Florida's Adventure Coast - Home of the Mermaid

Bordered on the east by the Withlacoochee River and the west by the Gulf of Mexico, sitting at the geographic center of Florida, lies Brooksville and Weeki Wachee, Home of the Mermaids. North of Tampa, and a few miles south of Homosassa, Florida's Adventure Coast is easily accessible.

I remember visiting this area back in the 50's, and again in the 90's, enthralled by the Weeki Wachee mermaid shows. At those times, Weeki Wachee was a private attraction founded in 1946. Weeki Wachee Springs became a Florida State Park in 2008, and the mermaid shows are just as much fun now as they were then. As part of the State Park, Buccaneer Bay offers swimming, water slides, and snorkeling. The Weeki Wachee River runs from the springs to the Gulf of Mexico with a flow of 117 million gallons per day. (Fun Fact - Weeki Wachee, the town, is one of the smallest in the US with just 12 residents and the mayor is a mermaid!

Mermaids are not all that that this area has to offer. We had a chance to sample just a small portion of what makes this Florida's Adventure Coast when we attended the Florida Outdoor Writers Association 2018 conference here in September. With over 52 miles of waterways, the Adventure Coast offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Offshore, in the Gulf, grouper, cobia, redfish, trout, tarpon and more are caught. Scalloping in season is a favorite for many visitors coming near and far.

We visited the Sand Hill Scout Reservation, a 1200 acre retreat right off of Cortez Blvd, home to turkey and herons, while attending our Spring Fever Writers Workshop.

The next day while some in our organization went skeet and trap shooting at the Hernado Sportman's Club, we kayaked down the Weeki Wachee River. Right next to Weeki Wachee Park, at the south end of the parking lot, there is Boating Florida, a kayak rental operation. They have a shuttle to bring you back after your trip. You can also launch your own kayak/canoe and arrange a shuttle return. We put in early, while the river had a misty fog coming up, and even though it was to be a hot, sunny day, there is enough shade to make the trip very pleasant. Paddling is at a minimum as you just let the current drift you down river, all you have to do is steer. Manatees are often seen on the river. It is a pleasant 3 hour trip.

Afterwards, a trip to Mary's Fish Camp on Mary's Fish Camp Rd, for a catered lunch by the Florida Cracker Kitchen topped off the day. This camp has been here forever. It's a favorite with locals with fishing off the wall and campsites for RV's . They also have a really neat 2 bedroom cabin for rent right next to the boat ramp, so bring your boat!

The Bayport-Linda Pederson Coastal Paddling Trail consists of a looped trail through the salt marshes, where manatee, eagles and many wading birds are seen. You can access the kayak launch to Redfish Bayou off Bayport Road Park near the boat ramp.

For those interested in less strenuous activity, you can a tour the Marker 48 Brewing & NJoy Spirits Distillery, this area's first craft brewery.

There are also tours of the Chinsegut Hill Museum and Estate (22495 Chinesgut Hill Rd, Brookesville 34601), a recently restored plantation manor. Those in our group who took this tour and the craft brewery tour enjoyed them both.

  • Mary's Fish Camp Boat
  • Mary's Fish Camp
  • Mary's Fish Camp
  • Fishing At Mary's Fish Camp
  • Sawgrass Pine Island
  • Bayport Coastal Paddling Trail
  • Bayport Fishing Dock
  • Bikers IntoThe Light
  • Biking Withlacoochee Forest
  • Bayport Coastal Paddling Trail

We, however, had brought our bikes, and were anxious to ride the newly completed Good Neighbor Trail. Starting in Brookesville, the paved trail runs about 10 miles, connecting with the Withlacoochee Trail, a 46 mile paved bike trail. An equestrian trail runs alongside the bikers. We met Mike Dolan, co-owner of the Dolan House B&B. He is active biker and they offer bike and kayak tours. We started off at the trailhead in Brookesville, parking and restrooms are available there. The trail is wide, mostly shaded, and after crossing a few roads, it continued into the Withlacoochee State Forest, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Mike told us the history of the area, and the new trail. We had a pleasant ride, but only did about 18- 20 mile round trip because of time constraints. It was an oppressive day, and even though we brought water, we should have brought more. Also bring your camera- we spotted many birds, and gopher tortoise. This is also bear country!

Do look up the Dolan House B&B at (352-631-8822). It is just blocks from downtown Brooksville.

Another bike trail is the Suncoast Trail, 42 miles of paved trail alongside the toll road/scenic highway.

In addition to boating, fishing, kayaking, bike riding, and shooting, there are numerous world class golf courses (remember, this is Florida!). In addition, there are festivals and events held in the area throughout the year.

There are many other venues, like the 2600 acre Croom Motorcycle Area, one of the best off-road areas in the nation. County parks and Iocal attractions offer many other recreational activities. I think I only scratched the surface. They don't call this the Adventure Coast for nothing!

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