In March 2015, Florida counted 6,063 manatees (Florida’s beloved “sea cows”) in the state. One thousand of those were residing in the warmer waters of Citrus County and Crystal River. Nowhere else in Florida are there as many manatees in winter. In fact, this is the only place in the USA where you can legally swim with manatees—a one-of-a-kind experience you don’t want to miss.
On dry land, four notable hiking and biking adventures are found on the paved long Withlacoochee State Trail, one of the greatest rails-to-trails in America.
There are four major towns in the county, each with its own distinct charm. Crystal River is one of Florida’s top ecotourism towns, with more than 40 licensed guides. Homosassa is an historic fishing village, which maintains an Old Florida flavor in its food and traditions. In the village of Inverness, a turn-of-the-century atmosphere has been preserved with interesting shops and restaurants. And in aptly named Floral City, elegant oaks draped in Spanish moss line the streets, and orchards and farms sell the juiciest fruit you’ve ever tasted.
You can observe Florida wildlife and marine life from an underwater observatory at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. At Crystal River Archaeological State Park, peer into America before Columbus. The Florida Artists Gallery in Floral City offers visitors the chance to dine in a café surrounded by the works of noted (and up-and-coming) Florida artists.
EAT AND PLAY
Restaurants in Citrus County serve fresh seafood that was swimming in the Gulf or Crystal River an hour or two prior to your order. Some of the most popular are the Crab Plant and Charlie’s Fish House in Crystal River and the Cedar Key Fish and Oyster Company’s “The Freezer” in Homosassa.
The highest elevation in Crystal River is a temple mound built as a ceremonial site by Native Americans before Europeans arrived in the Americas. Today it occupies a place of honor in Crystal River Archaeological State Park on the banks of the Crystal River.
There are actually two temple mounds here, along with four burial mounds, all built between 250 BC and AD 1000. Perhaps the most fascinating fact about this site is it documents that trade occurred between ancient people in far-off parts of the Americas. Archaeologists have actually found copper from the Great Lakes here.