Crys­tal River & Cit­rus County: The Man­a­tee Cap­i­tal of the World

Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY STEVE WIN­STON

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 oneof-a-kind ex­pe­ri­ence you don’t want to miss.


On dry land, four no­table hik­ing and bik­ing ad­ven­tures are found on the paved 46-mile- 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-the­cen­tury 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 upand-com­ing) Florida artists.


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.

TOP: Snor­kel­ing with man­a­tees in Crys­tal River. CEN­TER: Shop­ping in down­town Crys­tal River Main­street Her­itage Vil­lage.

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