Pasco County
6 Not-To-Miss Adventures

6 Not-To-Miss Adventures

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Explore the outdoors in Pasco, Florida

By Jessica Festa, Jessie on a Journey

There are many reasons to love Pasco: The delicious restaurants. The premium shopping malls. The family-friendly fun such as arcades and bowling alleys.

No matter what your primary reason for visiting is, make sure you save room in your itinerary for some active outdoor adventures. In Pasco, not only do state parks and bird-watching opportunities abound on land, but attractions offering skydiving, zip lining, and hot air ballooning take the adventures to aerial heights.

But don’t worry, if you’d rather not have your adrenaline pumping quite that high, there are soft adventures enjoyable for all fitness and thrill levels.

To help you plan an active trip, don’t miss the following outdoor experiences. And best of all, you’ll burn enough calories to enjoy the local food and drink scene without guilt!

one

Pick your own food at Starkey Blueberry Farm Location: Odessa

Oranges aren’t the only fruit worth a taste in Florida. In Pasco, you’ll also want to try the blueberries.

There’s something about procuring your own food that just makes it taste so much better. And I can honestly say the blueberries I picked at the 47-acre Starkey Blueberry Farm were some of the best I ever had.

Walking past people relaxing in yard chairs and through the farm’s fresh produce shop, I peered back into the U-Pick area. Endless rows of plump blueberries—eight varieties of them—sat ready to be plucked.

A woman pointed to a stack of bag-lined buckets and told me about their $5-per-pound pricing, before she let me in on a little tip: swing a right and head all the way to the tall trees for the ripest blueberries. It also happened to be the most scenic part of the farm, and I happily searched for the perfect fruit for the next day’s healthy breakfast.

After I filled my bucket, I was beckoned by a giant wooden swing overlooking a beautiful lake hugged by forest; the perfect place to eat my pickings.

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two

Explore wild Florida in Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park Location: New Port Richey

Whether you want to stroll, cycle, trek, horseback ride, skate, camp or fish, this 8,000-acre park has it all. 

The paved driving loop was also extremely beautiful—perfect if you’re tired and don’t want to be active, but would like to be immersed in nature. There are also more than 150 bird species to keep an eye out for.

On my first day in Pasco, I decided to explore the park trails. There were more than 12 miles of marked trails and even a 7.5-mile paved trail for those who like more sure footing.

I started my adventure near Shelter 5 to explore the Nature Trail. As soon as I got out of my car I could hear the birds chirping and small animals rummaging through the brush. Then, within five minutes of walking, I spotted an animal I’d never seen in person before: an armadillo! I wasn’t expecting it, and it was neat to have this new experience (because isn’t that what travel is all about?). Keep an eye out for other wildlife in the area such as turtles, snakes and possums.

When I entered the park the man at the information desk had also recommended the paved trail for its picturesque views. There’s art involved, too, with a one-mile section of the trail allowing you to “cycle from the Sun to Pluto” via a scaled model exhibit. The paved trail also connects to the 42-mile paved Suncoast Trail—a great option for cyclists.

Which brings me to my next adventure…

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three

Cycle the Suncoast Trail Location: New Port Richey

Now, I had some fabulous experiences in Pasco, but my favorite was definitely a 21-mile bike ride from Trinity Cyclery—where I rented a cruiser bike for the day—through Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park via the Starkey Trail to the Suncoast Trail.

If you’re thinking “What’s so great about riding along a highway?”, I’ll tell you.

The bike trail is separated from the highway, so you’re riding along it but still have lush nature to one side. My jaw was dropped in awe almost the whole time, as I got to see even more of the park than I had the previous day.

What’s neat on a bike is how the landscapes dramatically change so quickly, from open fields to dense pine forest to peaceful wetlands, with hawks flying overhead.

Highlight of the ride: I saw my first fox squirrel!

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four

Explore Pasco from the treetops Location: Dade City

Afraid of heights? Then this is the perfect activity to help you conquer that fear.

TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park is Central Florida’s largest zip line aerial adventure park. Keep in mind, it’s not a passive zip line tour, but a network of active ropes courses that will test your strength, balance, and agility. And your bravery, too, but in a fun way!

The attraction features eight courses ranging from easy courses reaching 15 feet off the ground to extremely hard (as in, only 30% of those who set out to complete it actually do). Picture zip lines, Tarzan swings, tight ropes, wobbling blocks, and shaky nets. Amazingly, they were all installed without drilling into the trees, and most of the existing forest was left exactly as it was found. 

Guests are responsible for clipping themselves into each obstacle—or as they call them, “elements”—so I left with some technical skills.

By the way, I went solo and it was really fun! The staff were friendly, as were the other visitors. In fact, I befriended two local girls and we all helped each other through the tough parts (a unique way to meet locals).

Note: Private guides are available for an extra fee, a great option for Pasco adventure seekers wanting some extra reassurance (though they gave a thorough training prior to my climb).

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five

Float away into the clouds Location: Land O’ Lakes

I wanted to continue the aerial adventures—this time in a relaxing way— and American Air Balloon Rides was the answer.

The fun began before boarding, while I watched the balloon inflating with cool air being heated with fire. When it was time to take off, I climbed into a basket and then we lifted high into the sky.

It was not like flying in a plane. In a hot air balloon, I felt weightless; serene. While floating to a maximum of 3,000 feet I felt more like a bird than a cramped airplane passenger.

Everyone had a spectacular view, as I saw all the attractions I’d been visiting during my time in Pasco transform into specks, reminding me how big the world really is. It was truly a transformative experience and was definitely something I could finally check off my bucket list.

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six

Kayak the coast Location: Port Richey

In search of an all-day adventure that included water sports, boating, booze and live music, I discovered that I didn’t need to look further than Port Richey in west Pasco.

While south-central Pasco Couty was more built up, west Pasco had a laid back vibe. It’s more “no shoes, no problem” than “heels mandatory”, so to speak.

Now there are a number of lively spots that line the coast, one of which is the family-owned Gill Dawg Marina & Tiki Bar.

Here’s my itinerary plus some pro tips:

Here’s the background on the name Gill Dawg—it comes from possibly the greatest legend ever. Apparently, in October 1962, a 42’ fishing boat called the Vagabond headed off from the Florida Keys to catch grouper and snapper. While preparing the boat, they befriended a cigar-loving bulldog—yes, you read that right—and decided to take him along.

There was one issue though: This was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the US and the Soviet Union came close to nuclear war. Unfortunately, the Vagabond was mistaken for a vessel of American spies and was torpedoed by the Russians.

For 12 hours, the crew and the bulldog sat in shark-infested waters, with the bulldog continuously fighting off the sharks—even going underwater for 10 minutes at one point, and popping back up with a cigar in his mouth.

Finally, a skiff with a Russian inspection crew came to save the sailors; however, the dog was still underwater. Sadly, the Russians would not wait for the dog, and he was never seen again. But it’s believed that the dog didn’t die, but instead grew gills and continues fighting off sharks to this day.

Pasco. It’s a place where you can face your fears, try something new, let loose while immersed in local culture, infuse wellness into the trip and truly stop and smell the roses (or maybe even see a dolphin or manatee!). 

Whether it’s outdoor adventures that beckon visitors to Pasco or another highlight of the destination, you won’t regret adding at least a few of the above activities into your itinerary.

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Explore the outdoors in Pasco, Florida.