Crystal River is a small and pleasant coastal town located north of Tampa with spectacular natural features and wildlife. Many people don’t know about the city and usually forget to visit it during their trips to Florida, but they’re totally missing out. The town is blessed with a refreshing temperature year-round and has been dubbed the Gem of Florida’s Nature Coast as well as the Home of the Manatee. Here are some of the most popular things to do while visiting the beautiful city of Crystal River:
Swim with Manatees
As I mentioned earlier, Crystal River is known as a haven for West Indian Manatees. The town also has a few companies like River Ventures Manatee Tour Center and Plantation Adventure Center that give you the chance to swim with these beautiful creatures and learn more about their biology and behavior. Manatees usually migrate to Florida during winter since places like Crystal River maintain the perfect water temperature for them as they try to escape colder waters. There are also resident manatees that can be spotted near the city’s natural springs throughout the whole year.
Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
The name of the park may be a mouthful, but the Chassahowitzka Refuge is completely worth a visit if you’re in Crystal River. The 31,000-acre preserve runs along the Chassahowitzka River and is the chosen habitat of over 250 species of birds, 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 25 species of mammals such as the West Indian Manatee. The park is a popular place for fishing and hunting and makes a great RV camping site with over 53 RV sites, 28 primitive tent sites, boat ramps, rentals, and parking.
Visiting Three Sister Springs is another way to appreciate the city’s crystal-clear waters. The springs are a favorite spot for manatees and a cool place to go swimming and kayaking. In case you don’t want to get your feet wet, there’s a neat boardwalk where you can safely observe the beautiful springs and local wildlife. By taking the nature trails available at the site, you can even see one-of-a-kind views of Kings Bay, Lake Crystal, and Magnolia Springs.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
The famous Homosassa Springs started off as an attraction and has since been transformed into a state park and nature preserve. Operating since the 1940s, the springs are home to several animals such as gators, eagles, and even a panther that were originally trained for television and film. The park is also home to Lu, Crystal River's beloved hippopotamus. The 58-year-old hippo is the oldest in captivity in North and South America and is now considered a Crystal River local since being named an honorary citizen of the State of Florida in 1991!
Related content: The Famous Monkey Island in Homosassa
Visiting Crystal River gives you a great opportunity to go to the beach without having to deal with the usual Florida tourists. Fort Island Trail Beach offers the perfect spot to hang out with your family, have a picnic, or just enjoy a little R&R. You might even see an awesome sunset while you’re there!
Crystal River may be off the radar for most people traveling through Florida, but visiting this delightful town is a great opportunity to view incredible natural environments and local wildlife. Let us know what you think of Crystal River in the comments below, and remember to register on 352area for more things to do in North Central Florida.
Cover photo courtesy of PxHere