Homosassa Springs is a surprise. Although it is an official State Park, this land has been a tourist attraction for a century, and it feels more like a theme park than a place of relaxation. Though a day here is undoubtedly relaxing as well.

In the early 1900s, trains stopped here to allow passengers to rest at the crystal-clear spring that feeds the Homosassa River. In the 1940s, private investors purchased 150 acres surrounding the spring and stretching along Pepper Creek to develop a wildlife attraction. In 1964, new ownership brought in exotic animals and billed the Homosassa Springs wildlife showcase as “Nature’s Own Attraction.”

Citrus County bought the park in 1984, eventually turning it over to the State of Florida. Today, all but one of the exotic animals – ageless wonder Lu the hippo – are gone, replaced with an impressive collection of native Florida wildlife in a peaceful, interactive setting.

To get from the entrance building into the park, the tram is the quicker trip, but the 20-minute boat ride offers great flora and fauna photo ops along Pepper Creek and a natural history Q&A courtesy of a park ranger.

Stroll the boardwalk or paved hiking trails to view Florida wildlife including manatees, alligators, black bear, and bobcats. And, if you keep a sharp eye out, you might even spy a family of river otters or a tiny key deer. Bird species including wood ducks, spoonbills, cranes, barn owls, and bald eagles also call the park home.

The headspring is 45 feet deep. On the far side is a viewing platform that allows guests to stay dry while descending under the water into the “Fish Bowl observatory” to view fish, manatees, turtles and other native wildlife. 

Three daily, ranger-led wildlife educational programs introduce visitors to the most popular park guests. These animal encounters can be very popular, so mind the schedule on the park map and arrive early for each show.

Pack a picnic or eat at the Wildside Café at the west end of the park. We chose the former, snacking in thatched roofed picnic pavilions just off the wildlife walk. There were plenty of folks who chose the latter, their faces covered with ketchup and happiness.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

The park offers several designated RV parking spaces right up front, not banished to the far side of the parking lot. I like destinations with their priorities straight.

Homosassa Springs is open every day from 9AM to 5:30 PM. Visit the park website for entrance fees and related discounts, especially if you are a AAA or AARP member.

If you are traveling with strollers or wheelchairs, while the tram is accessible, the boat is a much easier – and more scenic – way to get into the park.

 

GETTING TO HOMOSASSA SPRINGS

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located at 4150 S. Suncoast Boulevard

Homosassa, Florida 34446. GPS: 28.702317, -82.552707. Call 352.628.5343.

 

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