for seasonal show times and events.
Cody’s Catfish Pond and RV Park 8588 Ostrom Way, Weeki Wachee FL