tubing the rainbow river

7 Best Ways to Keep Cool on Florida’s Nature Coast

By Sally White Posted on August 16, 2023

School may be gearing up for a new year, but the Florida heat shows no signs of waning. What is there to do on Florida’s Nature Coast, except retreat to the air-conditioning with a tall glass of sweet tea and wait for November?

These top 7 ways to cool off on the Nature Coast will have you pouring that tea into an insulated cup and heading back outside for some end-of summer-adventure.

Cool off at Buccaneer Bay Waterpark in Weeki Wachee 

Buccaneer Bay in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the only Florida water park in a spring. At 74.6 F year-round, the water may feel icy to native Floridians, but when the temperatures soar to the 90’s, it’s a cool treat on a hot August day

Although it’s not a big water park, Buccaneer Bay consists of 2 different water slides, a lazy tube float, a kids’ play area, and a sandy beach. It’s part of the historic Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 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!

Weeki Wachee Springs & Buccaneer Bay are located at 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee FL 34606. Enter through the state park entrance.

buccaneer bay
Slide down the flumes into the spring-fed waters of the Weeki Wachee River at Buccaneer Bay. Photo by Sally White

Admission fees: Your admission to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park includes entry into Buccaneer Bay. Fees: $13 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Ages 5 and under are admitted free.

Be sure to check their calendar for daily hours and their social media for park closure when it has reached capacity. Get there early to be sure to get in. 

*From August 14th, the Buccaneer Bay Waterpark will offer water slides, a kiddie pool, and a lazy river on Saturdays and Sundays only. The beach will be open for swimming daily.

Go Scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico

Scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico is relaxing and cooling. Learn more here. Image by Mike Winkles, IG @narcosis27

The short scalloping season in Florida lasts from July until the first week of September. Make it a point to try your hand at this Florida water adventure this year. This is the busiest time of the year on Florida’s gulf waters as visitors and locals take boats out to the Gulf of Mexico to harvest local scallops.

Scalloping requires you to dive into the Gulf waters. Depending on the tides it can be 3 to 6 feet deep (or more). Bring a snorkel, mask, and flippers. You will also need a mesh bag to carry your bounty while you are collecting, and a dive flag (it’s the law!) to warn passing boaters that you are there.

Other FWC rules to consider: 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 of scallop meat per person daily. Only 10 gallons of whole scallops are permitted per boat or ½ gallon of scallop meat. 

Dive down to collect scallops in the coastal grass beds by hand or with a dip net. Leave the smaller ones- only gather the larger ones. Keep them in your mesh bag while you’re scallop-hunting in the water. Once you get back to the boat, make sure to store them on ice so they don’t go bad.

You can use your own boat or take a charter for a day of scalloping. Scalloping charters leave from Crystal River, Homosassa, Bayport, Hernando Beach, Hudson, and all the way through Pasco County for scalloping adventures on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Swim a Spring on the Chassahowitzka River

chassahowitzka river
Visit the Chassahowitzka River and enjoy everything from kayaking past manatees to swimming amongst the spring holes. Image by Diane Bedard.

The best adventures take a little effort, and reaching these special springs on the Chassahowitzka River requires you to take a short paddle from the river boat launch at the Chassahowitzka Campground to the main Chassahowitzka springs, a series of spring vents that form the Chassahowitzka Spring #1 & #2 (7-Sisters Springs), the  2nd and 3rd magnitude springs found in a side cove on this pristine river. 

The 5.6-mile spring-fed Chassahowitzka River runs from the main springs, then meanders to the Gulf of Mexico with little side creeks that stretch out through the tidal salt marshes. But you won’t have to travel that far. Paddle to the right when leaving the boat ramp/kayak launch to reach the magical 7-Sisters Springs. 

Unless you arrive exceptionally early, you’ll see people standing in the shallows around the cave pools. Take a chilling dunk if you dare, or just chill out on the limestone ledges around the pools.

The Chassahowitzka Boat Ramp is located at 8690 County Road 480, Homosassa, FL 34448

River Tubing on Dunnellon’s Rainbow River

If you have designs of a Huckleberry Finn-style river float in your mind, this next cool adventure may just be for you. Take a lazy day on the river and relax while the Rainbow River’s current does all the work. Glide past river homes, overhanging cypress trees, and through cool, spring-fed waters on one of Florida’s prettiest rivers.

The picturesque turquoise waters of the 5.6-mile Rainbow River in southwest Marion County/northeast Citrus County begin at the head springs in the Rainbow Springs State Park and wind through the town of Dunnellon before mixing with the tannin-stained Withlacoochee River and heading out to the expansive Lake Rousseau and westward to the Gulf of Mexico.

tubing the rainbow river dunellon
Tubers chill for the 4-hour float on the Rainbow River from the KP Hole County Park to Blue Run Park in Dunnellon. Photo by Sally White.

Stop by the KP Hole county park, located a mile and a half downriver from Rainbow Springs State Park to embark on your river tubing adventure. From there you’ll take a 4 to 4.5-hour float on the four miles to the end point at Blue Run Point.

The KP Hole has a shuttle (for an extra fee) that will collect you and their tube at the end. You’ll find this park has toilet facilities, showers, lockers, picnic tables, concessions, and a swimming area at the KP Hole. Kayak, stand-up paddleboards & canoe rentals are available too.

Tubing Fees: KP Hole Tube Rentals Per Person is $30 plus tax. There’s a $10 per person shuttling fee to be returned back to your vessel from the City Boat Ramp.

The KP Hole is located at 9435 SW 190th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432

River Swim at Roger’s Park  

Rogers Park beach and boat ramp
Roger’s Park went through a wonderful refreshing last year. A boat ramp, beach, mermaid statue and picnic table can be seen here. Also renewed was the playground. Image by Sheri Gardner.

If the thought of swimming in a spring is just too cold, take a dip on the far side of the Weeki Wachee River at Roger’s Park. This 3-acre riverside county park sports a playground, beach-like sandy swimming area, and toilets. It also serves as a takeout point for paddlers on the river. This is a perfect place for a river dip on a hot day.

Rogers Park is located at 7244 Shoal Line Blvd, Spring Hill, FL 34607

Admission: $10 for parking

If watching the paddlers gets you feeling more adventurous, across the bridge the Kayak Shack offers paddle rentals. Alternatively, you can retreat to the nearby Upper Deck restaurant over the water for an afternoon drink or after-beach bite.

Hit the Beach at Pine Island 

pine island park beach
Sand play at Pine Island Park. Photo by Sally White

This 3-acre Alfred McKethan Pine Island Park serves as an oasis of fun for locals and visitors alike. Wade into the warm Gulf Waters, build a sand castle, watch for playful dolphins, and stay late to catch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Alfred McKethan Pine Island Park beach is the perfect place for a family day out. With a sandy beach, warm Gulf Waters, and swaying palm trees, you might easily spend the entire day here. Catch up with your summer reading and enjoy a refreshing cool drink from the onsite concessionaire, Willy’s Tropical Breeze Café. 

pine island sunset
The sunsets are an event at Pine Island on Florida’s Nature Coast. Photo by Sally White

Alfred McKethan Pine Island Park is located at 10840 Pine Island Drive, Spring Hill, Florida 34607

Admission: $5 parking fee

Relive Your Bouncy-Castle Childhood at Lift Adventure Park 

The floating inflatables at The Lift Adventure Park at SunWest Park are AMAZING! Image courtesy of The Lift Adventure Park’s Facebook page.

Need a bit more chilling and thrilling? Your childhood birthday wish has been granted. The Lift Adventure Park at SunWest Park in Pasco County in Hudson features floating inflatable fun.

Make like a wipe-out contestant on the floating inflatable slides and climbing fun right on a 70-acre, man-made lake. Tackle the challenge of a floating ropes and obstacle course or try your hand at wakeboarding. Too much bouncing? Relax on the lakeside beach and watch the fun from afar.

The Lift Adventure Park is located at 17362 Old Dixie Hwy, Hudson, FL 34667

Admission: Starting at $20 + per person 

weeki wachee spring state park
Take a float on a natural lazy river at Weeki Wachee’s Buccaneer Bay water park. Photo by Sally White

Seven Cool Water Adventures on Florida’s Nature Coast

Seven cool water adventures await you on Florida’s Nature Coast. So, take the edge off this everlasting summer heat and enjoy a dip into the cooler side of Florida. 

* When embarking on all outdoor adventures, in the water and out, keep in mind your energy levels and abilities; Stay hydrated and wear sun-protective clothing/sunscreen.*



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