Just a short drive from the Orlando theme parks sits a wholly different kind of attraction. The Black Hammock offers one the best thrill rides in Florida: the airboat ride! It’s your can’t-miss ticket to plenty of air and sunshine, authentic flora and fauna, and up-close (but not too personal) encounters with alligators.
These treks are a wind-in-your-face blast. Strap into the airboat, and off you go on an adventure that ranges from smooth sailing to hair-raising. The captain is also your knowledgeable tour guide, and will make sure your trip is both fun and informative. The airboats slither through narrow green canopies, over fields of seagrass, around mangrove islets and out into open water. There’s every likelihood that you’ll make a couple of stops to get a boat’s-eye view of a gator. That’s partly because the Lake Jesup has the largest gator population of any lake in the U.S., and partly because the captains are so adept at spotting them.
Black Hammock airboat rides come in an array of options for individuals and groups, starting with an exhilarating 30-minute jaunt. You can also schedule a one-hour ride, or embark on a VIP Eco-Tour through a unique Florida ecosystem that includes tropical hardwood hammocks, cypress domes, a wild array of plants and plenty of wildlife in their natural habitat (starring, naturally… gators). Black Hammock also offers a night ride, a “Ride and Dine” and a “Ride and Sip.”
Airboat rides might be the big draw at The Black Hammock, but there’s way more going on than that. The rustic complex provides all-day (and into the night) fun. It’s located in Oviedo, at the end of a road that winds through citrus groves, sitting on the shores of 10,000-acre Lake Jesup. Pull up, and you’re in the midst of Real Florida.
Just past the entrance sits the Lazy Gator Bar, a vibrant meeting place with indoor seating and ample outdoor seating under shade — with lovely views of the lake. The restaurant is following COVID-19 guidelines by placing tables at least six feet apart. Servers and other kitchen staff wear masks.
The same best practices are in effect at the award-winning full-service Black Hammock Restaurant, which serves scrumptious Southern fare. Top of the menu: Gator Bites, locally harvested and served blackened, Buffalo, Cajun or Florida style.
Before you leave, don’t miss the Gator Exhibit and the Parrot Jungle. And just so you can prove you were there, a fun gator-themed souvenir awaits at the gift shop.
Care to stay a night or two or more? Black Hammock has eight vacation rental properties available. If you want to mix some luxury with your Real Florida stay, try Gator Mansion — two stories, six bedrooms, five bathrooms, and abundant amenities. On the more modest end of the accommodations is Gator Cottage, a new two-bedroom, one-bath abode on five acres. A group of four can stay here comfortably.
The Black Hammock is owned by Joel Martin, who was born in Paris and grew up in Africa surrounded by magnificent wildlife. After living in the French Alps and the French Riviera, he emigrated to Florida. Joel found the rural lifestyle he was looking for in Oviedo, where he could ride his horse. On one of those rides, he came upon the Black Hammock Restaurant. It reminded him of his childhood. Joel knew he had to buy the place.
Over the years, he has added more and more features to The Black Hammock. It’s now widely regarded as one of the most unique attractions in Central Florida, and the ideal destination for folks who like authentic fun, as opposed to the “themed” variety.
The Black Hammock is open during the COVID-19 pandemic and is committed to putting the health and safety of its guests first. The attraction is employing all the latest coronavirus protocols, including mask usage and social distancing requirements.
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