See Exotic Animals and Refreshing Waters at Homosassa Springs

Pontoon boats on the calm waters at Homosassa Springs, Florida
Pontoon boats at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock - Cavan

One of Florida’s most popular and unique springs to visit is Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park. Not only does this park boast an engaging boat tour, fun swimming opportunities and birding trails, it also offers an onsite zoo that has a range of native Florida animals along with some species from around the globe. This classic Florida attraction welcomes visitors to explore natural Florida and learn all about plants, animals, and the magnificent springs.

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Welcome Sign at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida
Welcome Sign at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Steven Miller

In the early 1900s, this location was a popular train stop along commuters journeys who were traveling by rail. Nearby industries such as cedar farming, commercial fishing and the bottling of spring water made the train stop necessary. During the stop, these goods were loaded up into train cars for distribution to other parts of the state or country. While the train was being loaded, many travelers would use the stop as a place to relax or go for a refreshing swim in the cool waters of the springs.

By the 1940s, Homosassa Springs had expanded its park size to sprawl 150 acres around the spring and into the nearby marshlands and forest. Over 20 years later, the attraction was dubbed “Nature’s Own Attraction” and there was several activities and even a small zoo. The animals at this zoo were trained to perform acts for both the park at the springs and for movies and TV shows. In fact, the black bear named “Buck” who resided at Homosassa Springs was often use to portray “Gentle Ben” on the late 1960s television series of the same name.

Homosassa Springs and its accompanying attractions became a beloved tourist spot in Florida. So much so, that eventually the Florida State Park Service acquire the land and preserved the springs and some of its attractions for future generations.

Things to Do

Animal Zoo

Animal Zoo at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Steven Miller

Carrying on one of the spring’s earliest attractions is the display of animals in a small zoo. Some of the animals on exhibit include flamingos, alligators, red wolves, key deer, and black bears. There is even the world’s oldest hippopotamus in captivity named Lucifer but nicknamed “Lu”!

Boat Tour

Pepper Creek is a diverse ecosystem bustling with not only wildlife but also plants and scenic views! The boat tour takes visitors on a guided tour of Pepper Creek in a fun and interactive adventure within the park. On the tour, visitors can learn all about the springs from their guide and even ask questions regarding the park.


If you get hungry after swimming or hiking the trails, visitors can grab a bite to eat at one of the two dining establishments within the park. These include the Wildside Café and The Grill at Pepper Creek.

Fish Bowl Observatory

Underwater Observatory at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida
Underwater Observatory at Homosassa Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

One of the most unique things to do at Homosassa Springs is to venture underwater into the Fish Bowl Observatory. This allows visitors to go beneath the surface to witness fish swimming and even see manatees which are more common in the winter months.

Hiking Trails

The Pepper Creek Birding Trail is 0.75 miles and winds from the visitors center through some of the natural areas and out to the parking lot. This trail is a great place to experience natural Florida along with seeing various species of native and migratory birds. The trail is accessible for those in wheelchairs as it is paved with easily navigable pathways. Throughout the fall and winter months, the local Audubon Society offers guided trail tours that emphasize the different species of birds that can be seen.

Wildlife Watching

Homosassa Springs are home to a large population of both saltwater and freshwater fish. From snappers to manatees, these springs are abundant with wildlife that showcases the diverse ecosystem these landmarks create. Depending on schedules, the park typically offers a daily manatee show.

Plan Your Visit

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park is located at 4150 S. Suncoast Boulevard in Homosassa Springs, Florida. The park is open daily at 9 a.m. and last entrance into the park is at 4:45.

Admission to the park can be paid for daily entrance or by using a valid Florida State Parks annual pass.

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