People usually imagine postcard-perfect beaches when they think of Florida, but the Sunshine State is also famous for its abundance of world-class natural springs. Last week, we paddled down the Weeki Wachee River--arguably among the best natural attractions the state has to offer--and explored its wildly captivating beauty.

What's Behind The Name?

Derived from the Seminole term which roughly translates to "little spring" or "winding river," Weeki Wachee is the deepest naturally occurring spring in the United States. The springs attract thousands of visitors each year for its scenic vistas, turquoise green streams, and its flora and fauna. This popular tourist spot became a state park in 2008, ensuring the area's preservation and responsible use for generations to come.

All for one - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA 

The Paddle

The best way to explore Weeki Wachee is by paddling down its 7.4-mile long river. There are plenty kayak shops in the area renting anything from single and double kayaks to stand-up paddleboards (also called SUPs). Most rental places also drive visitors to kayak launch ramps upriver so visitors can conveniently float downriver with little effort.

During our visit, however, the ramps were under renovation (and will remain so until April 2017), so we had no choice but to paddle upstream. We launched our vessels at Rogers Park where our rental place The Kayak Shack was located and paddled hard against strong currents.

Pulling kayaks upriver - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Paddling upstream may not be much of an issue for expert paddlers, but it was definitely exhausting for occasional kayakers like us. There were even times when we had to dismount and drag our vessels on foot simply because we were too tired to paddle. Fortunately, there were plenty of exposed river banks where we got to take quick breaks and rehydrate before resuming our trip.

Resting - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Rope Swings

There are plenty of rope swings along the trail that visitors can enjoy. Some have just the perfect height for little kids, while others that are as tall as thirty feet only call for the people with steel nerves. During our visit, the water levels were dangerously low for diving, but it didn't stop this daredevil below to try this rope swing and do graceful acrobatic moves midair before diving.

Rope swing - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


Weeki Wachee's clear water also makes it an optimal spot for snorkeling. The water wasn't a warm as we had hoped, but it was comfortable enough for us to dive underwater and be captivated by the river's incredible clarity. We could see schools of fish swimming several meters away from us and even the hulls of kayaks passing above us!

Snorkelling - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


Since Weeki Wachi is also known for manatees, we kept an open eye for the river's elusive creatures all along the trail. Sometimes called sea cows for their size, plant-based diet, and their gentle behavior, these gentle mammals thrive in Weeki Wachee's warm water temperature (it stays 74-degrees all year long). We spotted a couple of manatees during our paddle, but we were not able to take photographs since they swam faster than we could paddle.

Paddling downriver - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Paddling Back

After paddling about two miles upstream for about four hours (the entire kayak trail is about 5.5 miles), we decided to make our way back to Rogers Park. The return journey was surprisingly easy as the river's currents effortlessly carried us downstream. Instead of focusing on our paddling, we could finally enjoy the lush forest and the beautiful houses that lined the river bank towards the end of the route.

Downriver - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Other Activities

Paddling along the Weeki Wachee River was quite an experience, and we are definitely looking forward to going back again this summer to try the state park's other attractions. Apart from kayaking, the state park offers a long list of activities for visitors that include manatee tours and the world famous mermaid shows! You'll never run out of fun things to do in Weeki Wachee, so when you visit, make sure you have plenty of time to do all of them because they are all worth it!

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