Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in central Florida is a unique state park full of native Florida animals. You’ll see all kinds of native wildlife from alligators to otters to black bears. The park is one of the best places in the state to view manatees up close.
Homosassa Springs is a great place for those who love looking at animals but aren’t a fan of traditional zoos. All the captive animals in the park are injured or unable to live on their own in the wild. Animals that are rehabilitated and healthy are released back to the wild after their treatment. The animals that permanently reside at the park are ambassadors for their species and serve to help educate visitors about Florida’s wildlife.
The beautiful Homosassa Spring has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s. Then it was a popular train stop for passengers to get off and admire the spring. In the 1940s the land was purchased to become an attraction centered around exotic animal entertainment. After several ownership changes over the years, in 1984 the park was finally purchased by the state of Florida and made into a state park.
In present day, the park is home to Florida wildlife including alligators, bobcats, pelicans, otters, deer, and even a panther. In fact, all but one of the animals at Homosassa Springs are native to Florida and showcase our diverse wildlife and habitats. The only non-native animal is Lu the retired hippopotamus actor. He’s actually the oldest living hippo in captivity, and he’s leftover from the exotic animal days of the park.
Manatees at Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs is one of the best places to view West Indian Manatees in the state thanks to the park’s unique underwater observatory.
Called “Nature’s Fish Bowl”, this tourist attraction was first built in the 1940s to allow guests to take a better look at the underwater marine life. You might even find yourself face to face with a manatee!
The park conveniently feeds the manatees right outside the observatory, so you’ll have a great chance of seeing a manatee up close if you go during the program time. The manatee programs occur each day at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and at 3:30 p.m. from April 1 through November 15, but check with a ranger when you enter the park. This is a must-see program! You can watch and listen from land, or head over to the observatory to catch a good look at manatees up close.
Homosassa Springs also has two other animal education programs throughout the day. The Wildlife Encounter program is offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and at 2:30 p.m. at the Wildlife Encounters pavilion in the Wildlife Walk. The Alligator and Hippopotamus program is offered at 12:30 p.m. from the bridge between the alligator lagoon and hippopotamus pool.
Park Entry and Info
Adults (age 13+) – $13
Children (ages 6-12) – $5
Children 5 and under – free.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Ticket counters close at 4:45 p.m.
Address: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. Homosassa FL 34446
Phone Number: 352-628-5343
Pets are not allowed inside the park, but there is a complimentary pet kennel at the Visitors Center for those traveling with pets.
Getting To and From Homosassa Springs
There are actually two places to park: the Visitors Center on U.S. 19 and the West Entrance on Fishbowl Drive. If you park at the Visitors Center, you’ll have to take a tram or boat ride to the park itself which is included with your admission. You can also walk to the main entrance via the 0.75 mile Pepper Creek Trail. There’s lots of information at the Visitors Center about the history of Homosassa Springs. There is also a gift shop and restrooms. The 25-minute boat ride on Pepper Creek is an enjoyable experience where your guide will give you some history of Florida parks and point out native wildlife. The tram is faster than the boat ride, and may be your only option in case of bad weather.
If you’re short on time, park at the park’s West Entrance on Fishbowl Drive to simplify your visit. You can walk right into the main entrance of the park and skip the boat or tram ride. At this entrance you’ll find another gift shop and restrooms, plus the Wildside Cafe which serves food and snacks.
Wildlife Education Center: Here there are lots of little hands-on activities for kids to learn about the park and nature. The center aims to promote Conservation through Education and teach kids about the environment and conservation. We’d recommend skipping it if you’re short on time and don’t have kids with you.
Manatee Care Center: Another unique feature of this park is the Manatee Care Center where the park cares for injured manatees. It participates in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The state park currently provides a permanent home to three non-releasable captive manatees.
Picnicking: We recommend bringing your own food and drinks into the park, as the cafe can be a bit pricey. There are picnic tables throughout the park and its a lovely place to stop and enjoy your food!
Birding: The 0.75 mile Pepper Creek Trail at Homosassa Springs State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. The trail starts at the parking lot at the Visitors Center and winds around the creek and ends at the main entrance of the park. The park offers a monthly birding walk on Saturday mornings in October through April, led by an experienced member of the Citrus County Audobon Society.