Communities Make Pasco County a Diverse Holiday Destination
Redefine your idea of a Florida getaway with a trip to Pasco County, where outdoor recreation, soft adventure, natural scenery and eco-conscious living merge. Just a 30-minute drive from Tampa International Airport, Pasco County is removed from big city living and offers eclectic authentic Florida experiences.
Coastal Casual Pasco: New Port Richey
Instant relaxation will kick in when visiting the Port Richey/New Port Richey area. The Pithlachascotee River (known by locals as the Cotee) flows from the water-rich cypress swamps in Eastern Pasco County and meanders 23 miles through central Pasco, sweeping through historic downtown New Port Richey and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
In the 1930s, New Port Richey was set to be America's movie capital. Star power flourished as performers of the time (Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple) owned luxury mansions along the river enjoying laid-back coastal living. But alas, air conditioning, although invented, had not become readily available, and Florida's hot, humid summers were not conducive to stage makeup, causing movie makers to abandon their quaint city by the river for milder temperatures in Southern California.
Outdoor Recreation: Parks, Preserves and Beaches
At Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, enjoy fishing and paddling the inlets and bayous that meander through the salt marsh. The spring looks small, but is an amazing 320 feet deep. Find your own island paradise at Anclote Key Preserve State Park. Enjoy the blue-green Gulf waters that lap gently along the sandy beaches of the four islands that make up the park, which is accessible by private boat or ferry service.
For a bird’s-eye view, take a hot air balloon tour at sunrise, lifting you high above Pasco County for scenic views. You'll soar 1,000 feet high over lakes, rivers, springs, swamps and the Starkey Wilderness Preserve. J.B. Starkey purchased this land in 1937 for a cattle ranch; the county has preserved 18,000 acres for the public to enjoy.
Dade City: Rolling Hills, Rich History and Wild Things
A 40-minute drive from coastal Port Richey, historic Dade City offers family-friendly adventures among gorgeous rolling hills. At Dade City’s Wild Things, get closer than ever to some magnificent animals on the guided Sunken Jungle Trek or Jungle Safari Ride. Have amazing personal encounters with tiger cubs, monkeys and more.
Little Everglades Ranch, a 2,050-acre working ranch with a fantastic landscape of hills, lakes and forest, plays host to horse driving events, the Savage Adventure Race, The Great Bull Run and Bubblefest.
Just up the road, you’ll discover Giraffe Ranch, a family-owned, working game farm that strives to conserve endangered species. You’ll ride on a 4WD safari tour that takes you to see zebras, ostriches and warthogs. One highlight is hand feeding giraffes and lemurs. A giraffe may even lick you with its super-long blue tongue!
No trip to Pasco is complete without visiting Kumquat Growers, the world's leading grower of this unique fruit. A kumquat is an orange-like fruit that is eaten peel and all. Open November to April, this off-the-beaten-path plant sells many tasty kumquat products from kumquat pie to kumquat peach preserves. For more old-time fun, enjoy the Kumquat Festival in Dade City the first weekend in January.
For green eating, visit Dade City’s Kafe Kokopelli, which maintains sustainable practices such as using biodegradable to-go containers, cooking with organic ingredients and donating funds to wildlife conservation efforts. Try the she-crab bisque or fried green tomato salad.
A Southern Living favorite, Lunch on Limoges offers an atmosphere you won't find every day: Southern fare served by seasoned uniformed waiters in an historic Dade City retail space. Nothing beats a mayonnaise-rich shrimp salad, made with Key West Pink Shrimp and served with Fresh from Florida fruit.