The Orlando Area’s Premier
Airboat Ride & Restaurant Destination

2316 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo  •  407-365-1244  •  Hours & Location  •  About Us   

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The Rich History of The Black Hammock: A Journey Through Time

Joel Martin, the visionary behind The Black Hammock, was born in Paris, France. His early years were marked by an adventurous upbringing in Africa, where his family moved when he was young. Immersed in the continent’s breathtaking wildlife, Joel spent much of his youth exploring the jungles, hunting snakes, alligators, and other creatures. His survival skills were sharpened by the guidance of his African and Malgache friends, instilling in him a deep appreciation for nature and adventure.

Joel returned to France to fulfill his tour of duty, choosing to serve in the Navy based in Toulon, in the picturesque south of France. After completing his service, he settled in Corsica, where he opened a restaurant and nightclub, along with maintaining a small ranch where he indulged his passion for horse riding. Twelve years in Corsica honed Joel’s entrepreneurial spirit, leading him to open a franchise of mini supermarkets in several ski resorts across the French Alps.

The allure of the French Riviera eventually drew Joel and his family, where he ventured into the real estate business. However, fate had other plans. On July 4, 1995, Joel won a green card lottery, granting him the opportunity to emigrate to America. Embracing this new chapter without hesitation, Joel packed up his family and moved to Florida, a state whose heat and humidity reminded him of his youth in Africa.

Settling in the Oviedo area, Joel found a place where he could live in the country and keep his horse. It was during a morning walk that he stumbled upon The Black Hammock Restaurant, situated on the serene shores of Lake Jesup. Enchanted by the mangroves and alligators, Joel knew he had found his paradise, a place that mirrored the wild beauty of Africa. 

Fully embracing his new life in America, Joel obtained his American citizenship, truly living out his American dream. To enhance The Black Hammock’s airboat business, Joel earned his Master Airboat License, a qualification held by all of Black Hammock’s airboat pilots, ensuring top-tier safety and expertise for their guests.

The Black Hammock Adventure complex, located east of Orlando, offers a unique blend of excitement and relaxation. Nestled at the end of a winding road through citrus groves, the complex features thrilling airboat rides, an award-winning restaurant, a gift shop, the Lazy Gator Bar, and a live gator exhibit. Every Sunday, visitors can witness the feeding of the gators, weather permitting.

Situated in the heart of Seminole County along the middle basin of the St. Johns River, Lake Jesup spans approximately 10,000 acres with a circumference of 28 miles, eventually connecting to the St. Johns River. This 100,000-year-old lake is renowned for its dense alligator population, home to over 9,000 alligators—the largest concentration in any U.S. lake. The lake also hosts a variety of bird species, bald eagles, wild boars, bobcats, and rich anthropological artifacts from Native American history. Environmental research conducted by three major universities underscores Lake Jesup’s ecological significance.

The Black Hammock Restaurant, a focal point of the complex, offers a unique dining experience where baby gators lounge in an aquarium that backs up to a booth in the dining room, bringing a touch of the wild indoors. 

However, the highlight of The Black Hammock experience is undoubtedly the airboat rides. Guests can embark on one of three airboats that depart every 30 minutes for tours of the gator-populated Lake Jesup, offering an exhilarating adventure. The Lazy Gator Bar provides a relaxing spot to unwind with a refreshing drink, while the gift shop offers souvenirs to commemorate the visit.

Through Joel Martin’s vision and dedication, The Black Hammock has evolved into a beloved destination that combines culinary excellence, thrilling outdoor adventures, and a deep appreciation for Florida’s natural beauty. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time patron, The Black Hammock invites you to become part of its ongoing story, a testament to the rich history and vibrant life of Central Florida.

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