Category Archives: Sunshine Skyway Bridge

A Weekend Getaway at Weeki Wachee

I hadn’t been to Weeki Wachee since I was a child, or so I thought, but nothing looked familiar and I think I might be remembering Silver Springs instead. Located on the corner of US 19 and SR 52, we headed north, over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

I booked a room for two nights at the Spring Hill Marriott. Or so I thought. Turns out I booked a hotel room in Tampa, NOT Spring Hill…the name of the hotel was “Spring Hill Suites at Marriott”. We were about 45-60 minutes away. The hotel service was excellent, the room modern and comfortable, and it was a non-refundable deal, so we decided to stay.

Well, wouldn’t you know it? I should have. Our weekend getaway to Weeki Wachee coincided with a major bike rally. For some reason, bikers decided that the land of mermaids was the place to display their colors and tattoos. I was extremely uncomfortable having to walk through a crowd of at least 1,000 bikers to get to the entrance. I found out later that the rally was for a police officer dying of a tumor. Police! Dressed up like thugs! Later, inside the park, they held a raffle. For guns. In a kids’ park. It just seemed bizarre to me.

The park’s entrance fees were reasonable, I thought: $13 for adults, $5 for kids. We headed right, toward the swimming area, which turned out to be very nice, with picnic areas, a white sand beach, two large water slides, and lots of room for swimming and tubing down the inlets.

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The spring is shallow, the water a constant 74 degrees. There are several concession stands, a shop that offers swimsuits, sunscreen, etc., restrooms and volleyball courts. There is also a fenced off pool for toddlers.

We explored the other side of the park after that. The Wilderness River Cruise does not last 25 minutes as advertised. It’s more like ten minutes. We did not find King Neptune’s daughter, Princess Wonderous, or her home.

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The space is shared by canoes and kayaks, so it was crowded during our visit. Any wildlife had long been scared off, save for the fish.

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The Underwater Theater show was cute. We watched the “Fish Tails” program.

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“The Little Mermaid” show is offered twice a day, as well. The young people who perform are very talented.

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This young woman dove 117 feet down to the source of the spring, against currents strong enough to push her face mask off, holding her breath for over 2 ½ minutes.

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We also saw mermaid try-outs and according to the two middle-aged women who sat beside us, there are mermaid camps for girls of all ages. They were participating in one.

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Water ballet used to be popular back in the 1940s, when Weeki Wachee was first developed. Back then, the women would line up in bathing suits beside the highway, waving in the cars that passed. Even if the audience only had one person in it, they performed.

The grounds are well manicured and peacocks and pea hens roam freely.

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We skipped the Wildlife show. We were at the wrong end of the park and missed it, but did enjoy the short Tranquility Trail.

The park is an excellent choice for families, particularly those with young children, and most definitely for families with little girls who dream of a life “under the sea”. We thought the value was excellent. For around $50, a family of four can spend the entire day swimming and tubing in the spring (a triple tube is $15, less for singles and doubles) and ride the wilderness cruise and/or catch a free underwater or wildlife show when they need to escape the sun.

Riding the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Riding the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Stirs Memories of the Past

May 10th is an odd anniversary for Floridians. In 1980, the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapsed, after being struck by a freighter during a storm, and its pilings caved. Several vehicles, including a pick-up truck (driver was one of the few survivors…the truck hit the barge first, then bounced into the water) and a Greyhound bus carrying 26 people dropped 150 feet into the water. Richard Hornbuckle stopped his car just 14 inches from the edge of the broken span. In an interview, he reported that visibility was severely limited that day and the next thing he knew, the bus he was following simply disappeared. Now, after avoiding the gaping maw by inches, I would think the guy would have scrambled as fast as he could off that bridge, wouldn’t you? Not this guy. He went back for his golf clubs. Interesting choice of priorities! In all, 40 people lost their lives that day.

The old bridge, which had suffered damage from ships before, and on-going corrosion from seawater, was no longer operable or fixable, so the FDOT decided to build a new bridge. Since stopping on the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge for non-emergency reasons is strictly prohibited, all photographs were taken from the car:

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Some say there are supernatural powers afoot, due to various reasons. Numerous suicides have taken place from the top of the bridge. Both bridges are believed to be cursed by ancient Native Americans when their middens (shell mounds) were disturbed during construction, but there has been no verification of that claim.

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And then there is the story of the vanishing hitchhiker, young, female, blonde and beautiful, trying to catch a ride near the middle span. Toll takers have heard the story many times from different people: when the car stopped, she’d get in, but as they approached the summit of the bridge, the hitchhiker would begin to cry. When the driver turned to look at her, she was gone.

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The structure soars and the yellow paint on the cables looks golden when the Florida sun blazes just so on the “sails” that some claim aliens use to communicate with their home planet.

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The old bridge, with its missing middle span, has been shortened and is used as a fishing pier and is also reputed to be haunted with apparitions of the bus flying past them, it’s passengers’ faces frozen in fear, except for a lone man in the back who looks out the window and smiling, waves to them.

My mother feared driving over any bridge and, as a young girl, I’d have to talk her over it. When the first bridge fell into the water, my brother called me up and said, “Mom was right!”

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