WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS STATE PARK
The mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs have delighted visitors since 1947. Today, visitors can still witness the magic of the mermaids, take a river boat cruise and canoe or kayak on the Weeki Wachee River. The 538-acre park features a first magnitude spring and a 400-seat submerged theatre for watching the live mermaid show.
Buccaneer Bay offers a fun-filled flume ride for thrill seekers of all ages. Our white sandy beach area and covered picnic pavilions provide a relaxing day for your entire family. Weeki Wachee?s animal shows provide audiences with an entertaining and educational look at domesticated birds and reptiles. Located on U.S. 19 at the intersection of State Road 50, just north of Spring Hill and south of Homosassa Springs.
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. (Are you sure?) Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 72-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver?s mask off. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and there, where the mermaids swim, 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles per hour. It's quite a feat for a mermaid to stay in one place in such a current.In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained SEALS to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. Highway 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.The spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared out and Perry experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped onto the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus.Perry scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage no longer made, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 -- the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.In those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.In the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation?s most popular tourist stops. The attraction received worldwide acclaim. Movies were filmed at the spring, like "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid." Sights at the park included the mermaid shows, orchid gardens, jungle cruises, and Indian encampment and a new beach. The mermaids took etiquette and ballet lessons.Weeki Wachee's heyday began in 1959, when the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and was heavily promoted. ABC built the current theater, which seats 500 and is embedded in the side of the spring, 16 feet below the surface. ABC also developed themes for the underwater shows, with elaborate props, lifts, music and story lines such as Underwater Circus, the Mermaids and the Pirates and Underwater Follies. The mermaids performed Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White and Peter Pan.In the 1960s, girls came from as far away as Tokyo to try out for the privilege of becoming a mermaid. The glamorous mermaids performed eight shows a day to sold out crowds -- as many as half a million people a year came to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids. Weeki Wachee Springs employed 35 mermaids, who took turns swimming in the shows and captivating the crowds by playing football and having picnics underwater. Some of the mermaids lived in the mermaid cottages behind the attraction. The mermaids wore one-piece suits and were treated like royalty wherever they went in Florida. All sorts of people stopped to see the mermaids, even Elvis. Don Knotts, Esther Williams and Arthur Godfry also visited to Weeki Wachee.
Enjoy the white sandy beach and swim in the cool waters of Weeki Wachee Springs.
The River Boat Cruise is offers a tranquil tour on the Weeki Wachee River. Discover Florida?s natural wildlife as our River Boat Captain points out various points of interest along the way. Included in the price of admission.