Hernando Beach – The Complete Guide To The Real Gulf Of Mexico’s Venice
Hernando Beach, Florida, is likely a beach town that you’ve never heard of. Off the beaten path, hidden out of sight – yet this oasis holds some of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Located on the west coast of Florida and right next door to Weeki Wachee River and Springs, this shrimping town offers much more than direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. It is home to the Hernando Flats, Gilligan’s Island, and canal living at its finest. So wonderful that we took the plunge this year and bought a second home in Hernando Beach, Florida. Yep, we love it here that much that it was time to put roots down here. Let me share with you why we fell in love with the real Gulf Of Mexico’s Venice!
If you are a local business reading this and you were not included please contact us and we will glady add you!
If you are a resident and want to share some history, facts or memories, contact us! Lastly, this article will be consistently updated as this does not cover it all “yet”.
Table of Contents
Hernando Beach History
Despite the name, Hernando Beach is a misnomer – there isn’t an actual beach. Instead, it is a waterfront canal community that has access to the Gulf of Mexico. Before the 1950’s Hernando Beach was wetlands. Charlie Sasser, a developer, purchased the area somewhere between 1959 and 1965 and then developed the area up until 1970.
Sasser developed 500 acres of marshy wetlands into waterfront lots. The lots were created using the earth dug out of mining operations along the coast and dredging.
Fast forward to 1971, when restrictions on wetland development stopped any future growth. The state claimed ownership of the wetlands Sasser was digging in, and the Army Corps of Engineers claimed Sasser didn’t have the proper permits.
Long story short, a legal battle ensued between Sasser, the state, and the Hernando County Commission. This resulted in Sasser building a dike around 144 acres he had begun developing 10 years earlier to separate it from the gulf. He was also ordered to restore the land to its natural state. In other words, while the development was initially legal, it was deemed illegal in 1971.
Many say this is the last community of its kind; some say it should not exist. I say thank goodness it does!
Why Hernando Beach, Florida?
I’ll be frank, like most of you, I have never even heard of this town. I stumbled upon it when searching for a boat. The boat search brought me to Hernando Beach, and we did our boat training out here. I’ve been addicted to boating for a while now but seeing the clear turquoise waters of Hernando Beach caught my attention – as did the proximity to the scallop patches that consume our summers.
In one picture, here is why:
The Three Sections of Hernando Beach
If you consider renting or moving to Hernando Beach, you need to understand how the community is set up. It’s divided into three sections, and while all can access the Gulf of Mexico, only one section- the North has direct access.
There are two separate canal systems. The northern canals are saltwater and have direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. The southern canals, which include the middle section, are mostly fresh water and do not have direct access to the Gulf of Mexico.
The North: The northern section starts at Eagles Nest Drive to Companero Entra.
The Middle: The middle section is all of the streets off Hermosa Blvd.
The South: This south starts on Amberjack Drive and ends on Palameto Drive but is accessed from Bluefish Drive or Jew Fish Drive. This is the most underdeveloped section and stages some of the biggest homes in the area. The south is a deed-restricted comminute and has a mandatory homeowners association called Hernando Beach South Property Owners Association. Home and lot prices are lower in the south because of the lack of direct gulf access.
Boatlift of Hernando Beach
Residents of the middle and south sections access the Gulf of Mexico using the Hernando Beach BoatLift. This is all the streets off Hermosa Blvd and in Hernando Beach South. The boatlift is a concrete plug – part of the berm that provides access to the saltwater canals and the Gulf of Mexico. Once you’ve passed over the boatlift, you then must go under the Companero Entra bridge. If you follow any of the groups on Facebook dedicated to Hernando Beach, you will have seen the questions around the boat ramp and accessibility.
I live in the North, so I personally don’t have to deal with the boatlift, but here are the typical things people want to know:
Frequently Asked Questions About Hernando’s Boatlift:
How long does it take to get from the middle and south to the northern canals? Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. It depends on if you are in the south or middle section.
How wide is the boatlift? The cradle is only about 9 ft wide.
How do you access the boatlift? You need a key – it’s private for residents only.
Is the boatlift automatic? No, it uses a pully system.
Is the boatlift open year-round? Yes, however it sometimes breaks down. And, when it does, there is no access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hernando Beach Flats
I think some would argue that this is one of the star attractions of Hernando Beach. Shallow sand bars glistening from the turquoise water make for a perfect boating day. And there’s no shortage of boats enjoying this oasis! I don’t think you can fully appreciate this coastal community until you’ve hit the flats. I consider the flats the crown jewel. If you were dropped off here blindfolded, you would swear you’re in the Caribbean or the Bahamas once revealed.
Most people stick to the main section where the barrier islands are directly next to the channel. We tend to cross the flats to the right and hang out at what locals call Gilligan’s Island. FYI, not sure if this is the real name or not.
Lastly, you’ve not experienced true Florida until you’ve ended your day with shrimp boats in the backdrop of a sunset.
Springs & State Parks
Hernando County is home to some of the most stunning state parks and springs. If hitting the flats is not your thing, don’t worry. There’s plenty more to see and do!
Three acres along the Weeki Wachee River, with a boat launch, swimming beach & manatee sightings. This is only a few miles away from Hernando Beach. Kayaking or floating down this river is a treat; it’s reminiscent of days gone by. It’s so untouched by modern amenities it almost feels like Disney created this place to reflect the past. It’s no recreation – it’s Florida untouched.
This is the main park area; keep scrolling because the real beauty lies in the river:
Weeki Wachee Springs (Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)
This is the only place in America where you can see real live mermaids! It’s a personal favorite of mine! And it’s the home of Buccaneer Bay Waterpark, a real old-fashioned watering hole with slides.
This is a sandy recreational area that allows swimming in places. The Park also offers fishing, an observation tower, picnicking, and amenities such as showers, playground, grills, a community building, and restrooms. It’s very common to see manatees in Jenkins Creek.
Hernando County Beaches
As mentioned in the beginning, Hernando Beach is not a traditional beach community – it’s a canal community with access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Alfred A McKethan Pine Island Park
This is the only public beach in Hernando County. Cross barrier islands and salt marshes to reach this little beach island. Or drive your boat up here if you are adventurous, kayak your way up here. This park includes a beach and swimming area, picnic tables, shelters, barbecue grills, observation point, volleyball court, playground, and concession stand. Pavilions are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Address: 10840 Pine Island Drive Spring Hill, FL 34607 and distance from is Hernando Beach – 17.5 mi.
Address: 4291 Shoal Line Blvd, Hernando Beach FL 34607
Outside of the one motel, here are some homes you can rent along with options in nearby areas:
The Captain’s House
Owned and operated by Hernando Beach Motel, this is a one-of-a-kind rental. The home is available for weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties or just rent a room with its own private bathroom. The uniqueness of the Captain’s House places it in a category all it’s own yet very affordable. And, check out the pool that is shaped like a boat!
Blue Pelican Marina The only facility on the Main Channel. Boaters at our facility enjoy the quickest and easiest access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Phone: (352) 610 9999
Address: 5000 Calienta Street, Hernando Beach, FL 34607
Phone: (352) 596-4010
Address: 4211 Shoal Line Blvd, Hernando Beach, FL 34607
Hernando Beach Marina Home of the Restaurant Tropical Grille!
Phone: (352) 596-2952
Address: 4139 Shoal Line Blvd, Hernando Beach, FL 34607
Hernando Beach Fishing
Many people chose to take their own boats out and fish the flats, and some go deep fishing on their own boats.
There are tons of fishing charters in Hernando Beach – too many to list. My recommendation is to use FishingBooker. This site will bring up every available charter in the area.
If you want to join a large group, consider THUNDER Party Boat Daily trips are 8:00 am-4:00 pm $75.00 cash $80.00 credit or debit card only.
Scalloping Out Of Hernando Beach
We’ve been scalloping for seven years now, and we discovered the Hernando patches a few years ago. Our journey scalloping out of Hernando Beach started by renting a home out here. Not only is there little to no traffic compared to the northern spots, but it’s also an amazing place to scallop out of. As you can see, we do quite well:
Just south of Homosassa and lesser-known, Hernando Beach brings real advantages! No crowds, a quick ride out to the reefs, and stunning turquoise water. Here’s the map of how to access the scallop patches of Hernando Beach:
It’s also worth mentioning that tons of people choose to go out of Bayport. We have had loads of luck in Bayport, but we drive the boat up there.
Some of the locals have become really creative and offer kayak delivery services. That’s right, and you can have a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard delivered to you at your choice of location!
Friendly Mobile Kayaks
I’ve personally used Friendly Mobile Kayaks. I found them on Facebook, and they saved what would have been a flop! We had tried to rent from Weeki Wachee River Rentals, but they were sold out. Not only did Cameron deliver the kayaks right to us, but they are the most economical option in the area. We only paid $25 per day per kayak. And, returning them was easy. We texted Cameron, who then met us to pick up the kayaks. It’s also worth noting that they also rent clear kayaks.
Family-run & operated Mobile Kayak Rental. Tandem Kayak – $80 · Duration Varies. And if you check out their site, they have a ton of other watercraft to rent to you.
Kayak Pick Up
If you plan to kayak the rivers, there are a few physical locations to rent from:
The Kayak Shack
Conveniently located next to the Upper Deck Restaurant at Rogers Park. Reservations are not required but are highly recommended during peak season.
All Day Rental $35 – Phone: (352) 610-4169 – All rentals must be returned by 5 pm
Weeki Wachee River Rentals
Located before the bridge that crosses Rogers Park. You can also rent small boats here. You cannot make a reservation here – it’s first come, first served. Weekends are busy and sell out. I can tell you from experience that if you don’t show up long before 8 am, you have no chance of scoring a rental. Phone: (352) 596-2852 – All rentals must be returned by 4 pm
All Day Rental Prices
Boats – $100 – $145 depending on size
Canoes and Kayaks – $35 – $45 – depending on size
Hernando Beach Motel
You can rent clear bottom kayaks from here! Phone: (352) 596-2527 – Address:4291 Shoal Line Blvd, Hernando Beach FL 34607
Hernando Beach Restaurants
By far our favorite! Ask for Katie and tell her that “Dirt Bag and Nikki”sent you.” She will take outstanding care of you, and Katie is the funniest waitress you’ll ever meet. If you don’t get her humor, you don’t have a funny bone! Try the scallops, the calamari, or the fish and chips. We’ve never had a bad meal here. Everything is 100% fresh and hand-breaded!
You can also pull up to ZigZag Scallop on your boat – they have boat slips on the canal.
Hernando Beach Tropical Grille
Our second favorite place to eat! The food here is off the chain; regardless of if you fancy steak or oysters, this low-key tiki hut restaurant is a hit with everyone. One challenge is they close at 7:00 pm, and that’s because they are located inside of Hernando Beach Marina. Due to the liability of being inside the marina, it closes early. And, they don’t serve liquor. Try the lobster roll – it’s amazing!
Another place where you can pull up via boat.
Photo Credit: Hernando Beach Tropical Grille
Silver Dolphin Restaurant
Another favorite for us! This is a place that appears trapped in time, but that’s deliberate. I can only describe the vibe here as “Dirty Dancing,” and when you visit, you’ll know what I mean. It has a summer camp feel.
Eat outside; they have an amazing outdoor patio that is on a canal. You can feed the turtles or the gigantic catfish, and you’ll see gators here.
This place has amazing food, not a bad meal to be had, and tons of happy hour specials. Try the cod sandwich – it’s good. There’s also a gift store on-site, a fudge counter, and an ice cream parlor.
The Drunken Mullet
This is not our favorite and not because the foods not great – it is. It’s just busy, perhaps the busiest of all the restaurants. It’s just not as homely as some of the others.
Sunset Grille of Hernando Beach
I think this place gets a bad rap for no apparent reason. People “claim” that it’s a unique crowd. It’s no different than any other crowd at the beach. They have an amazing collection of unusual drinks – think chocolate tequila! Great food, a huge beach area, and karaoke. I mean, what more could you ask for? I would say this might not be the best place for a family to dine after dark. Cause, while they are a restaurant, it does become party central, but I personally think that’s what makes this special. If you’re looking for a great night out and want to be out past 10 pm, then this place is for you!
The Lazy Lizard
It breaks my heart to say this; however, to be transparent, this is by far the least impressive of the restaurants. The atmosphere is great, and they have live bands, but the food is subpar, and that’s assuming that they have the items on the menu available. From what I’ve heard from locals, the Lazy Lizard is struggling with staffing issues and the ability to get products delivered due to COVID. It’s a real shame as the place has tons of potential. Hopefully, they will recover, and I’ll return.
Considered by most locals to be the most upscale restaurant, this is a fusion restaurant with an innovative & elegant Latin/Italian menu. The cross-over of Latin and Italian is what’s kept us from trying Brian’s place. I’ve heard it’s great, but my personal experience is that it typically does not work for me when a place dabbles in two food genres.
Chinese and Pizza
I can’t even list the options – sorry! Avoid unless you are starving or desperate. Stick to the seafood options, and you’ll be happy. Even if you don’t eat seafood, all the other restaurants above have various non-seafood options.
Hernando Beach Die Hard Fan Must-Haves
You’re not a Hernando-lite unless you have one of these!
Clubs Of Hernando Beach
Hernando Beach Yacht Club
Founded in 1978, The Hernando Beach Yacht Club (HBYC) is a member-only club of individuals who love boating and living near the water. The Yacht Club offers its members various activities, including sailing regattas, offshore fishing expeditions, a weekly dinner on Wednesday night, and a Christmas boat parade.
The Hernando Beach Yacht Club offers a superb location for weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Enjoy beautiful sunsets overlooking Hernando Beach’s central canal. This unique wedding venue offers a full bar, kitchen, dining area, and dance hall, suitable for 100 guests.
Address: 4163 Shoal Line Blvd Hernando Beach, FL 34607
Hernando Beach Club
The Hernando Beach Club is in west-central Florida in Hernando County, directly on the coast and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The club is members-only. However, the club can be rented out to non-members for events. We’ve seen many a wedding take place here overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hernando Beach Post 9236
The VFW of Hernando Beach has many Veterans who meet at this post including the Auxiliary for a variety of outings and events. The Post Proudly Sponsors Voice of Democracy, Patriot’s Pen (Youth Essay Writing Contest), Teacher/EMT/Police Officer & Firefighter of the Year Awards. The staff, welcome and invite you to visit the VFW to enjoy the warm atmosphere and patriotic holiday celebrations. Considered the most revered spot by many locals, be sure to pay a visit.
Marina Rose Experience
This diner cruise includes food, beverages, & more. This Riverboat Replica offers 2-2.5-hour lunch and dinner cruises. Some of our favorite local restaurants provide the food. The vessel is operated by USCG Licensed Captains, with local knowledge.
Photo Credit: Marina Rose Experience
Fully enclosed & climate controlled with the option of open windows for a gulf breeze.
The dining area has great visibility & comfortable seating in a quiet, intimate environment.
Onboard restroom facility.
And you can reserve a private charter for almost any type of event! Up to 18 passengers. Take the Sunset Cruise for $59.99 per person. Phone: (352) 232-8128
Where To Buy Fresh Seafood
There are three local spots to buy fresh seafood:
Trader Bay Seafood
Phone: (352) 597-5170
Address: 4006 Shoal Line Blvd Hernando Beach, FL 34607
If you are planning on crab, it’s best to call ahead and order. The chances of a drive-by are slim if the crab is what you are after. Call and order at least a day before you plan to pick up.
Aripeka Stone Crab Company
Phone: (352) 232-5777
Address: 3080 Sunset Vista Dr, Spring Hill, FL 34607
From Boat to Table, Hernando Beach Seafood Fresh Fish
Located directly next to ZigZag Scallop.
Phone: (352) 596-6552
Address: 4417 Calienta St, Hernando Beach, FL 34607
If I’ve not convinced you yet that Hernando Beach is The Gulf Of Mexico’s Venice, I’m not sure you can be convinced! This is a treasure trove for those who have had the pleasure. A community that can’t be replicated. Daily you’ll see dolphins, stingrays, sharks, turtles (including loggerheads), and the most breathtaking sunsets that the gulf has to offer.
And, this is also one of the most affordable places to buy waterfront property on the west coast of Florida! I looked for two years then found the one. Zero regrets me, and I am still shocked at how inexpensive a slice of heaven is.
What did I miss, and what would you add? Why do you love Hernando Beach – comment below!
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job and travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.