Day Tripper

Outdoor Enthusiasts Will Love Pasco County

Just 30 minutes north of Tampa, get outdoors in Pasco County

By Robin Draper September 26, 2016

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Just 30 minutes north of Tampa, Pasco County is home to endless outdoor things to do, including aerial treetop adventures, boating to authentic Florida fish camps, cruising to an island state park--and a visit to one of the best outdoor festivals honoring the petite petite fruit known as a kumquat.

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Among acres of ranches and pastureland in eastern Pasco County, nestled within a shady, oak-canopied forest, you’ll find Treehoppers, a zip-line aerial adventure park. 

The park is designed much like a wagon wheel, with a central starting point high above on a large platform. From there, participants choose a “spoke of the wheel” depending upon the level of difficulty. The challenge is to walk, crawl, climb and zip through the forest across boardwalks, through swinging nets and hoops, over logs and branches, zipping between wooden perches. Watch the excitement as families, children and “friend” groups become absorbed in the experience and spectacular vistas high above the treetops.

And you’ll be transformed as your courage and confidence grow with each level. But the moment of truth will come when harnessed to zip lines and taking a leap of faith and jumping off the platform, feet dangling and wind rushing, flying carefree through the air. That feeling of “letting go” makes it all worthwhile.  After each trek, you’ll be cheering with family and new friends, with “high fives” all around. 

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Sunset Cruise by the Pasco Stilt Houses

Originally constructed as wooden fishing camps elevated over water on deep pilings, these historical stilt houses date back to the early 1900s. They are fascinating reminders of Florida’s past and are still being used by local families today. You can view these nine surreal stilt houses situated off the shores of New Port Richey on the Pasco County coast. Towering over clear shallow water, with pelicans and cormorants perched along the railings while mullet jump, these structures provide a platform to enjoy the thriving marine life below. 

Before motorboats, fishermen would “pole out” to the fishing flats, where fish were plentiful. Today, anglers still catch mullet, redfish, flounder, snook, cobia, blue crab and more. During the early days, after a rigorous poling trek to the grassy flats, fishermen created resting places to prolong their fishing time. These docks with platforms and sheds eventually became known as stilt houses. The houses are remote, so fresh water is hauled in; some have generators, others have no electricity at all.

One of the best ways to see the stilt houses is via a sunset cruise from Port Richey’s Gill Dawg Marina. Go with a planned tour, or rent your own pontoon boat. Once on the Gulf, you’ll see these rustic fishing lodges, and as the sun sets, the sky will transform into an amazing Technicolor pink-tangerine vista with the Pasco County stilt houses silhouetted against the sunset sky. 

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Visit Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Coastal Pasco County is beautiful, and a good way to enjoy the waters is with a boat trip to Anclote Key Preserve State Park, one of Florida’s most stunning barrier islands, located off the county’s southwest coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rent a pontoon boat (or take a chartered ferry) to an island the locals call the “sand bar,” a popular destination north of Anclote Key. Here you’ll join many boaters as they swim and snorkel in the clear shallow waters, picnic on the boat and visit with newfound friends. Then cruise to the Gulf side of Anclote Key, where you’ll be mesmerized by the pristine white sandy beaches and surrounded by aquamarine water under deep blue skies. If you are fascinated with shells, you’ll love the abundance of brightly colored specimens that the island is known for.

Hike to the Anclote Key’s historic 1887 lighthouse that frames a picture-perfect background. And you just might get lucky if a family of dolphins escorts you on your return trip, surfing the boat wake and jumping in and out of the waves. 

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Bookmark this Small Town Festival for 2017 

Headlining Sponsor: Florida Hospital Zephyrhills

To the east in Pasco County, visit Dade City when it celebrates its “Ode to the Kumquat” during the January 2017 Kumquat Festival honoring its distinction as the world’s leading supplier of the tasty petite fruit. Saturday, January 28 marks the festival date, where over 40,000 visitors join in the fun. 

So what exactly is a kumquat? Orange in color, this bite-sized fruit can be eaten skin and all, providing a flavorful, pungent sweet and sour taste. It is a member of the citrus family and often baked into desserts and used as a glaze or flavoring for main dishes.

Held in downtown Dade City, the Kumquat Festival is a homegrown family event and provides fruit tastings of every imaginable combination, including kumquat pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, vinaigrettes and salsa. And there is plenty of fruit to purchase for creating your own signature dishes at home.

Local entertainment kicks up the celebration giving the event a special homespun feel with acts such as the Strawberry Express Cloggers, the Southern Gospel Centurion Trio, and the Cypress Creek Dixieland Band. And don’t miss Mr. and Ms. Kumquat, the arts and crafts exhibition, car show and the downtown storefronts dressed in what else, but “kumquat themes.” 

For more information: Visit Pasco

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