The History of Weeki Wachee
Weeki Wachee was named by the Seminole Indians, meaning “little spring” or “winding river.” In 1946, Newton Ferry, who trained Navy Frogman to swim underwater, thought this little spring would be perfect for his new business. He experimented with underwater breathing hoses and their ability to help create the illusion of a mythical creature that lives underwater. Newton scouted and trained girls who showed an aptitude for swimming, aqua ballet, and the ability to use the hoses to help them breathe underwater. A theatre was built six feet underwater, and on October 13, 1947, the first Weeki Wachee mermaid show debuted.
The show became popular in the 1950s, and Weeki Wachee became one of the biggest tourist destinations. Even Hollywood came calling to use this spring as a backdrop for films such as Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid. The popularity and the notoriety of this spring continued to increase. In 1959, the American Broadcast Company purchased the spring. The current theatre, only holding 18 patrons, was expanded to nearly 400 seats and 16 feet below the surface. The show repertoire at this underwater theatre increased. The magical mermaids were performing eight sold-out shows a day. Girls from all over the world auditioned with a desire to become one of the Weeki Wachee magical mermaids.
Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show
This magical spring brought fairytales to life long before Disney arrived in Central Florida. You can still view the mermaid show now. They have three shows daily at 11 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. (double check the website for the most updated times). Seating is first come, first served. If you want to make sure you can get a ticket to see the mermaid show, arrive an hour before the park opens, especially on the weekends. Also, on that side of the park, there is an opportunity to have a meet and greet with one of the mermaids.
For children wanting to work on their pen pal skills, there is the Tail Mail program. A child, under the age of 17, can write a letter to one of the mermaids or princes and receive a reply with a signed picture. The mermaid roster is on the state park website to reference which mermaid or prince they would like to write to. Please make sure to mention in the letter the child’s name and age, and include an email or phone number, in case you need to be contacted for any reason. A video responses to the letters will be posted on the Weeki Wachee Facebook page for viewing.
Buccaneer Bay Waterpark
On the opposite side of the park is Buccaneer Bay. Weeki Wache is the ONLY spring with a water park built around the spring head. This is another thing that makes this Florida spring so unique. When entering the spring for Buccaneer Bay you will purchase a ticket at the park entrance, it will be a separate ticket from the mermaid show. For those with state park passes, this is one of the springs in which you will still need to pay a fee to enter. Again, I suggest getting there an hour before opening if you want a ticket to the mermaid show. The entrance line can be quite long, so budget your schedule accordingly.
When you enter the state park, veering to the left takes you to the mermaid meet and greet and the underwater theater. If you go to the right, you will find Buccaneer Bay. There is a small sandy area right by the water, but you can find plenty of grassy areas to set up camp. There is a refreshment station, but you can bring food and drinks. NO ALCOHOL can be brought in! At the far end are plenty of restrooms.
Two water slides will shoot you straight out into the fresh spring water. You can grab a tube and float the small lazy river. You will also find a floating dock, where you can dive or cannonball into the water. The spring naturally creates a large pool to cool off and relax from the Florida sunshine. A reminder that this is fresh spring water that remains 72 degrees year-round. And since it is a spring and not a pool, you might see some small fish or even a turtle swimming around.
The head of the spring is incredibly deep, and the basin measures 100 feet in width. Swimming just over this basin is where the mermaids perform. Over 100 gallons of clear fresh water comes forth from subterranean aquifers daily. The Weeki Wachee waters will glide down the river for twelve miles all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Did you know that in 2007, underwater explorers discovered new passages in the spring’s cave system and confirmed Weeki Wachee as the deepest known freshwater cave system in the United States.
Know Before You Go
- Cost to get in: $13/adult & $8/child (6-12 years old)
- Buccaneer Bay, Mermaid Show & River Boat Ride admission is included in the price of admission
- Mermaid Show & Rive Boat Ride are first-come basis
- Park opens at 9 am - in the Summer months, we recommend getting there before the park opens since this is a popular destination.
- For more information, click HERE to read Weeki Wachees' State Park FAQ
Map of Weeki Wachee State Park
Weeki Wachee River
You can continue your exploration of the Weeki Wachee River by boat or kayak/paddle board. They have boat tours available. If you need to rent a kayak, you will need to make a reservation and arrive 15 minutes before your reserved time. You will have two hours to complete your journey. About 2.8 miles down the river, there will be a place to pull off the river where you will see stairs to exit the water. The shuttle will take you back to the state park. If you return your kayak late, you will be charged a $50 fine. If you have your own watercraft, it will be a $6 drop-in fee per person, and you will be responsible for your transportation back to the park.
If you want to explore the Weeki Wachee River without entering the state park, you can drop in your boat or watercraft at Roger’s Park. There is a large parking lot for cars and boat trailers. Roger’s Park has several drop in points. This park has a little beach and swimming area as well. If you start from this location, you will have to paddle against the current coming back. The current isn’t very strong on the river.
When paddling from Roger’s Park, the traffic on the water at the beginning is quite heavy, but it will dissipate the further you flow down the river. A few trees have planks of wood nailed to them, creating a ladder where you can jump off into the water. Besides enjoying the views of the luscious vegetation, some waterfront properties have fun murals painted on the houses or the concrete water wall. The paddle between Roger’s Park and the head of the spring is about 6 miles. If you plan on paddling the whole 6 miles journey, make sure to pack water and snacks and plan a way to transport yourself back to your starting point.
Animals you might see:
- Peacocks (Inside the park)
- Wild Boar
- White Ibis
- Snakes (keep your eyes peeled)
Things to Pack:
- Shoes and Change of Clothes (Mermaid Show Dress Code)
- Cooler for Snacks and Drinks (NO ALCOHOL)
- Camera or GoPro
- Kayak or Paddleboard (make sure to have a life jacket)
Come visit mermaid county, the locals and you will get along swimmingly!