Mermaids Move to Brooksville to Create the Florida Mermaid Trail
On February 29, 2020, twenty-one mermaids “ventured outside the pristine waters of Weeki Wachee to visit Hernando County’s historic city of Brooksville.” according to the Florida Mermaid Trail website.
Each mermaid has been captured in a bronze statue and now lives with its image mounted on buildings located along the Florida Mermaid Trail, along with their name and story explaining why they chose their new residence.
Live Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids and Ariel The Mermaid from All Things Enchanted were in attendance for photo opportunities. Live music by Joe Solomon and Bill Creel added joviality to the sendoff as the first visitors explored the Florida Mermaid Trail.
A Best Mermaid Contest was held for both people and animals, along with some fun mermaid activities for the kids. Guests were given their very own map created by local artist, Lee Middleton, who was in attendance to autograph copies.
What is The Florida Mermaid Trail?
“The Florida Mermaid Trail is part scavenger hunt and part historical tour that encourages local residents and visitors to get out and experience the magic of downtown Brooksville, including its small businesses and historic architecture,” says Natalie Kahler, Executive Director of Brooksville Main Street.
Two routes (1.1 mile and 2.2 mile) trek through Main Street, Liberty Street, S. Brooksville Avenue, the Good Neighbor Trail, Jefferson Street, Saxon Avenue, S. Broad Street, and E. Ft. Dade Avenue, guiding participants through local landmarks, businesses, and historic homes along tree-lined and brick-paved streets.
The Florida Mermaid Trail is a fun, healthy activity for all ages to experience in Brooksville
How the Florida Mermaid Trail Came to Be
The Florida Mermaid Trail was originally proposed to the Hernando County Commission in 2014 by Tom Barnette. At that time, websites and trademarks were purchased. Then the project went dormant.
In 2019, Matt and Bev Lowman of the Lowman Family Foundation resurrected the concept.
“We were visiting Thomasville, Georgia, and Bev found the Quail Trail, where visitors hunt for a covey of quail (18 bronze statues) with their eyes,” Matt explained.
Bev chimed in, “We walked all around Thomasville’s downtown, and we saw all kinds of businesses. On the way home, Matt and I started talking about how we could do a similar thing with mermaids to help people discover the wonderful businesses in downtown Brooksville.”
When the Lowmans returned, they reached out to Brooksville’s Main Street and Florida’s Adventure Coast with their idea. Lo and behold, the foundation had been laid years before, just waiting for a team to assemble and see it through!
The Lowman Family Foundation sponsored the creation of each mermaid and Brooksville Main Street’s Executive Director, Natalie Kahler, came up with names and personas for each one. John Ellenbeck of Patriot Lending installed them. Florida’s Adventure Coast sponsored the maps and a grand opening, as well as renovating the building at 205 Main Street into a beautiful Welcome Center.
Florida’s Adventure Coast Welcome Center
At the Florida’s Adventure Coast Welcome Center, 205 E. Fort Dade Avenue, maps are hung outside in protective bags. If you are able to get there between 10 am and 5 pm, the welcome center is open with brochures for local attractions, adventures, businesses and a helpful person to assist you in planning a short, medium or long visit to Hernando County. And there is a life size wildlife diorama to get you in the mood for adventure. And you can get your Mermaid Trail souvenirs.
The Florida Mermaid Trail is a Popular Activity
“The Florida Mermaid Trail has been a great addition to the City of Brooksville and our tourism offerings here on Florida’s Adventure Coast. The trail is a safe, socially distant way to get out and see the many different sights of Brooksville; winding thru the historic district and downtown shopping and dining areas, our visitors are discovering new shops and the beauty of the Good Neighbor Trail with each visit.
Word of the trail is spreading, and folks are coming from all around central Florida to explore and find the Mermaids. We’ve had families with three generations all excited to explore the trail and the City.
Many have commented that they discovered a shop they’d never visited or tried out a new restaurant on this trip; many promise to return to explore more and visit the shops again. The trail is incredibly popular and a huge success; we’re thrilled to have partnered with Brooksville Main Street and the Lowman Family Foundation to bring it to life here in Brooksville, “ says Tammy Heon, Manager of Tourism Development at Florida’s Adventure Coast.
Ways to Experience Florida’s Mermaid Trail
Pick up your Florida’s Mermaid Trail map from the display outside the Welcome Center or download and use the Distrx app or Florida’s Adventure Coast app on your phone. The trail is open sunrise to sunset daily.
Each location on the Mermaid Trail is marked on the map, with the corresponding letter (short route – 1.1 miles) or number (full route – 2.2 miles) for that location. On the back side of the map, the mermaid who has chosen that location is named, along with her story.
Look for your mermaid at that location. Some jump out at you and others are not so easy to find. Some call out for a selfie, and others called for solo shots. As you enjoy your walk and post your adventures, be sure to tag them #FLMermaidTrail
If you are going digital, on the Florida’s Adventure Coast app, select the Menu and choose Itineraries. Florida Mermaid Trail Long Route and Short Route are there. Select the trail you want to follow to get turn by turn directions with each stop detailed, but the Mermaid names and stories are not included.
To use the Distrx app, select Brooksville Main Street, then Tours. Select the button on the top right that says, “Take Tour” and then Start. Click on each location as you get to it and then the information symbol will bring up the mermaid’s story and name.
NatureCoaster’s Florida Mermaid Trail Experience
We began at the Florida’s Adventure Coast Welcome Center at about 10:30 am. Although Florida is hot in July, the shade along the long route kept us reasonably comfortable, and we really enjoyed discovering many of the locations just south of Courthouse Square.
We were warmly greeted at the door by Kim Poppke, one of the Adventure Coast staff members. She was excited about showing us around and helped guide us into the spirit of mermaid hunting as I searched for Lirit.
“Lirit wanted to get an aerial view of the city, as well as a prime spot to hear the music from the bandshell. A friendly eagle carried her up and dropped her off on a high perch where she could see everyone coming and going! If you listen closely, when bands are playing, you can hear her singing along.” Printed on the back side of the map is each mermaid’s name and story.
After reading the clue, I was helped to look up – up – up and found her! With a feeling of accomplishment, I waved goodbye to Kim and ventured off to find Binda who isn’t too fond of the sun.
I really enjoyed my walk through downtown Brooksville, hunting mermaids, and finding architectural and cultural treasures along the way. Both of downtown’s B & B’s have mermaids residing there, and they were my favorites.
I used the map most for its colorful art and mermaid stories. The “Good Neighbor Trail” impressed me with its beauty, and I was quite happy to see three locations along the way where one could get a drink of water or use the restroom.
All-in-all, the Florida Mermaid Trail is a wonderful addition to Hernando County and Florida’s Adventure Coast, as well as the Nature Coast. It is a great way to spend a couple of hours outside, alone or with friends and family. While walking along, take time to notice the murals throughout the downtown area, the historic architecture, and the friendly people. Take time enjoy a visit to one of the eateries and some of the shops.