When you think of Florida, your mind probably jumps to the crowds of Walt Disney World or the jam-packed beaches of the coast.
But this state offers so much more. One of the best - and most underrated - destinations to visit is Homosassa Springs State Park. Here are four great reasons why you should check it out on your next trip.
Where and What is Homosassa Springs State Park?
Originally a popular train stop in the early 1900s, this park is one of the wildest locations in Florida. Here, visitors have the opportunity to check out endangered and fascinating wildlife like the Florida panther, manatees, red wolves, whooping cranes, alligators, and more.
The springs are historical attractions that have drawn visitors since long before the 1900s, too, with visitors flocking to what’s now a state-designated area in droves.
A fantastic showcase for Florida wildlife, this park offers visitors wonderful recreational and educational opportunities. Admission rates start at $7.95 for adults and $4.95 for children.
The Underwater Viewing Platform
The underwater viewing platform is one of the best opportunities for visitors to see what’s going on in the water. The underwater observatory floats in the main spring and allows viewers to see the fish and manatees below. It even has a television screen with a viewing control to allow visitors in wheelchairs to appreciate the views, too.
A new state-of-the-art facility opened in 2013 in Homosassa Springs State Park. Known as the Felburn Shorebird Aviary, this experience allows visitors to walk in the enclosure for an unobstructed view of wild native species like egrets, herons, wood ducks, limpkins, and more.
Seeing the Manatees
The manatees in Homosassa Springs State Park are West Indian Manatees that were either injured or orphaned in the wild. The park, which serves as a refuge and rehabilitation center for these creatures, is also home to manatees born in captivity and is one of the best places to see manatees.
The unique natural environment of the springs gives the manatees the opportunity to re-acclimate to a natural environment before they’re released. Although the park does not allow swimming with manatees - this would remove their fear of man which is crucial for their eventual success when they are reintroduced to the wild - there are plenty of opportunities for viewings.
There are educational and feeding programs offered several times a day - you can check them out at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm.
You can even catch a boat ride into the park. Once you arrive at the main entrance, you will need to check in at the main building and hitch a ride on the pontoon. This ride is free and takes you to the park, where you will need to pay the entrance fee mentioned above. This is not only a great way to experience the park, but to learn more about it - the 15-minute ride is narrated with helpful facts and information about the park.
Besides these experiences, Homosassa Springs State Park also offers visitors the option to take part in hiking, wildlife encounter programs with alligators and hippopotamuses, picnicking, geo-seeking, and more. There is something here for every member of your family - and probably more than you’ll ever be able to see in just one day.
If you're interested in other natural visitor attractions, check out this article about the best national parks in the USA.