Nature Coast hot spot offers fishing, scalloping, cook-your-catch and more
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (April 12, 2023) – For those making spring and summer travel plans, Crystal River, Florida, and the surrounding cities of Homosassa, Inverness and Floral City offer big adventures ideal for quick getaways or week-long vacations. Located about 75 minutes north of Tampa and 90 minutes west of Orlando, Crystal River is perfectly located on the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s Nature Coast, making it easy to access, yet pleasantly off the beaten path, and packs in the value. Here are five fan-favorite adventures awaiting travelers in Citrus County this spring and summer.
Hooked on Fishing – Cast a Line Anywhere
Fishing is a way of life in Citrus County that goes back generations. Some of the best inshore and offshore fishing guides anywhere are here, ready to share their experience gained from a lifetime on the water. These expert guides know how to make the most of a day, tailoring fishing trips to the season, weather conditions, and desires of professional and recreational anglers alike. Citrus County is home to some of the world’s most sought-after fishing destinations, including the Chassahowitzka, Halls, Crystal and Homosassa rivers. Here they lead the hunt for both freshwater and saltwater species, with bass, sheepshead, and bluegill among the common catches near the headwaters. As these rivers make their way to the Gulf of Mexico, anglers cruise shallow grassy flats teeming with redfish, spotted sea trout, snook and tarpon. Offshore, anglers target amberjack, gag grouper, and other species that call the deeper waters home. Inland, Lake Rousseau and the 30-mile-long Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes along the margin of the Withlacoochee River are home to large-mouth bass, white bass, crappie, stripers, bowfin, and gar, making it one of Florida’s top freshwater fishing sites.
Scallop Season – A Florida Tradition
Crystal River and Homosassa’s scalloping season (Jul 1-Sep 24) brings excited visitors from far and wide for their share of fresh-caught bay scallops. Hidden like underwater Easter eggs in the grassy ocean bottom, scallops are found four to six feet below in the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico. Their many blue “eyes” glow like tiny lights around the rim of their shells, making them easier to find, but if they decide to take off, the scallops can propel themselves through the water by opening and closing their shells, and then the chase is on. Scalloping is a family-friendly underwater adventure that only requires a mask, snorkel, flippers, and scoop net. As a bonus, divers usually also encounter starfish, seahorses, and other marine animals during the process. A saltwater fishing license is required unless scalloping with a charter captain, which is one reason hiring a local guide is highly recommended. They know the water well, taking divers straight to the best spots to find scallops and providing everything needed for a fun and productive day on the water. An esteemed local tradition, scalloping is a fun, easy experience, and a Florida family favorite.
A Sensational Meal – Waterfront Views and Fresh Flavor
Citrus County’s access to water gives the dining scene much of its charm, from historic fishing operations to local favorites. Waterfront dining offers picturesque views and there are plenty of delicious options to fuel the fun. Fishing or scalloping in Crystal River and Homosassa often includes a unique, time-honored Florida tradition: cook your catch. After a fun full day of fishing or scalloping, hungry visitors can enjoy their spoils courtesy of local chefs who are experts in creating flavorful dishes that are sure to delight. Simply call ahead to one of the participating restaurants before bringing in your cleaned catch, and they will do the rest, transforming your trophy into a memorable meal, complete with plenty of southern-style, home-cooked fixins’.
Choose Your Own Path – Hike, Bike or Paddle
Citrus County is graced with a sinuous system of amazing trails and pathways to wander and immerse yourself in nature. The Crystal River National Refuge offers exceptional hiking via the Chassahowitzka Salt Marsh Trails, and the Crystal River Preserve State Park features the Churchhouse Hammock Boardwalk, the Dixie Shores Trails and the Lake Loop. Further east is the Withlacoochee State Forest Trail, one of America’s top-rated Rails-to-Trails cycling corridors. At 46 miles long, the trail runs through six distinct natural communities, the vibrant, historic towns of Inverness and Floral City, and small towns and ranches. For those who prefer a path on water, the Chassahowitzka River and mangrove islands of the Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve are paddling paradise. It is a spectacular showcase of everything still wild in Florida – a labyrinthine world of seven rivers, crystal clear springs, open bays and freshwater lakes that seem to go on forever.
Engaging Encounters – Manatees, Mermaid and More
Homosassa is home to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, one of the most visited parks in Florida. Dedicated to Florida’s native wildlife, the park’s residents include Florida panthers, American alligators, and Lu the hippo, but the highlight is “The Fish Bowl,” an underwater observatory offering an amazing view of manatees and swirling schools of fish. Also unique to Citrus County is the newly opened Mertailor’s Mermaid Aquarium Encounter, where guests can interact with a variety of sea creatures in touch tanks, and catch a daily mermaid show staged in the 15,000-gallon Caribbean Saltwater Aquarium. For a taste of true local life, plan your stay for the first weekend of the month, when the community gathers at Crystal River Town Square for “First Friday.” On the county’s eastern side, visitors enjoy exploring the Market at The Depot in Inverness every first and third weekend, bringing together more than 75 hand-picked vendors with fresh and artisanal products.
Regardless of which big adventure you choose, there are plenty of lodging options, including hotels, bed & breakfast inns, vacation rentals, motels and a variety of campgrounds. Start planning your spring or summertime getaway now at DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com.
About Crystal River Florida
Widely known as the Manatee Capital of the World, Crystal River, Florida, is the only place in the United States to legally experience the up-close encounter of swimming with these gentle giants. Located in Central Florida’s Gulf Coast, Crystal River and the surrounding cities of Old Homosassa, Inverness and Floral City are an authentic showcase of outdoor adventure and scenic beauty. Within tens of thousands of acres of protected state parks, forests and wildlife refuges, visitors can explore miles of bicycling, walking, birding, horseback riding and hiking trails to unlock a wild and wonderful world of natural, recreational and archaeological treasures. Pristine swimmable springs and a shimmering network of rivers, lakes, marshlands and mangroves make Crystal River perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, boating, fishing and floating. Feeding the fun is a creative collection of restaurants, pubs, bistros and bars serving up freshly caught seafood and other seasonal favorites all year long – from summer scallop season, to fall blue crab season, to manatee season and a year-round fishing season. Begin your adventure at DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com or call (352) 794-5506.
List of experts available to interview:
- Crystal River Fishing Guides
- Homosassa Fishing Guides
- Inverness Fishing Guides
- Scalloping Guides
- Discover Crystal River Florida Spokesperson