By Janet K. Keeler

Pasco County sits at the southern end of Florida’s eight-county Nature Coast so naturally there are plenty of outdoor activities. With 24 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and more than 140 freshwater lakes, it’s a given that boating, paddling and fishing are big draws in Pasco.

But Pasco’s booming population — now about 560,000, mostly in the southeastern region — has spurred more things-to-do. With close proximity to Tampa, many new residents find that the commute to a city job is a decent tradeoff for a bit more room. And with growth have come craft breweries, and more restaurants and family attractions to complement the sites that celebrate Pasco’s roots. Overnight visitors and day trippers can rejoice with the locals because there is no lack of fun and games. 

Here's a survey of family fun; adult fun; adventure & nature; food & drink, and history. Indoors or outdoors, active or more passive (is shopping active or passive?), there are lots of ways to while away a day or an afternoon. And if you’re looking for a honky-tonk to take in country acts and show off your lining-dancing skills, we’ve got you covered.

It’s time to get your Pasco County on. 


We think of family fun as activities that would be attractive to kids but are best if they are multigenerational. If Grandpa doesn’t want to ride the water slide or take a turn on the trampoline park, there should be a perch to watch the kiddos have fun. And hopefully with a cool beverage in hand. We’d bet, though, he’ll want to show off his mad skills at an 18-hole putting course.

Mirada Lagoon, San Antonio

No need to rub your eyes. That really is a 15-acre, human-engineered lagoon in the middle of a subdivision in the middle of what used to be pastureland near San Antonio (Florida, not Texas!). Mirada Lagoon is Pasco’s answer to a Disney waterpark and on the August day we visited, the vast and free parking lot was full of family vans by late morning. Make no mistake, this is big fun for big groups. 

A day pass provides access to swimming, the “beach,” the waterslide, kiddie splash pad and places to eat and drink. For additional fees, you can rent a cabana for up to 12 people or lounge chairs with umbrellas. A floating cabana — dubbed an aquabana — carries eight people on the water and provides access to private bars and swim areas. The price of a day at Mirada Lagoon varies, a bit higher on weekends, reduced for people who come later in the day. Spend more and you can explore the lagoon in kayaks or on paddleboards. Or maybe challenge yourself on the watery obstacle course. If you’re planning a family reunion, this just might be the perfect gathering spot. You can swim until dark but the adult beverages flow a bit longer. 

PopStroke, Lutz

Forget what you know about miniature golf, specifically about threading the ball through the moving windmill blades or into the mouth of the menacing but very fake snake. PopStroke is a stroke of genius, backed by links legend Tiger Woods, that sports two 18-hole putting courses. Plus food and drink, of course. The greens are artificial turf but still tricky with bunkers, sand traps and rolling terrain even in generally flat Florida. 

It’s a first-come-first serve adventure though patrons can book a private area for a party. (Another reunion idea? Bachelor party? Graduate celebration?) There’s a playground and gaming area for before or after, or even during, for non-players. Putters are provided and the eating/drinking areas also serve as observation decks. 

TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park, Dade City

This is birthday party central but anyone can get strapped into a harness and glide over the trees on 10 varied courses. At TreeHoppers, beginners can start on the Bumblebee, Sunflower and Sunshine courses which certainly sound sweet enough. Participants swing, zip and climb through a dozen elements, at least 12-feet in the air. For visitors one to six years old, the Little Lemur’s Course offers age-appropriate fun a little closer to the ground. 

Intermediate hoppers might try the Mountain Trail that’s higher and has more challenging elements, and then graduate to Black Storm and Commando courses, which require more upper body strength and general bravado. 

Tickets for three hours of fun vary by age and day of week. 

Urban Air Adventure Park, Port Richey

Fish for a while, ride bikes for a while but then take the kids to Urban Air Adventure Park to burn off energy in the comfort of air conditioning. This is a welcome respite from the Florida sun, especially during the summer. But a break from the temperature hardly means a break from the action.

Urban Air is a trampoline park times 10. Multi-colored obstacle courses, harnesses that let the kids fly over the action, climbing walls, an arcade, competitive games, places to shoot hoops — we’re already tired. Plus a food court. Adults can hang out while the kids enjoy some supervised fun.

Tickets vary depending on age and how long you want to jump around. 

 An observation deck lets friends, family and visitors watch skydivers as they float to the ground at Skydive City in Zephyrhills.
-Scott Keeler


There’s so much to do outside in Pasco County that only a thunderstorm might drive a nature lover inside. The Pasco Outdoor Adventures Facebook group maintains a calendar for all sorts of activities from biking challenges to archery opportunities to paddling excursions. 

There are county parks and state parks with adventures for visitors of all abilities. The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile paved trail that runs through three counties — Pasco, Hernando and Citrus. It’s built for cycling, running, walking and skating, and also wildlife spotting. An unpaved equestrian trail parallels part of the trail. 

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park near Port Richey bills itself as a birders’ paradise but kayak enthusiasts might quibble as they paddle through inlets and bayous. Of course, they can paddle and look skyward.

And speaking of the skies. Are you ready to jump out of a plane?

Skydive City, Zephyrhills

Thrillseekers will certainly find a heart-stopping experience at Skydive City, where folks have been parachuting from 13,500-feet for 25 years. You’ve read those stories about octogenarians fulfilling their skydiving dreams on their birthdays, right? Well, this is the place to realize that wish, whether you’re 80 or just 18.

First-time and experienced jumpers find their bliss at SkyDive City. Novices jump in tandem with an experienced teacher after watching a video and getting important instructions. A tandem jump costs about $220 and if you want a video or still photos, you’ll pay more. The glow of the experience lasts much longer than the airtime — 20 minutes up, about a minute in freefall and another six gliding with an open parachute. 

Not ready to jump? Hang out on Skydive City’s observation deck and watch the jumpers float from the sky. Besides first-timers, you’ll see people who’ve jumped a dozen times. It’s a fun way to spend a morning and we suggest you do go in the morning. Weather conditions tend to be more conducive then.


Diving for sweet bay scallops is a popular pastime along the Nature Coast, from Pasco County north about 350 miles to the Big Bend region. Scallopers ply the grassy beds to pluck out the bivalves by hand. They are not diving deep so snorkels are the preferred breathing apparatus. Harvesting is only allowed by hand. 

Pasco has the shortest summer season of the 10 or so scalloping counties. For about five weeks starting in early July, adventurers can snag two-gallons of whole scallops each. If you’re new to scalloping or even snorkeling, it’s smart to hire a charter or join a tour. Scallop Adventures provides the equipment and you charter the entire boat for eight hours for up to six divers. Guides provide instruction, but don’t clean the haul for you but there’s ample scallop cleaning instruction on the internet. Clearwater Fishing Company offers a similar deal. Dunedin Tropical Tours is another tour operator to check.

 A vulnerable gopher tortoise moves through the brush on the side of a road at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in southern Pasco County.
-Scott Keeler

Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, New Port Richey

The 8,000-acre Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park is many things to many people. But to everyone, it’s a natural buffer protecting some of Pasco’s prized natural lands from development. Besides the parkland, there are another 10,000 acres in the public trust to protect the watershed. A Facebook page is updated regularly with events.

The park has several hiking trails, some of them paved and suitable for bikers and skaters. Some of them are as short as 1-mile and others more than 15. The paved trails are accessible and there are several parking lots throughout the park. 

There are also equestrian paths, and of course places to fish. The park is open from dawn to dusk unless you are camping in one of the primitive sites. Keep your eyes peeled for anhingas and little blue herons, and your ears sharpened for the screech of owls or the rat-tat-tat of woodpeckers. On the day we visited we were lucky to see a threatened gopher tortoise ambling along the side of the road. We were able to pull over and watch him from afar.

 A live bait shop on the Pithlachascotee River in Port Richey is a colorful reminder of the activities prized in coastal Florida.
-Scott Keeler

Boating, Along the Coast

The eastern side of Pasco County is all rolling hills with reminders that this was farming and cattle country for decades. Western Pasco ends at the Gulf of Mexico and that means water is the main attraction. And in Florida, where there is water, there are vehicles to ride on it. That could mean in all manners of boats, kayak, motorized personal watercraft, a paddleboard. 

Visitors and locals can put in their water-craft at various points but there are vendors that offer sunset dinner or pontoon cruises, fishing charters or water-craft rentals. A good place to survey what’s available is from Gill Dawg Marina, located at the Cotee River near the Gulf of Mexico in Port Richey. You can grab something to eat at the tiki bar, listen to live music and then figure out if you want to take an excursion or rent a kayak with a group or own your own. Fishing? That’s entirely possible, too. The bait shop can hook you up with live wigglers and a guide, too. 

San Antonio Pottery in San Antonio sells one-of-a-kind pieces and also offers classes for beginners to more experienced potters.
-Scott Keeler


There may be some young children who like to shop but the antiques stores in San Antonio and Dade City are likely more adult attractions. They tend to be packed with inventory and you know the saying, “You break it, you buy it.” Country music, dancing and adult beverages is definitely adult-fare and we’ve got just the place to imbibe. 

Antiques, Dade City

Dade City is a small city about an hour from Tampa that gives off a Southern vibe for sure. Part of that comes from the red brick Classical Revival style Pasco County Courthouse that sits in the middle of town. It was built in 1909 and shows the care it’s been given over the years. There are also charming Craftsman and stately Victorian homes throughout the tree-line streets. The Dade City Heritage Museum offers architectural tours and a guided tour through the historic cemetery. 

Around the courthouse and streets nearby are antique shops such as Antiques on the Main Street and Two Krazy Chicks Antiques & More. It’s likely browsers will become buyers as they walk the aisles. Who doesn’t need a vintage rolling pin?

More Shopping, San Antonio

San Antonio — San Ann as the locals say — has barely 1,300 residents but still has shops and history worth exploring. It was established as a Catholic colony in the late 1800s and the lake in town is called Lake Jovita, named after St. Jovita, an early Christian martyr. You’ll see the name Jovita on several businesses. And now you can entertain your fellow travelers with what you know. 

Plug Tangerine Hill, 11855 Curley Street, into your GPS and find your way to a 1946 brick complex with several interesting shops. Tangerine Hill has classy home decor, some of it small enough to stuff in a suitcase. Rustic Pearl stocks casual clothes for men, women and kids, and jewelry and accessories. Browse through the San Antonio Pottery store and consider taking a class if the timing is right for your visit. The schedule can be irregular and more sparse in summer than winner so call ahead. 

The Stockyard, Holiday

Pack your cowboy boots and vintage denim for a night at The Stockyard where everybody is flying their country flag. The Stockyard is on U.S. 19, the main north-south road through the county. There are live concerts and when there’s not, the entertainment is DJ-driven. Line up at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for line dancing classes. The best teacher in the area — at least that’s what The Stockyard folks say — can show you how to stomp, sweep and swivel for the $5 to $15 cover charge.

There are nightly promotions and Bud in bottles figures prominently. Pool is free on Thursdays; you have to be 18 or older to get in and leave your gym clothes and weapons at home. 

 After a day exploring historic New Port Richey, Cotee River Brewing Company is a good place to stop for a craft beer.
-Scott Keeler


What’s travel without a stop for a bite or a cool drink to quench a powerful thirst? The choices are varied in Pasco County from traditional coastal offerings like grouper sandwiches and peel-and-eat shrimp to Southern biscuits and gravy and barbecue. The craft beer trend has made its way to Pasco with brews named with a sense of place including Shark Infested Lager, Loquat Blonde and ZHills Lite. 

Craft Breweries

There are about a dozen craft breweries scattered around Pasco from Zephyrhills in the east to Hudson on the coast. Many can be found either on or just off of State Road 54. If you have a designated driver, you could even put together a cross-county beer crawl. A Facebook page dedicated to Pasco craft beer is updated frequently and lists special events. 

There are several breweries in New Port Richey, a historic town with the Pithlachascotee — Cotee for short — River running through it. A mini beer crawl will give you refreshment stops as you wander Main Street. First stop is the Cotee River Brewing Company, which opened in 2018 and is the town’s first craft brew. It celebrates local milestones with historic photos on the wall. Six to 10 taps flow daily with housemade brew and the offerings change regularly. Other breweries in New Port Richey include the Dented Keg Ale Works, Emerald Coast Brewing Co. and Infusion Brewing Co. 

Florida Cracker Lunch on Limoges, Dade City

Lunch on Limoges has been a must-dine restaurant for locals and visitors for more than 40 years. The early 1900s building across the street from the historic courthouse was initially a dry goods store and then a clothing store until two clever entrepreneurs had the idea to open an antiques shop and restaurant in the middle of the space. The tables were surrounded by tea sets and sweet novelties, all for sale. 

Its charming shtick has changed somewhat now that the restaurant has joined the Florida Cracker restaurant group. There’s still shopping to be done but it’s more likely for fishing stuff, T-shirts and camo-fashion than Limoges tea cups. The basket of mini muffins is still complimentary and the menu is largely the same, if not a bit more country. The restaurant remains a destination worthy of your travel agenda. 

Potpourri of Good Eats

There are so many places to get seafood along the Gulf of Mexico coast of Pasco County. You’ll find grouper sandwiches grilled, fried and blackened, plus the Florida staple fish dip which is made differently in every kitchen. Catches Waterfront Grille in New Port Richey makes it with smoked fish perked up with banana peppers. Places like Get Hooked Grill in Hudson will cook your catch in various ways. The Fish Guy in New Port Richey is the best of at least two worlds: It's a market selling local seafood and a restaurant specializing in Florida tradition. Wednesday is grouper sandwich day — buy one and the second one is half-price. And speaking of fish dip, they make salmon, kingfish and lobster varieties. FYI, the kingfish is local.

On the eastern side of Pasco you’re more likely to find country cooking and the treat of Southern home cooking at places like Steph’s Southern Soul in Dade City. Fried fish, meatloaf, smoked ribs, chicken and dumplings, and even liver and onions are on the menu, along with plenty of sides. But the real treat just might be the pies: coconut cream, sweet potato, lemon meringue and peanut butter. 

For Mexican cuisine, check out the ever-popular Pancho’s Villa Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio for carnitas and margaritas. The Sunrise Eatery in Zephyrhills is a pet-friendly breakfast-lunch-dinner joint that promises you’ll never go hungry. Consider a full-order of biscuits and gravy after hanging out at Skydive City. You may want to stay for lunch. 


In between the bike rides, fishing and water sliding, you just might want to do something educational. Or at least someone in your group wants a break from action. Here are a couple of ideas. 

Pioneer Florida Museum and Village, Dade City

Take a self-guided walk through the open-air Pioneer Florida Museum and Village just north of downtown Dade City. You’ll see how pioneers lived and worked in Florida long before the state became a mecca for tourists and a home for theme parks. The Overstreet House provides a glimpse into a way of life that included churning butter, weaving material for clothes, and washing those clothes before electricity. Also on view on the grounds is an old train station and trains, a one-room schoolhouse and a Methodist church moved there from a nearby pioneer settlement. Volunteers demonstrate much of the equipment and people are on hand to answer questions. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets are $6 to $12 depending on age and children under 5 are free. 

Sunset Stilt House Tour, Port Richey

There are about eight stilt houses in the Gulf of Mexico in the open waters off Pasco County and near Port Richey. They are vestiges of a long-ago Florida days when commercial fisherman built  and used them as platforms to catch and store fish and find shelter from storms. They are privately owned now but as they are destroyed by the elements, they cannot be replaced for environmental reasons. The stilt houses can only be seen by watercraft and are popular sightseeing destinations for boaters, kayakers and others. Nauti Dog Scuba Outpost offers sunset stilt house tours aboard pontoon boots.

Places to Remember