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A carefree destination for outdoor recreation, Crystal River is the hub of Florida’s Nature Coast, and a winter home for hundreds of Florida’s manatees. Cabins and campgrounds are common here, with dive shops and dive resorts catering to underwater explorers. Swim and snorkel with the manatees as they return to the springs of Crystal River, or paddle through a pristine estuary along one of the spring-fed rivers. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park gets you up close to native wildlife, including manatees, alligators, and Florida panthers; you can stare a snook in the face with a walk under water in the Fish Bowl. Launching from Crystal ...

A carefree destination for outdoor recreation, Crystal River is the hub of Florida’s Nature Coast, and a winter home for hundreds of Florida’s manatees. Cabins and campgrounds are common here, with dive shops and dive resorts catering to underwater explorers. Swim and snorkel with the manatees as they return to the springs of Crystal River, or paddle through a pristine estuary along one of the spring-fed rivers. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park gets you up close to native wildlife, including manatees, alligators, and Florida panthers; you can stare a snook in the face with a walk under water in the Fish Bowl. Launching from Crystal River Preserve State Park, an interpretive cruise along Crystal River offers another manatee-watching opportunity. Ecotours also launch from the docks at Old Homosassa, the former plantation of Florida territorial senator David Yulee. Torched during the Civil War, the ruins of the sugar works remain, under a canopy of ancient live oaks adjacent to the Old Mill Printing Museum. Archaeological finds date this region as one of Florida’s oldest settlements, with a pre-Columbian mound complex occupied for more than 1,600 years. The bounty of the sea drew ancient peoples here, and today’s visitors should sample the seafood at one of the many waterfront restaurants, including picturesque Peck’s Old Port Cove, at the end of a 9-mile winding road through the estuary to Ozello.

Sandra Friend
About the Expert

Sandra Friend has written 12 books about Florida, including the Explorer's Guide (Countryman Press) series to Florida.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Winter and spring