Best Things to Do with Kids on Florida's Adventure Coast
The days of summer stretch out, endless, but filling them with activities to keep you and your kids happy may have you biting your nails. A day or longer stay on Florida’s Adventure Coast may just be the summer remedy you need. Located on Florida’s West Coast, Hernando County provides outdoor adventures and fun for kids of all ages.
Here’s a list of activities and outdoor ideas to keep you and the kids happy throughout the summer and beyond.
Beach Time on Pine Island
No family summer is complete without a relaxing day at the beach, and Alfred McKethan Pine Island Park beach offers the perfect setting for a family day of fun. Sandy beach, warm Gulf Waters and palm trees swaying in the wind, you could spend the entire day here. While the kids play on the playground or build castles in the sand, you can catch up with your reading, or just laze with a refreshment from the nearby Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe. You may even spot a dolphin or two frolicking in the waters. There’s even an outdoor shower to rinse off all that sand!
- Alfred McKethan Pine Island Park is open from 8am to 8pm and located at 10840 Pine Island Drive, Spring Hill, Florida 34607
- Parking fee is $5.
Family Tip Locals and visitors alike gather here in the evenings to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Scalloping on the Hernando Flats
Scallop Season runs from July 1st to September 24th (2019 season), but unless you own your own boat, this adventure may require some advance planning. The busiest time of the year on Florida’s gulf waters, visitors and locals take boats out to the Gulf of Mexico and harvest scallops, returning to shore with their bounty to cook up and eat.
How do I harvest them? By hand or with a dip net. You’ll find them in the sea grass beds. Collect the larger ones. And make sure to store them on ice so they don’t go bad.
Having a snorkel and mask and a mesh bag to carry your bounty in while you are collecting helps, and with most of the saltwater inhabitants of our state, there are rules from the FWC you must follow. If you are 16 and older, you must have a Florida Saltwater Fishing License. Each person can only collect 2 gallons of whole scallops (in shell) or 1 pint scallop meat per person daily. Only 10 gallons of whole scallops are permitted per boat or ½ gallon of scallop meat. These rules are strictly enforced.
Family Tip Go via certified charter- they will take care of the fishing permits, equipment, ice for the scallops, usually cold drinks and tallying of scallops too. You can relax and have fun.
Snorkeling Fun on the Gulf
Rife with snorkeling opportunities, the grass flats near Hernando Beach make a nice place to try out your snorkeling skills with the kids and splash in the shallows, though be sure to keep away from the boat traffic,as this popular swimming area gets busy in the summer.
You’ll need to scuba dive to enjoy the abundant fish life around our Florida artificial reefs. There are many man-made reefs experienced divers will enjoy, like the Benedickson reef and recently sunk ‘Ghost Ship” located 20 miles off of the coast. But those without the Padi certificate, can enjoy snorkeling a reef of a different kind in Centipede Bay. A joint venture by CCA Florida (Coastal Conservation Association), the University of Florida and Hernando County, the first man-made living reef made of over 4 -tons of recycled oyster shells was set in the shallower waters of the bay by a group of volunteers. The Centipede Bay living reef now draws in fish and other sea life to its protected shadows in the shallows. This reef is not on the ordinary touring route, and you will need bring your boat or use a charter. The nearby shoreline is also under restoration plans, so keep to the water and boat.
Family Tips Like all diving adventures, this is not for the inexperienced. You must be able to swim and use a snorkel & mask. Although the living reef can be a neat experience for families, this is a very fragile environment and fledging eco-system. Look, don’t touch. Take only photos and memories. Use an eco-friendly sun-screen or cover up. Sunscreens have eroded the natural environment so much that they are actually banned in Hawaii!
Swimming in Weeki Wachee Springs
Imagine riding down the twists of a water slide and plunging into an ice-cold natural spring. Buccaneer Bay in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the only Florida water park in a spring. At 72°F year-round, the water feels icy, but when the temperatures soar to the 90’s, it’s downright refreshing. Although it’s not a big water park, Buccaneer Bay consists of 4 water slides, a lazy tube float, a kids play area and a sandy beach. It’s part of your Weeki Wachee Springs State Park admission, so when you’ve had enough of the chill, wander over through the park’s nature trails, or down into the recently renovated Mermaid Theater to watch a live mermaid show- in the spring!
- Buccaneer Bay is located at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, Florida 34606
- Contact number: (352) 592-5656
- They are open 9am-5pm 7 days a week June 1st to May 11th. Check their website for other seasonal times.
- Fees: Adult: $13.00; Children (6-12 years): $8.00; Children 5 and under: FREE
Family Tips This popular local swimming spot fills up fast, so plan to come early! To get text notifications about the full-capacity closures you can text 'Weeki' to 82149.
Paddling Opportunities on Florida's Adventure Coast
Paddling the Weeki Wachee River
The 5.5 mile paddle trip on the Weeki Wachee River draws visitors from around the world. With crystal clear water, abundant fish life and places to get out and swim, once you leave the state park, it’s a paddle destination to remember. However, due to the popularity of this paddle, the launch site in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park limits the amount of launches per day to 280 people. You must reserve your launch time in advance, even if you bring your own paddle board/kayak/canoe (though they rent them there too).
Of course, having fewer people on the river is never a bad thing This is a non-disposable river- meaning bring only reusable water-bottles and unwrap your food and store in reusable containers. This is to limit the amount of trash on the river.
- The Weeki Wachee Launch Site is located at the Weeki Wachee State Park, left of the main entrance. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, Florida 34606.
- Make a reservation to launch through their website or by calling 352-597-8484. First launch is at 8am, last rental launch at 1pm/ 2pm for private launch.
- Prices start at $40 for rentals (including shuttle back) or $10 for private launch.
- Take out point is Roger’s Park at 7240 Shoal Line Blvd, Weeki Wachee, Florida 34607
Family Tips Although this is believed to be an ‘easy’ river, the current can be strong. Also, there’s a cottonmouth breeding area along the river with a posted sign. No one likes to mention this, but it’s there- so be aware-Definitely not a place to get out and swim. Best paddle times are weekdays, early morning.
Paddling the Bayport-Linda Pedersen Park Trail
If the Weeki Wachee gets too crowded, take your kayaks to the Bayport Linda Pedersen Coastal Paddle Trail. 1.7 miles of paddling. You cross the open gulf and head up Jenkins Creek to Linda Pedersen Park. There’s a side trail along the way to Redfish Bayou through the salt marsh. The Redfish Bayou paddle adds 1.5 miles round-trip onto your paddle time. Watch your tides, as a low tide can leave you in the mud up the bayou trail. Not ready to face an open water paddle? Put in at Linda Pedersen park and follow the trail markers back to Redfish Bayou and back to the park again, by-passing the gulf portion of the paddle.
- Bayport Park is located at Bayport Park is located at 4140 Cortez Blvd, Spring Hill, Florida 34607 and there is a parking fee.
- Linda Pedersen Park is located at 6300 Shoal Line Blvd. (CR595) Spring Hill, FL 34607. No fee.
Family Tips As with all paddles, watch the wind, tides & weather. This trip is full sun-, but shorter than the Weeki Wachee, so bring sun protection and stay hydrated.
Fishing on Florida's Adventure Coast
Seriously, Florida’s Adventure Coast is one of the prime sport fishing spots in Florida. With the artificial reefs drawing in silver mackerel and grouper. Catch red fish, grouper, mangrove snapper, amber jack, cobia, tarpon and even shark! If you don’t have your own boat, take a fishing charter out from Hernando Beach (BTW- there is NO beach there!) and try your hand at inshore fishing or head further out to the reefs for some offshore fishing fun.
The thought of being at sea makes you feel seasick? You can try your hand at shore fishing at the parks at Pine Island and Bayport, Jenkins Creek Park and Linda Pedersen Park or even at Mary’s Fish Camp on the Mud River. Along with rental cabins and camping, Mary's also has cane poles and a spot along the river wall for you to throw in a line. Of course, you can enjoy a wooden seat swing and a nap while the kids fish with dad
- Make sure you have a valid Florida Fishing License.
- Mary’s Fish Camp is located at 8092 Mary's Fish Camp Rd, Weeki Wachee, Florida 34607
- Contact number (352) 597-3474
Family Tips Fishing Booker has a good list of charters. Be sure to read the reviews, check out their websites and double check details (like boat size & price per person) before booking any charter.
Explore the Wilds at Chinsegut Conservation Center
Step into the wilderness on Florida’s Adventure Coast at Chinsegut Conservation Center Tract. 408 acres of wilderness. A children’s discovery trail wraps around the backside of the conservation building. Take the longer 1.8 mile nature trail through the pine forest to reach to May’s Prairie, a wetland prairie. A boardwalk stretches over the water, offering the opportunity to catch nature at this watering hole. Chinsegut Conservation Center is only open 8-2pm Fridays and Saturdays, though they do offer nighttime guided hikes and programs throughout the year- check their schedule for details.
- Chinesgut Conservation Center is located at 23212 Lake Lindsey Road, Brooksville, FL 34601
- Contact: 352-754-6722
Family Tips Go early. Daybreak is a good time of day to glimpse the wildlife. You may spot wild turkey, sandhill cranes, or herons fishing for breakfast.
Wet or dry, you can enjoy the best of summer family fun on Florida’s Adventure Coast.