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8 Things to do in Crystal River, Florida

August 1, 2022

Florida

Florida, North America, Travel Guides, USA

If you’re looking for a unique beach destination in the United States, Crystal River, Florida should be at the top of your list. Not only does it have beautiful beaches, but it is also the only place in North America where you can legally swim with manatees! From stunning natural springs and delicious food to beautiful beaches and wildlife encounters, Crystal River is a great family-friendly destination with so many fun things to do and experience. Here are eight things to do in Crystal River, Florida:

8 Things to do in Crystal River, Florida:

Swim with Manatees:

Crystal River, Florida is the only place in North America where you can legally swim with Manatees! We booked our tour with Explorida Adventures and had an incredible experience. Swimming with manatees is such a unique, once-in-a-lifetime type experience. You hop in the water and they basically just float next to you while they eat sea grass. It’s such a calm and surreal underwater experience. It’s definitely a bucket list activity, so you can’t come to Crystal River and not do this! It was an experience we will never forget! We suggest bringing an underwater camera, but if you don’t have one, your guide will take some underwater photos for you too, and those are available for purchase at the end of the excursion.

Paddle Board to Three Sisters Springs:

Rent paddle boards from Manatee Paddle and paddle to Three Sisters Springs. Three Sisters Springs is one of the most beautiful springs in Florida! It has crystal clear water, and it’s so refreshing and peaceful. Three Sisters Springs is such a unique natural beauty and definitely a must-visit while you’re in Crystal River. The only way to get to Three Sisters Springs is to paddle board, kayak, or swim in. Paddle boarding around the area is a great way to spend time in the Florida sunshine, and we even saw manatees right under us as we were paddling! Be sure to make reservations ahead of time, so you can guarantee availability.

Fort Island Gulf Beach:

Fort Island Gulf Beach is a beautiful, secluded beach right on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a great spot to come and hang out for the day, play in the ocean, and relax on the beach. There are restrooms, but there are no shops or stores nearby, so be sure to pack your own sunscreen, a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, chairs, umbrellas, etc. for the day.  

Eat at Seafood Sellers:

If you’re a seafood lover, you have to eat at Seafood Sellers. Seafood Sellers is a landmark mom and pop restaurant and loved by locals and tourists alike. The seafood comes fresh of their own fishing boats, and there’s even a fish market right inside. With options like crawfish and alligator mac n’ cheese, seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits, it’s a true southern seafood experience. It’s located in a basic shopping center, but you’ll be surprised once you walk inside and get a taste of their delicious food. Be sure to get the beignets for dessert. They’re incredible.

Crystal River Archaeological State Park:

Around 1000 BC, Crystal River was home to Native Americans. They had a six-mound complex that they used the area as a ceremonial center for over 1500 years. Crystal River Archaeological State Park is dedicated to preserving this complex, and it’s a great spot to come see the history of Crystal River. Plus, it has beautiful views of the coastal marsh at the stop of the stairs. 

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a great spot to go with the whole family. It’s an outdoor wildlife center where you can see animals like bears, flamingos, and birds, and in the middle is a spring with manatees! The state park is famous for its underwater fish bowl observatory where you can see the manatees swim by under water. It’s a great spot to visit with littles and animal lovers!

Hunter Springs Park:

Hunter Springs Park is a really picturesque park right in the heart of Crystal River. There’s a walkway around the park, a small beach, and a park for kids to play on. It’s a great spot to take a walk or let your little ones get out their energy for a bit. It’s also a great spot to go around sunset for the views.

Eat Dinner at Waterfront Social:

Be sure to eat dinner at Waterfront Social while you’re visiting Crystal River. It’s right on the water with views of Kings Bay and the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge, so you get to enjoy delicious food with an incredible view. When we were there, they also had live music. Everything is made fresh, and everything we tried was delicious! The poke bowl and the fish tacos were our favorites. This is also a great spot to sit and watch the sun set, so make a reservation to come around then.

where to stay:

Retreat at Crystal Manatee:

We stayed at the Retreat at Crystal Manatee and it’s a charming, boutique hotel right in the heart of Crystal River. It’s in a great location where you can easily walk to lots of shops, restaurants, and beaches. It’s a small, family-owned hotel. The rooms are all one bedroom, but they do offer a family room option, which has two beds (one for adults and one for children). The outdoor garden area is really charming and covered in plants, and there’s even a gazebo you can sit under. They also offer a small continental breakfast for guests. Book your stay at the Retreat at Crystal Manatee here!

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*This post was sponsored by Visit Florida, but as always, all opinions are our own.

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