Make us your home page

Hernando tourism bureau opens visitors center at Weeki Wachee park

Hernando tourism director Tammy Heon places a sign in the new information center Monday.


Hernando tourism director Tammy Heon places a sign in the new information center Monday.

WEEKI WACHEE — The gift shop near the entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is pretty much always jammed with visitors hunting down souvenirs commemorating their visit to Florida's famous mermaid capital. That's why Hernando County tourism coordinator Tammy Heon is so thrilled with her bureau's latest coup — a place to set up a long-anticipated west-side visitors information center.

The 10- by 14-foot office, not far from the attraction's entryway, is indeed a find in that it's costing Heon's department next to nothing to operate and will give the bureau direct access to the park's nearly 270,000 annual visitors.

"We're very excited to have the opportunity to be in a very visible location," Heon said. "We've been wanting to have a presence on this side of the county for a long time."

Heon said that like the bureau's main office at Cortez Boulevard and Interstate 75, the west-side center will be staffed seven days a week by full-time employees who will attend to regular office duties in addition to providing visitors with information about activities and things to do during their stay in the county. While the tourism bureau regularly stocks the attraction with informational brochures, she believes that visitors are better served by being able to talk with someone familiar with the area.

"Websites and brochures are fine, but my experience has been that there's no substitute for a smiling face that can answer their questions," Heon said.

She said she began lobbying state park officials more than a year ago to see what might be available for use as a tourist information center. The space being provided was formerly used as storage for the gift shop and is being offered rent-free in exchange for the bureau taking over the responsibility of printing the park's brochures.

Heon said statistics show that visitors average six to eight days during their stay in the county. While many businesses experience a slowdown during the summer months, that is not the case for those that deal in ecotourism-related activities such as kayaking, fishing and scalloping. With Weeki Wachee's peak period coming during the summer months, the bureau now has an opportunity to better promote those activities.

"Being located in the heart of one of the state's largest nature-oriented attractions is a huge advantage for us," Heon said. "And when people are looking for things to do with their families while they're here, we can point and tell them they're just a couple of miles away from the action."

Heon said that her plans for the satellite office include decorating it with examples of the area's natural habitat and activities, including preserved wildlife artifacts, a kayak model, fishing gear and other items.

"I want our presentation to be inviting and interesting to people who may have only come to see the mermaids and the springs, and show them that it's part of wonderful area that's fun to explore," she said.

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

>>fast facts

Tourism info

In addition to its new information center at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, information about tourism in Hernando County is available on the Hernando County Tourism Bureau's website at The bureau's main office is at 31085 Cortez Blvd., in the Carriage Hills Plaza, in Ridge Manor West. Call (352) 754-4405.

Hernando tourism bureau opens visitors center at Weeki Wachee park 07/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]