THE MANATEE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
FLORIDA’S FASTEST GROWING ECO-TOURISM DESTINATION
THE MOST MANATEES ANYWHERE, PERIOD
In March 2015, the State of Florida’s Department of Fish and Game’s aerial survey found 6,063 manatees in Florida waters. Of those, 1,000 manatees manatees were found in one place: the waters of Crystal River’s Citrus County. Nowhere else in the world is there a greater number of manatees present in winter months.
THE ONLY PLACE YOU CAN SWIM WITH MANATEES
We’re the only place in the world where you can legally experience swimming with manatees and our guides are certified to make sure we treat this beloved endangered species with the utmost respect.
EPIC SWIMMABLE SPRINGS
- Kings Bay: with over 70 springs, a first magnitude springs complex.
- Three Sisters Springs: World renowned manatee spring in Crystal River. Simply breathtaking. Featured in National Geographic Magazine, April 2013.
- Homosassa Spring: First magnitude Homosassa Spring draws hundreds of manatees to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
- Chassahowitzka River: First magnitude springs in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
- Withlacoochee River: Spring-fed river ranging far inland into interior Florida.
- Rainbow River: Crystal clear feeder to the Withlacoochee with fantastic Rainbow Springs.
- Withlacoochee State Trail: 46 miles long paved recreation & bicycle trail. One of the greatest triumphs of the rails-to-trails movement in the USA.
- Withlacoochee State Forest: Voted one of The Ten Coolest Places You’ve Never Been in North America by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and home to the very rare red-cockaded woodpecker. You could hike for days here.
- Withlacoochee Bay Trail: part of the Cross Florida Greenway with a terminus on spectacular Withlacoochee Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.
- Crystal River Preserve State Park: With the gritty Seven-mile Loop and Eco-Walk, it’s a hiker, mountain biker & birders paradise filled with all that is wild in Florida.
Every day our fishing boats ply the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We have a rich tradition of American cooking distinct to the Gulf of Mexico and the American South and we’re happy to share our bounty with you—fresh grouper, red-fish, mullet, snapper, bay scallops, blue crab, stone crab, even Gator tail–the list goes on like a scene from Forrest Gump.
Whether scuba diving in underwater caves or diving for scallops in the Gulf, Crystal River’s Citrus County is a diver’s bonanza. Our outfitters will take care of your every need.
There are endless choices for kayaking, paddle-boarding, and canoeing with seven rivers, a chain of fresh water lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and an intricate world of islands, marsh and mangrove. We are teeming with outfitters to cater to your every adventure need.
We are among the oldest Sport Fishing centers of Florida with the Atlanta Homosassa Fishing Club and Homosassa Guides Association dating back a hundred years or more. American Baseball legend Ted Williams retired here just to fish! Here, you always come back with your catch and many of our restaurants are happy to cook it up for you.
WELCOMING SMALL TOWNS
- Crystal River: One of the top centers of Florida Eco-tourism with over 45 permitted guide operators and a world-class resort at The Plantation on Crystal River. There are plenty of hotel and food choices for a fraction of the cost of Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando.
- Homosassa: Historic fishing village with ties to old Florida food and customs featuring the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa Riverside Resort, and the rustic MacRae’s of Homosassa resort.
- Inverness: A thriving turn-of-the-century downtown provides a walkable nightlife setting on the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes and Withlacoochee State Trail.
- Floral City: Quintessential old Florida with streets lined by elegant oaks draped in Spanish moss. Fresh-fruit from our orchards and farms can be had in abundance here. Also on the Withlacoochee State Trail.
Crystal River & Citrus County is 70 miles north of Tampa International Airport and just 80 miles west of Orlando International.
FEEL WONDER AGAIN.
SEVEN SPECTACULAR STORY IDEAS
From a One-of-a-kind experience to 10,000 years of history, Citrus County has so much to be shared
GENTLE MANATEE GIANTS
Citrus County’s relatively warm, spring-fed waters attract North America’s largest manatee gathering each winter. The largest concentration can be found in the Crystal River but they are also found in the Homosassa River. A thousand-pound manatee in the wild, often with a baby or two alongside, is unforgettable. They react to the close-at-hand presence of swimmers, divers and waders with characteristic good nature. Citrus County is the only place in North America where nature lovers can legally swim and snorkel with these docile giants.
Birding in Citrus County can include anything from a flock of whooping cranes following an ultralight aircraft to soaring eagles to nesting sandhill cranes. Of course there are red birds and blue birds and every other color of the rainbow. Many Citrus County public parks and preserves have huge avian populations. The Great Florida Birding Trail has 445 official sites and 23 of them are in Citrus County. Get started on this story at the official website, FloridaBirdingTrail.com.
EASY PICKIN’S FOR A SEAFOOD SUPPER
Citrus County bay scallops can be found in the shallow Gulf Waters of off the coast during the recreational scalloping season that runs from late June through late September. The meat from a bay scallop is small, white and tender. Local guides help visitors find and collect scallops and tell them what the harvesting limits and regulations are. Once you’ve got your limit, take your bounty to one of the county’s local eateries where you eat your catch – can’t get any fresher than that! Story possibilities include the usual W’s plus recipes and beachfront cookouts.
FLORIDA’S FABLED FISHING GROUNDS
Salt or fresh…amateur or professional…Citrus County is a fisherman’s dream. Folks who want to trailer their own boats find excellent launch ramps and an assortment of waterside restaurants, fuel stops and boatyards. It’s only a short run to the open Gulf and as much adventure as you like. On your own it’s a great experience, but there’s nothing like a charter with an experienced guide to ensure a great day and a great catch.
Anglers seeking freshwater adventure have a very good chance of landing a bass that will look like a whale in the photograph if you hold it in front of your body at arm’s length. The Tsala Apopka chain of lakes near Inverness is a great place to begin.
A SECRET NO ONE CAN KEEP
Baseball great Ted Williams…Elvis Presley…Winslow Homer…they all visited Citrus County.
But, all of those fine visitors were latecomers compared to the Native Americans who made their way to Citrus County starting around 200 BC. A place for trading, gathering wild plants, collecting shellfish and exploring, the Calusa Indians created a vibrant economic and community center.
The remnants of this culture are on display at the Crystal River State Archaeological Site – a Florida state park located in Citrus County. This six-mound complex is the largest of the Deptford Period in the southeastern United States and is designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can take a trail through burial and temple mounds and shell middens. An unusual feature of the site are two upright ceremonial stones or “stelae,” one with the likeness of a human head carved on its surface. The visitors center/museum displays artifacts excavated at the site and links this with other mound building groups.
DRIFTIN’ AND DREAMIN’
Countless miles of little channels, larger streams and impressive rivers punctuate the Citrus County shoreline where land and Gulf of Mexico saltwater meet. Canoe and kayak trips reveal a world only seen by water. For a little something extra, try kayak fishing on our saltwater flats or paddle boarding our shore trail through mangrove islands.
HOMOSASSA SPRINGS STATE WILDLIFE PARK
The Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park is a refuge and rehabilitation center for manatees. The Park features other residents as well, including Yuma, a Florida Panther cub who was rescued when he was four days old and brought to the park when he was just a few months old.
There is a nature boardwalk, boat tour, educational programs and a “fish bowl” for underwater sightseeing. The large visitor’s center is filled with artwork and educational exhibits and displays.