This may be controversial to say, but one of the most beautiful things about Florida to us is the Florida springs. Sorry, not the beaches. One closest to us that we love to explore and visit is Weeki Wachee. Located just an hour north of St. Petersburg, it is a great spot to dip in the cool water during hot and humid summer months or see live mermaids. We mostly just go kayaking at Weeki Wachee.
Kayaking at Weeki Wachee is truly a day in paradise. Surrounded by crystal clear spring-fed water and tree canopies you will see wild birds, freshwater fish, and at times manatees swimming around. There are options to rent kayaks on the river or bring your own.
In this post, I will describe the kayaking adventure at Weeki Wachee by renting kayaks inside the state park at Weeki Wachee Adventures. You can rent single or tandem kayaks or paddle boards.
History of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee was named by the Seminole Indians, meaning “little river” or “winding river”. After WWII, a stunt swimmer Newt Perry figured out a way to swim underwater with a hose and make a Weeki Wachee, a roadside attraction of live mermaids. It was an instant hit and became one of the nation’s most popular attractions.
To this day, there is a mermaid show here. Along with Buccaneer Bay, a water park attraction.
Where is Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Weeki Wachee is located in Spring Hill, Florida – 45 minutes north of Tampa and 2 hours west of Orlando. It is one of the easiest springs to get to from Tampa Bay Area.
The parking for the kayak rental is inside the park’s parking lot, all the way in the back. You will see the sign pointing to it.
Kayaking at Weeki Wachee
Upon the arrival to the state park, once you check in and sign a waiver you will have an opportunity to use the restroom and change. You will be directed to where the kayaks are, staff will help you grab a PFD and a paddle and load you up in the kayak.
Once in your kayak, a normal start is to go left and float down the river. But you can take a short detour go right, kayak up the river to the water park enclosed area only 0.2 miles away and then kayak down the river.
The river will immediately open up in front of you with crystal-clear water. You will clearly see fish all around you – no fishing allowed. Take your time and slowly paddle down the river. The kayaking trail is 2.8 miles long, or 3.0 miles if you add a short part of kayaking upstream.
The glass bottom boats float with tourists on a regular schedule, and as a kayaker be mindful of that and try to stay out of the way.
Lately, the park has been limiting the number of people that can be on the river at the same time, for conservation purposes and it has made a huge difference. In the past, when we used to kayak at Weeki Wachee there were motor boats on the river as well as too many kayakers and it was a struggle to get by. That has changed significantly as a conservation initiative of the river and the park and has made the kayaking experience that much more enjoyable.
The rental allows for 2 hours which is easily achievable.
As you kayak down the river, the river widens and narrows, luckily the tree canopies provide great shade from the harsh Florida sun. Keep your eyes open for wildlife – birds, turtles, fish, snakes, and the biggest attraction of them all manatees.
At the end of your adventure, the staff will help you get out, load up the trailer full of kayaks and drive you back to the parking lot.
Kayaking Rules of the River
- Every participant must fill out the Risk Acknowledgment form via email or when you arrive on site.
- Arrive 15-30 minutes prior to your reservation time. It is important to launch at your scheduled time as there is a State-enforced limit of 70 boat launches per hour.
- Do not harass or touch any wildlife, especially Manatees – they are protected species in Florida.
- Pets, smoking, alcohol and drugs are not allowed on the river.
- No swimming or exiting your boat is allowed. Even though you will see a lot of people pulling off to the side and taking a quick swim. It is not strictly enforced.
- Disposable items are not allowed on the river – prepackaged snacks or bottles of water. Non-disposable containers are required and the staff will check your cooler or bags to make sure this rule is followed.
- Make sure you hydrate and bring extra water with you.
- Sun protection is a must – sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, protective clothing. Even though tree canopies provide some sun protection, there are plenty of areas where you are completely exposed.
Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs is a fantastic way to enjoy the natural beauty of Florida and experience its unique spring ecosystem. Make sure to plan, be safe, and take the time to savor the breathtaking surroundings while you paddle along the river.
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