Looking for some old Florida fun? Crystal River and Citrus County are hidden gems on the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast teeming with crystal clear springs, friendly manatees, charming historic districts and epic fishing adventures. Skip the beach vacation or mouse ears, and opt for an encounter with the bona fide side of Florida in Citrus County. Immerse yourself in an authentic Florida adventure with these eight must-see attractions.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Three Sisters Springs
This unspoiled oasis is one of the Sunshine State’s most stunning springs and one of the best places to meet a manatee. Three Sisters Springs is one of 70 springs in Kings Bay, a first-magnitude Florida springs complex and the most important natural winter refuge for manatees in the United States. These gentle giants can be seen by land, paddleboard or boat, and an off-site trolley will take visitors to a boardwalk where you can watch the manatees glide through the translucent waters. While Three Sisters Springs is a hotspot for these charming creatures during their peak season from November to March, swimmers and paddlers can beat the Florida heat here in the summer by cooling off in the 73-degree crystal clear water.
Catch a glimpse of some of Homosassa’s cutest residents on Monkey Island. Located across from the Homosassa Riverside Resort, this island on the Homosassa River is where five spider monkeys reside and play. But there’s more history to this little water-bound oasis than just cute primates.
In the 1960s, G.A. “Furgy” Furgason was a prominent developer in Homosassa who built the Homosassa Riverside Resort, as well as the little “island” on the river. During this time, several monkeys from a wildlife attraction further upstream were wreaking havoc on the town, so Furgy had the mischievous monkeys relocated to what’s now known as Monkey Island. For the past 50 years, the spider monkeys have been taken care of by the Homosassa Riverside Resort, fed a healthy diet of fruits and leafy vegetables, and enjoy playing and watching the passersby on the river.
Take a step back in time and enjoy the simple pleasures of a classic Florida roadside fruit stand. Ferris Groves has been a mainstay of Florida citrus for more than 80 years and its fresh fruits are still worth a detour. The sunny orange-and-white-striped canopy still has a retro feel that’s sure to evoke memories of simpler times. Ferris Groves is open from November to mid-April and sells citrus galore, with some of Florida’s freshest navel and Valencia oranges, ruby red grapefruit, fall glow tangerines and the legendary Ferris Berry — known as some of the juiciest, most plump strawberries you’ll find in the Sunshine State. This unique fruit stand has expanded over the years to include salsa, butter, sauces, candies, and gourmet jams and jelly. However, a visit here isn’t complete without a taste of Florida’s fresh-squeezed orange juice or a handcrafted strawberry milkshake.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is dedicated to Florida’s native wildlife and is centered around beautiful Homosassa Springs. Visitors can not only admire manatees year-round, but also get their adrenaline pumping with wildlife spotting of Florida panthers, alligators, red wolves, and many other species of birds, reptiles and mammals that call the Sunshine State home. To truly experience this state park, you must take in the spectacular views from an eye-level perspective at the underwater observatory. Get up-close to manatees and schools of fish in their natural habitat and visit Lu, the oldest hippopotamus in North America.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park
Climb to the highest point of Crystal River at this incredible historic site. The Crystal River Archaeological State Park is a 61-acre site that features ceremonial and burial mounds built by Native Americans. The National Historic Landmark features six mounds and was a site where Native Americans traveled to bury their dead and conduct trade for nearly 1,600 years. The tallest mound overlooks Crystal River, a beautiful site to watch the sunset and take in the surrounding nature.
Shop Crystal River’s Historic Downtown
Citrus Avenue in Crystal River is lined with unique shops and restaurants that are well worth a day trip. Located only a few blocks from the waterfront, some of these quaint specialty shops are nestled in historic homes. Many of The Shoppes of Heritage Village are housed in small, cracker-style cottages with wrap-around porches, preserving the old Florida feeling of a fisherman’s village of the past. Wallow in a delightful stroll under the canopy of oak, palm and magnolia trees as you pop in and out of charming shops, restaurants, art galleries and cafes.
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins
History buffs can learn more about Citrus County’s past at the ruins of an old 5,100-acre sugar plantation. The Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park in Homosassa was once a thriving sugar mill that operated from 1851 to 1864, providing sugar products to the South’s soldiers in the Civil War. Today, visitors can see what’s left of this antebellum Florida plantation — a 40-foot limestone masonry chimney, iron gears and a cane press.
Local Eateries to Cook Your Catch
Crystal River and Homosassa are known as great destinations for scalloping and saltwater fishing, but after a day on the water, stomach rumble is almost inevitable. That’s why more than 15 restaurants in the area, including Charlie’s Fish House and Peck’s Old Port Cove, offer a time-honored tradition of cooking your fresh catch. Simply rinse and gather your scallops or fish, call ahead at participating restaurants, and let the chefs do the rest. Traditional cook-your-catch meals include all the appropriate fixins and can even be served family style for a feast everyone can dive into.
With so much to explore in Crystal River and Florida’s Citrus County, it’s hard not to find an adventure around every corner. Whether you come for the day, the weekend or more, this Gulf Coast destination will lure you back for more old Florida fun. Visit DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com to plan your next adventure!