Crystal River – Manatee Capital of the World

MANATEES AND  MORE THINGS TO DO IN CRYSTAL RIVER

Swim With Manatees Crystal River

Swimming with the manatees is a popular thing to do in Crystal River.

One of the most popular things to do in Crystal River is a boat ride in King’s Bay. You will quickly see why Crystal River is called the Manatee Capital

of the World. These gentle sea cows are literally everywhere. In fact, our first contact with a manatee a decade ago was as we enjoyed a refreshment at the tiki bar of our hotel. As we looked over an inlet leading to King’s Bay, a manatee was chewing on some leaves on a low-hanging branch no more than 25 feet from us.

Since that time we have learned that the area is the home to hundreds of manatees year round. One of the reasons is Three Sister’s Springs. Located in

Crystal River Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River Refuge

the heart of Crystal River, Three Sisters Spring flows into King’s Bay and the river basin. This provides year-round protection, food and breeding reserve in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

Fans and curiosity seekers flood into Crystal River to swim with the gentle giants of the river. There are dozens of charter companies who will take you to multiple locations where manatees lazily forage. Swimming with the manatee is probably one of the most popular things to do in Crystal River and Citrus County. 

SCALLOPING SEASON CRYSTAL RIVER

While the manatees rule the shallows, the flats around Crystal River host Scallop Season every year in July that bringing thousands of people to Crystal River! If you like the water, scallops for dinner and fun, just head to Crystal River. 
Scalloping Crystal River

Boy scalloping in Crystal River

Hire a boat to take you out in the shallow waters of the bay to gather scallops. It’s a fun day rewarded by some great eats. You can find boat captains at The Plantation Inn and other locations in Crystal River.

Our recommendation is to stop by the Adventure Center at the Plantation Inn and ask about the best time to go scalloping, the best charter captains and the snorkel equipment needed.  Of course, our recommendation may include a beer or two at the Plantation Inn tiki bar a few steps from the marina.

An experienced guide generally furnishes you a mask and snorkel to find those little mollusks in a couple feet of water. The views will be gorgeous as you motor out to the shallows. The Crystal River basin has thousands of acres of shallow sea grasses that are the perfect estuary for bay scallops.

Plantation Inn Crystal River

Fountain in front of the Plantation Inn

Other Things To Do in Crystal River

While late summer is scallop season, fishing for snook, redfish and trout is excellent in this area year-round. Some of the charter captains can give you detailed assistance in planning a great inshore fishing trip. Offshore, grouper, snapper and other pelagics roam the clear gulf waters.

While the Plantation Inn has a golf course, if you want world-class golfing, go to World Woods. World Woods has two very well groomed courses just 20 minutes away. Another golf option is Black Diamond about 30 minutes away. Black Diamond is one of the top ten courses in Florida.

Just about eight or ten miles south is the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park and just a few minutes from there is the

Crumps Landing Homosassa

Crumps Landing at Homosassa Springs

sprawling tiki bar Crump’s Landing. Probably one of the largest tiki bar’s you can find.

You can also check out some charters to swim with the manatees at the springs. This is one of the most popular things to do in Homosassa Springs.

Places to Eat in Crystal River

Hungry? Try lunch at Crackers on the waterfront about a mile down the bay from the Plantation Inn. The food is average bar food, but the view of the bay is great! In “downtown” Crystal River you will find places to shop, eat and drink on Citrus Ave. a mile or two north of the Plantation Inn. One of the newest places we like is St. John’s Tavern. The tavern is a total remodel of an historical building with great service and many draft beer choices. They have a darn good burger too!

Pecks Old Port Cove Inn

Peck’s Old Port Cove is known for their blue crabs.

Down the street is the new Kane’s Cattle Company. They advertise locally raised beef and the steaks are superb. The locals say Kane’s is a great addition to the food scene. 

Want seafood? We recommend Seafood Seller. Their Cajun twist on seafood classics is our favorite, but the Crab Plant is always fresh and a rustic way to enjoy seafood. 

Kane's-steak-house-crystal-river

Kane’s is supposed to have their own farm raised cattle. Good place for steaks.

For a little adventure, take the drive to Ozello, Florida. This little village in the middle of salt grass flats is about 20 minutes south of Crystal River. At the end of the Ozello Trail Road, you will find a restaurant called Peck’s Old Port Cove Inn. This is one of our favorites. Fresh blue crabs highlight the menu as well as local clams. The clam chowder is one of the best you will find. Your view while dining will be the Crystal River basin opening up to a large bay. Make this one of the things to do in Crystal River!

 

If you decide to make a Florida day trip an overnight stay, The Plantation Inn is the grand old dame of the area. If you are looking for elegance, don’t bother. This hotel is convenient and has character at a very reasonable price. The hotel still has an inviting tiki bar outside and Plantation’s own golf course across the street. 

A few miles north is a Best Western if you want a name brand.

This Florida day trip is about an hour and a half from Tampa or Clearwater north along the Gulf coast. From Orlando it is about a two-hour day trip. Last updated May, 2022.

tiki bar Plantation Inn
These ladies enjoying the tiki bar at the Plantation Inn in Crystal River.
St. John's Tavern in Crystal River is a great place to watch sports and try their hamburger!

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