With seven “Outstanding Florida Waterways” to its credit, Citrus County has every imaginable venue for every kind of watercraft. Whether you favor fresh water or saltwater, you’ll find plenty of marinas, launch ramps, piers and docks. This is one reason why the area is known as The Water Lover’s Florida.
The coastal communities of Crystal River and Homosassa are gateways both to boating opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and through rich estuaries to lazy rivers filled with natural appeal. Guests can take a boating tour on the Crystal, Homosassa or Chassahowitzka Rivers from one of several local tour companies, This offers the chance to take in some remarkable scenery, learn about the teeming ecosystems and rich history of the Nature Coast, and have a lot of fun along the way.
What’s more, manatee tours operate all year round, although the very best time to meet a manatee is in the cooler months. As the water temperature in the ocean drops, hundreds of manatees make their way into the comparatively warm springs and spring-fed rivers of Citrus County, creating North America's largest manatee gathering every year. These guided trips often depart early in the morning, carrying you to ideal grounds for sea-cow encounter in the crisp morning air. Tour operators typically supply a snorkel and fins; just don't forget a swimsuit—and your sense of wonder.
Visitors can also rent a boat and traverse the area's picturesque waterways at their own pace. One fun way to explore is to pack a picnic lunch and meander until you find a nice shaded place to stop and eat. Several restaurants along Citrus County's waterways also offer dock access. Plus, renting a boat makes it easy to dive into the area's many springs, which have consistent temperatures all year long for your swimming pleasure.
Another seasonal sensation is scalloping. Yielding a great deal of fun with little cost or equipment needed, scalloping is a wildly popular family activity from June 1 to September 10 each year. Grab a snorkel and mesh bag to harvest scallops in about six feet of water a short way offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. As with manatee swims, many guide services are available, or guests can take their own or rented boats out to the grassy lip of the Gulf of Mexico and get in on the excitement. Coastal accommodations tend to fill up quickly during the scalloping season, so reservations should be made well in advance.
Speaking of rentals, canoe and kayak rentals are as plentiful as they are affordable in and around Crystal River and Homosassa. Guests from all over come to the area specifically for a paddling trip. One of the most glorious spots is Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River; it is a natural inlet and home to many manatees.
For listings of accommodations, locations, guides, marinas, boat rental companies—as well as interactive paddling maps and more—go to VisitCitrus.com, the official site of the Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau. Information Provided By Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau. Photo By Rusty Gardner