Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Old Florida" RoadTrip: Weeki Watchee

Are you ready for a road trip? Well buckle up! We're going on a roadtrip of the Florida gulf coast, what I like to call the "Old Florida" roadtrip. I want to rediscover those old tourist dives that were once the hotspots back in the 40's- 60's. These were THE places to vacation before "the mouse" moved into Florida. Today these hotspots are charming little seaside villages, small on crowds but big on fun and adventure. So come along with me and my family as we explore Old Florida (and vow NOT to eat at a single chain restaurant along the way....its all local!)

So, swim your "tail" right in "the virtual car" for today's first stop.

Today's first stop is Weekee Watchee!!!
As a child, I used to dream of being a mermaid.I have long heard the "tails" about this place. And I always longed to go to Weeki Watchee!

And guess what, it lived up to what I thought it would be.....

Weeki Watchee History:
The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 72-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.  Today, the tiny city of Weeki Wachee is one of the nation’s smallest cities, with a population of nine, including the mayor of Weeki Wachee who, you guessed it, is a former mermaid.

What to do:
See the world famous mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs as they perform their version of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. Show times are 11 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. There is also another show, A retrospective look back at the history of Weeki Wachee Springs and the development of the mermaid shows. This show begins at 12:30

**Take a ride down the pristine waterway of the Weeki Wachee River on the River Boat Cruise. The experienced boat captains give visitors an educational experience about the river and the different types of natural wildlife that might be seen during the trip. First boat leaves at 10:15 a.m. and runs continuous throughout the day.

The park also offers animal shows, where you can have an up close encounter with an alligator and a snake, among other animals!

In 1982, Buccaneer Bay opened with water slides and a white sand beach.Buccaneer Bay located at Weeki Watchee state park is Florida's only spring fed waterpark. The spring is a constant 72 degrees, which makes it "warm enough" in the winter, and wonderfully refreshing in the summer months. At Buccaneer Bay you can enjoy the white sandy beach, thrilling flume rides, beach volleyball, lazy river ride, kiddie pool area and much more!!
Visitors can swim at Buccaneer Bay, see the Misunderstood Creatures animal show, or take a riverboat ride down the Weeki Wachee River and into Old Florida. A family of peacocks roams the grounds. Turtles, fish, manatees, otters osprey, bald eagles and even an occasional alligator swim in the spring with the mermaids, amusing both children and adults.

Canoeing and kayaking are very popular on the Weeki Wachee River.  Prices are very affordable: Single Kayak: $30.00 Tandem Kayak: $35.00 Canoe: $35.00
Prices are per boat and not per person. All day trips include paddles, PFDs and transportation back. For more information, please call (352) 592-5666.

Must do: See the mermaid show! River boat ride is included in park admission, a great look at the clear springs. And one MUST Kayak the river! Its the real gem in Weeki Watchee!
Weeki Watchee Info

Where to Eat:  
  The Bayport Inn & Restaurant.

The Bayport Inn was constructed in 1960. It began as a modest restaurant and lounge with a small dining area and even smaller lounge. Old timers will tell you,”If you didn't get there early, there was no seat at the bar!” There was a screened outdoor area adjacent to the bar with a live-bait well.
Bayport Inn is a dining destination! Some of the best food in Florida awaits those who take the five mile drive west of U.S. 19 to ‘old’ Florida. Big Daddy claims his most favorite meal of our entire trip was the one at Bayport Inn. He ordered the broiled "mermaid" platter. It consisted of fresh fish, scallops and shrimp, as well as some side dishes.

I think I heard him talking about the mermaid platter in his sleep....or perhaps is was the mermaids? But I digress.
Bayport Inn and Restaurant

Where to Stay:

There are several hotels in the are. We stayed right across the street from Weeki Watchee at the Quality Inn. The hotel itself is not brand new, in fact it is what I would consider "vintage" but dont let that scare you. The rooms inside are clean and beds were extremely comfortable. The inn is built in a "U" shape with a pool and shuffle board in the courtyard, a large grassy area is out back-so pack a football or frisbee and enjoy! The inn features a bar area that is a favorite among locals and guest alike. The music at night is audible until midnight on weekends, which for someone who enjoys some quiet time, can be annoying but you're on vacation so dance the night away! The price is right, about $100 per night.
Quality Inn, Weeki Watchee

Weeki Wachee Springs -- The City of Live Mermaids -- is more than just mermaids; it’s a truly original piece of Florida’s rich heritage.

But honestly speaking......I ALWAYS wanted to be a mermaid.

Join me on Monday for more roadtrip fun!


Sandy said...

I loved seeing this post. Can't wait to see more. You do look like mermaid in that picture. I just want to jump in that clear water!

Jane said...

For years, I practiced the mermaid moves. I was determined to be a WW mermaid...then I discovered boys! But I learned to smile and wave under water!!!
I am so excited that your kids (and husband and you) got the opportunity to really explore Old's still there...but disappearing quickly.
I cannot wait to what else you did (of course, I followed your trip via FB)

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

That was so interesting Leigh!
I just loved it and now I want to go, can't wait to hear more!


I went there as a child many times. I too always wanted to be a mermaid. Silver Springs was my other favorite place...they did the ski shows. Bach Towers was a must. Our vacations when I was younger were always here. I have seen the southern belles at Way Down Upon the Swanee River, ridden airboats in the glades, done it all. Alas, many of the places are not there anymore...but Florida has a lot of wonderful memories left. Enjoy your trip and I am looking forward to the rest of your travel dialogue. If you make it to Ocala...visit Don Garlits drag racing musuem....and if you make it to titusville be sure to eat at Dixie don't want to miss that one.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Oh I am dying! I have always wanted to see this show and had heard they were thinking about closing it down. So happy to hear that it is still open.

My husbands family is in Florida so the next trip will have us here. :)

Laura said...

And what a lovely mermaid you are!

corners of my life said...

Headed to Florida next month. Thanks for the tips.

corners of my life said...

Headed to Florida next month. Thanks for the tips.

corners of my life said...

Headed to FLorida next month. Thanks for the tips and ideas.

Beth @ UnskinnyBoppy said...

Loving this series Leigh!! I had looked at all your photos on facebook but I am enjoying reading the details! I visited Fort Myers last fall and was really impressed by the "old Florida" feel of Sanibel Island. It's a beautiful place!

Keep on blogging about your trip! I can't wait to read more. I had asked Rachel if I could write some entries about three day weekend type road trips for the Alabama Bloggers site. I think you should see if she'd like to add these as well!

Joannafesto said...

My husband is currently a deployed soldier, but we will be moving to the Tampa Bay Area when he returns in June. Can't wait! As a Florida girl, I must say I love your blog about the mermaids.Thanks!