Recommended Experiences In and Around Crystal River

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Have you wanted to visit Crystal River? Perhaps you’ve heard of the amazing manatees that let you swim up close, or you have friends who visited the warm water springs with abundant wildlife. Do reviews about the attractions make you feel like you are missing out on something great? Whatever your reasons for wanting to visit, Crystal River has a lot to enoy.

Crystal River is a delightful coastal city in northwestern Florida, located along Kings Bay in Citrus County. A blend of small-town charm, rich ecological attractions and fascinating history, Crystal River offers a sampling of almost everything that a visitor to Citrus County would treasure—great seafood, nearby beaches, wonderful springs, delightful wildlife and more than enough sites to see during a holiday trip. Crystal River is traversed by the stunning river of the same name, an inlet that runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the city of Homosassa Springs.

If you are planning to visit Crystal River, here are some outings to consider:

1. Delightful snorkeling with the manatees

Snorkeling with manatees is an adventure you can enjoy to the fullest in Crystal River, Florida. The town is dotted with natural warm water springs that remain at a balmy 72 degrees throughout the year, drawing in manatees that seek to escape the colder gulf waters. Hundreds of sea cows congregate in the warm water springs every winter and a good number of them live in the springs throughout the year, making manatee sightseeing tours quite popular.

Only in Crystal River are you lawfully allowed to hop into the water and come face to face with the sea giants. And though you are not allowed to approach them, these curious creatures will approach you. They might even roll over for a belly rub or come in for a hug. Captain Mike’s Swimming with Manatees offers exciting and memorable snorkeling tours among the manatees.

2. Blissful scalloping excursion

If you want to enjoy a rare aquatic adventure, then try another Crystal River excursion: scalloping. These seafood delicacies are often served in Crystal River restaurants during their season. From June 27 to September 24, you may enjoy snorkeling in the water to gather up scallops and take them home.

Scalloping is a wildly popular family activity and an easy outdoor activity suitable for beginners. Scallops are quite delicious and you can experience the fun of finding them with little cost and minimal equipment. All you need is a snorkel, mask, fins, and a mesh bag for snorkelling along the surface of the water, looking for the scallops in the grass beds and then diving beneath the surface to collect them.

Don’t have a boat but yearn for a scalloping adventure? No need to worry. As with manatee tours, scalloping charters and boat rentals are offered by Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals and other outfitters in Crystal River.

3. Unmatched boat tours

A boat tour by a knowledgeable and experienced guide offers the pleasure of a ride through the natural aquatic wonders of Crystal River and its estuary. During your boat tour, you will learn about and see up close a vast array of flora and fauna from the unique ecosystems of the Nature Coast while taking in the stunning scenery. Captain Mike’s offers daily airboat rides in Crystal River and you can join meeting visitors from all over the world for a boat trip to the most glorious spots in Three Sisters Springs, a natural water inlet and home to many manatees.

If you would prefer to go on a tour without a guide, you can rent a boat and traverse the picturesque waterways at your own pace. With a rented boat, you pack your picnic lunch and meander the streams until you find a nice shaded spot to stop, relax and eat. Renting a boat makes it easy to dive into Crystal River’s warm water springs that maintain a constant temperature all year long. You can rent a safe and stable boat from Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals, get access to a dock and set out without any worries.

4. Memorable strolling in the springs

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (CRNWR) is a gem of the Nature Coast. Visitors to the refuge treat themselves to thrilling wildlife viewing, bicycling, hiking trails and guided tours. The 57-acre refuge that surrounds gorgeous Three Sisters Springs is an example of restored wetland habitat, allowing visitors to see the Wetland, Magnolia Spring, Lake Crystal and the scenic boardwalk that encircles Three Sisters Springs.

The boardwalk provides viewing platforms for observing the springs and native wildlife. You can make your way around the springs by using the winding boardwalk, which gives you a strategic vantage point over the sparkling blue waters below. The picturesque quarter mile boardwalk features several lookout platforms for spotting native wildlife, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians common to the Florida springs. And in the cold winter days, there are hundreds of manatees seeking warm water refuge in the springs.

5. Wonderful glimpses of the sunset

While Crystal River is not located directly on the coast, it is a short 15-minute drive from Fort Island Gulf Beach. The beach on the Gulf of Mexico is perfect for an afternoon picnic or lovely sunset. The Fort Island Beach Park is located at the very end of the Ft. Island Trail, which is a long relaxing meandering road that takes you to the place where the land meets the Gulf. From there, you can savor the sunsets in an array of pinks, oranges, reds and purples from the comfort of the beach at Ft. Island. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset and admission to the park is free.

6. Unforgettable paddling in the Chassahowitzka River

Kayaking on the beautiful Chassahowitzka River, simply called the Chazz, a 5-mile long river situated in southwestern Citrus County, just a 20-minute drive from Crystal River, is a wonderful experience. Spring-fed and bursting with all sorts of life, the Chazz offers a memorable paddling excursion in crystal clear water. For your paddling trip, you can rent a boat or kayak at Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals and paddle leisurely along the Chazz to its source—a natural spring that everyone just calls “The Crack”.

The Chazz is another site in Crystal River where you can see manatees. You can also see lots of birds including bald eagles and plenty of mullet (fish that like leaping out of the water). The Chassahowitzka is part of the larger Chassahowitzka National Refuge, and should definitely be on your list if you are looking for a chilled-out day trip.

7. Terrific time with Lu the Hippo at Homosassa Springs

With a stop at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, found less than 15 minutes from Crystal River, you can see a variety of animals. Initially opened as a typical zoo in the early 1900s, the park has grown and is today run by the state of Florida. Animals to be found there include resident manatees, bald eagles, alligators and even an orphaned Florida panther.

One odd animal you will find in Homosassa Springs is Lu the Hippo. While hippos are certainly not indigenous to Florida, the locals petitioned for Lu the hippo to remain at the park when the state took over since the animal had been a beloved resident for so long. The state eventually granted Lu the Hippo honorary Florida Citizenship in order to continue living at Homosassa Springs. An encounter with Lu the Hippo will definitely be amazing and memorable.

8. Fascinating fishing expedition

Crystal River waterways have never had a shortage of fish to catch. For a fishing trip, you have the options of saltwater sport fishing in the Crystal River and Homosassa River, freshwater fishing in the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes or, when feeling more adventurous, an offshore deep sea fishing excursion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Before you set out, check with the Florida Fish & Wildlife website to determine which fish are in season and the species catch limits and measurements. On your own, you will need a valid fishing permit. An easier way to satisfy all the requirements is to book your tour with a reputable outfitter, such as Captain Mike’s. They provide all the charters and equipment you need for your tour. No need to bring anything.

Fishing excursion can be exciting, and while you never know what you will catch, you will be free to choose what time to begin and end your adventure since boat charters are quite flexible as long as the weather is friendly. In fact, you only need to find a guide and spend your day in the boat relaxing in the water as you get to know the various species of fish in the area and try your luck at landing the biggest catch of the day.

9. Take a day off to hike and bike

Crystal River Preserve State Park is one of several preserved Florida State Parks. Boasting of 27,000 acres of unexploited natural wonders for those who like hiking, biking and nature observations, you can always find a place to explore. There are five public trails in the park—the Seven Mile Loop Trail, the Eco-Walk Trail, the Crystal Core Trail, the Churchhouse Hammock Trail and the Dixie Shore Trail—all of which showcase beautiful forests, creeks, marshes and mangrove islands. If you visit Crystal River, just inquire whether a hiking and biking excursion in the park can be included.

10. Experience historic downtown Crystal River

Perhaps there is no better way to end a day of exploring Crystal River than soaking up the local flavor of the city’s downtown. Stroll through Heritage Village, drift into the Coastal Heritage Museum for a glimpse back in time, or simply walk along the streets to savor the unique food, drink and shopping. You can also take a walk on North Citrus Avenue among canopied oaks, magnolias and palm trees, or grab some lunch or shop for souvenirs. The town is warm and friendly and you will enjoy the visit.

Located along central Florida’s Nature Coast, Crystal River is a quiet but adventurous town. From November to March, the town attracts tourists from around the world who come to sample the outdoor adventures, history and remarkably good food. Acclaimed as the Manatee Capital of the world, Crystal River offers the rare opportunity to see and swim with these gentle giants. For more information about manatee tours and other attractions in Crystal River, Florida, visit the Captain Mike’s Swimming With the Manatees website.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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