The Manatee Capitol Of The World [Florida Travel Guide]

swimming with manatees

The manatee, a gentle and herbivorous marine mammal, has captured the hearts of many animal lovers around the world. They are known for their cute faces, friendly personalities, and slow movements. These have earned them the nickname “sea cows.” While they can be found in many parts of the world, there is one place that stands out as the Manatee Capital of the World. Crystal River, Florida! Citrus County is the only place in the U.S. where you can swim with and touch manatees!

Crystal River is also home to the Crystal River Archaeological State Park. This park offers a glimpse into the lives of the Native Americans who lived in the area over 2,500 years ago. The park features six mounds that were built by the Native Americans and were used for ceremonial purposes.

In addition to its natural beauty and wildlife, Crystal River is also a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing, and hiking. The town has a small but charming downtown area. Here you will find shops and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat after a day of exploring.

Experience Gentle Giants

With its unique ecosystem, warm waters, and abundance of manatee, it’s the perfect place for animal lovers to visit. Plus, experience these gentle giants up close and personal. Whether you choose to take a guided tour, go for a swim, or simply walk along the boardwalks. Crystal River is a must-see destination for anyone who loves nature and wildlife. The entire Crystal River and Homosassa area of Florida is truly the Manatee Capital of the World!

Crystal River is located in Citrus County, Florida, about an hour and a half north of Tampa. The town is situated around Kings Bay, which is fed by over 30 freshwater springs that keep the water temperature a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. This makes it the perfect habitat for the manatee. These creatures are sensitive to changes in water temperature and seek out warm waters during the winter months.

Best Time To Visit

From November to March, hundreds of manatees gather in Kings Bay. This makes it one of the few places in the world where you can see manatees in their natural habitat. Tourists from all over the world flock to the Crystal River area (including Homosassa) during this time of year. It’s the perfect time to see these gentle giants up close and personal.

One of the best ways to see the manatee is to take a guided tour on a pontoon boat. The tours are led by experienced captains who know where the manatees like to congregate. They will take you to the best spots for viewing. Some tours even offer the opportunity to swim with the manatees, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We jumped in the water right outside of Homosassa Springs State Park.

homosassa springs state park

Swimming with manatees is a unique and exciting experience that allows you to observe these gentle giants up close in their natural habitat. Manatees are large, herbivorous marine mammals that can be found in warm, shallow waters. You will find them mainly along the coastlines and rivers of Florida, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The guided tours will provide participants with wetsuits, and snorkeling equipment. As well as instructions on how to interact with the manatees in a responsible and respectful manner. During the tour, you will be able to swim alongside the manatees. Enjoy as you watch them feed and play, and even give them gentle scratches or belly rubs if they approach you.

Swimming With Manatees

It’s important to note that swimming with manatees is heavily regulated to protect the animals and their habitat. Visitors must follow strict guidelines, such as not chasing or harassing the manatees. You also must keep a safe distance to avoid disturbing them. It’s also important to choose a reputable tour operator that prioritizes the welfare of the manatees and their environment.

Swimming with manatees can be a truly magical experience that allows you to connect with these peaceful creatures. You will gain a greater appreciation for the beauty and diversity of marine life.

If you prefer to stay on land, you can still see manatees at the Homosassa Springs State Park.

Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs State Park is a popular state park located in Homosassa, Florida, USA. The park covers an area of about 210 acres and is situated on the east side of the Homosassa River. This river flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Here you will find crystal clear springs, which are home to various marine and land animals. Including manatees, alligators, turtles, and many species of fish.

The park was first developed as a tourist attraction in the 1940s and was later purchased by the state of Florida in 1989. Since then, the park has been managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and has become a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.

Homosassa springs state park wildlife

One of the main attractions of the park is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This park is home to many different species of animals. Visitors can take a guided tour of the park and see animals such as manatees, black bears, panthers, alligators, and many more. The park also has a variety of educational programs, including animal encounters, ranger-led tours, and interpretive displays.

In addition to the wildlife park, the state park also has several hiking trails, picnic areas, and a boat ramp. Visitors can also rent kayaks or canoes and explore the crystal-clear waters of the Homosassa River.

Visiting Homosassa, Florida (See More Manatee)

Homosassa, Florida is a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida that is famous for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and laid-back lifestyle. Located about an hour north of Tampa, Homosassa is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique glimpse into the natural beauty of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

One of the main attractions of Homosassa is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This 210-acre park is home to many different types of wildlife, including manatees, alligators, and a variety of birds. Visitors can take a boat tour through the park to see the animals up close, or walk along the many boardwalks that wind through the park. The park also has a rehabilitation center for manatees, where visitors can learn about the efforts to protect and preserve these gentle giants.

Another popular activity in Homosassa is fishing. You will find the town located on the Homosassa River. You will find excellent fishing opportunities along the river. Visitors can fish from the shore or rent a boat to explore the river and its many tributaries. The river is home to a variety of fish species, including redfish, trout, and tarpon. And chances are you’ll see the manatee as well!

For those who love the outdoors, Homosassa is a great place for kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is located just a few miles south of Homosassa. This area offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The refuge is home to many different types of wildlife, including manatees, alligators, and a variety of birds.

Visit Downtown Homosassa

Homosassa is also a great place to experience the local culture of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The town has a small but charming downtown area with shops and restaurants that offer a variety of seafood and other local specialties. The local bars and taverns are popular with both locals and visitors alike. And offer a laid-back atmosphere to enjoy a cold drink and some live music.

Put Homosassa, Florida on your travel list! It’s a great hidden gem on Florida’s Gulf Coast where you will find a unique glimpse into the natural beauty and outdoor activities. Whether you’re interested in wildlife, fishing, or simply enjoying the laid-back lifestyle of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Homosassa is a great destination for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

RV Camping In The Homosassa Area

withlacoochee state forest
Tillis Hill Campground in the Withlacoochee State Forest

Citrus County, Florida is a popular destination for RV camping, as it offers a wide range of scenic campgrounds and outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some things you should know about RV camping in Citrus County:

  1. Campgrounds: Citrus County has several campgrounds that cater to RVs, such as the Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park, the Crystal Isles RV Resort, and the Rainbow Springs State Park. These campgrounds offer amenities such as full hookups, laundry facilities, and recreational activities like swimming pools, hiking trails, and boat rentals. We stayed at the Tills Hills Recreation Area.
  2. Outdoor activities: Citrus County is full of abundant natural beauty and outdoor activities. You will enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. (including manatee) Some popular attractions for RV campers include the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, the Withlacoochee State Trail, and the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
  3. Climate: Citrus County has a subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters, making it a popular destination for RVers year-round. However, hurricane season typically runs from June through November, so visitors should be aware of the weather and take necessary precautions.
  4. Local culture: Citrus County has a laid-back, small-town vibe with friendly locals and a rich history. Visitors can explore the area’s historic sites, like the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, or attend local events, such as the annual Manatee Festival or the Citrus County Fair.

RV camping in Citrus County offers a unique and relaxing way to experience Florida’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an active adventure, there’s something for everyone in this scenic part of the state.

Where to Eat

crumps landing in homosassa

Here are some suggestions on where to eat in Homosassa:

  1. The Freezer Tiki Bar: Located on the water at the Homosassa Riverside Resort, the Freezer Tiki Bar is a popular spot for seafood and drinks. They offer fresh seafood, including shrimp, oysters, and grouper, as well as burgers, salads, and sandwiches. You will find a relaxed and casual atmosphere with outdoor seating and live music on weekends.
  2. The Old Mill Tavern: This historic restaurant has been serving up Southern-style comfort food since 1861. The Old Mill Tavern can be found in the heart of Homosassa and is known for its fried chicken, country ham, and homemade desserts. The restaurant also has a full bar and outdoor seating.
  3. Neon Leon’s Zydeco Steakhouse: If you’re looking for something a little different, Neon Leon’s Zydeco Steakhouse offers a unique fusion of Cajun and Creole cuisine with steak and seafood. They offer dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée, as well as grilled steaks and fresh seafood. The atmosphere is lively and colorful, with live music and a bar.
  4. Crumps Landing: This waterfront restaurant has been a Homosassa tradition since 1948. They offer a variety of seafood dishes, including scallops, shrimp, and crab cakes, as well as sandwiches and salads. The outdoor seating overlooks the water and marina, making it a great spot to watch the sunset. This is where we ate and they had amazing food!
  5. Seagrass Waterfront: Located in the nearby Crystal River, Seagrass Waterfront is a popular spot for seafood and waterfront dining. They offer dishes like blackened grouper, shrimp and grits, and lobster mac and cheese, as well as a full bar and outdoor seating. The atmosphere is upscale but relaxed, with a beautiful view of Kings Bay.
Prime Rib Sandwich at Crumps Landing

There are several Thousand Trails campgrounds in and around this area! Make sure you check out our favorite camping membership to save when visiting the state of Florida!

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