There are few places in Florida where you can swim in crystal clear freshwater springs and moments later watch the sun melt into the gulf. Crystal River, Florida, is one of these rare places. Located on the beautiful gulf coast between Homosassa and Cedar Key, Crystal River is a little piece of paradise tucked away just minutes from US 19.
Crystal River is known for its springs and manatee sightings, however this lovely town is also a popular destination for divers and nature lovers alike. So, in the interest of expanding our Florida By Water reference material, we decided to see for ourselves what makes this area so special for the boating community.
Where to Stay
We arrived and checked into the beautiful and newly renovated Plantation Golf Resort and Spa. With great southernhospitality and charm, this resort did a fabulous job of mixing colonial comforts with modern tropical design. Although we arrived well before the 3pm check-in time, the hotel allowed us to launch our boat and use their facilities while they readied our room. We were thrilled to find the hotel had its own boat ramp, dockage, and trailer parking. Upon our return, check-in was a breeze, and the service was expeditious and friendly. The rooms were spacious and comfortable and provided all of the amenities we could hope for. We were able to dock our boat right outside our door, which was terrific in terms of security and convenience. Fabulous views of the river filled our sights as we relaxed in the tranquil swimming pool, and as we basked the sun on the clean and spacious deck area.
Locale Information: Dockage is against a sea wall so make sure you have plenty of bumpers to protect the boat. The boat ramp is somewhat narrow so you may need two people to unload the boat. The tides rise and fall somewhat dramatically so make sure that you allow slack in your dock lines to compensate.
Where to Eat
There are several places to dock your boat and enjoy a tropical drink or fresh local seafood in the area however, Crackers Bar and Grill is by far the place to be. With a huge outside deck, plenty of dockage, live entertainment, and great service you will find yourself enjoying an atmosphere that will be hard to leave.
Locale Information: If you plan to incorporate Crackers into your evening plans, arrive early as the dock fills up fast during the dinner hours.
What to Do
There are two things that you must do while visiting the Nature Coast. First you must visit Kings Bay and Three Sisters freshwater springs. Both can be enjoyed with snorkel or dive equipment, and chances are good that you will see manatee while in the springs. To get to Three Sisters spring you will need to go under a bridge with a clearance of 8-10 feet at high tide. Once you are in the springs there is no place to get out and rest so you’ll want to take some type of flotation device.
The second thing you must do before leaving this bit of paradise is take a boat ride at sunset to the Gulf. Follow the channel markers to the Gulf and once there, drop anchor and be prepared for a sunset that will take your breath away. Add a little cheese and your favorite beverage and you will have created an experience that will last a lifetime. While we were in the vicinity we were also fortunate enough to be entertained by a few dolphins playing by our boat.
There are many places to rent boats. For those who don’t have your own boat, or if you want a quick vacation without having to take your boat, we recommend the Plantation Inn.
If you’re looking for a relaxing place to get away for a few days, Crystal River is an idyllic location. Whether or not you choose to bring your boat, you will find a fantastic array of attractions to visit and activities to experience, both on land and in the water. Coupled with fantastic sunset views, terrific eateries, and lovely lodging accommodations, Crystal River is the perfect destination for a memorable family vacation or a romantic lover’s holiday.
Editors Notes: There is a public boat ramp off of US 19. Parking is across the street behind the fire station.