During this time of uncertainty and social distance, my family decided to finally make it out of our hometown and take a budget friendly Crystal River trip! We are huge water people, and we had heard this was a great area to be in the water in the summer. Here are some of our favorite stops from our 3 day trip!
One of our first stops was a small beach called Bird Beach. When we first arrived, we were the only ones there! While the water was a little mucky (and probably more suitable to fishing than swimming), it was a peaceful place to wade around and look for tadpoles. Parking was free as well! My kids were out on their tubes in the water in no time.
Day 2 – Rainbow Springs
Our next stop to get up early and take a drive over to take a swim at Rainbow Springs State Park! If you have some extra funds in your budget to go tubing at Rainbow Springs State Park, I highly Recommend it! If not, skip ahead to the next section on Rainbow Springs itself. Since we had not gone anywhere in months, we splurged on the tubing ($20 a person +$2 a person for the state park entrance). It has a separate entrance located at 10830 SW 180th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. You pay at the entrance and then park your car. A shuttle takes you up to the start of the tube run, and you float back to your vehicle. You can bring your own tube or use one of theirs.
What we enjoyed most about the run, was swimming in the water along the way. The current was fast enough that it kept you moving, but slow enough that you could easily get out of your tube and swim around. The route takes a little less than 2 hours and passes you by some of the neighborhoods in the area.
Rainbow Springs State Park
After the lazy river, since we had already paid our admission fee to Rainbow Springs State Park, we went up to the other entrance to the park. At this entrance, they have a swimming hole and a bunch of trails. This is up by the head of the springs. You park (free), and then you can walk up to the park with trails and a swimming hole. We had already paid our $2 entrance fee, so we just showed them the receipt.
The springs is always a cool 72 degrees year round. It is a VERY cold place to swim! We lasted a little while before we had enough of the freezing water. There are also trails, restrooms, and a concession stand at the park. You can rent kayaks here as well to kayak the springs.
Fort Island Gulf Beach
After coming back from the springs and waiting out Florida’s typical summer afternoon thunderstorms, we headed out to watch the sunset at Fort Island Gulf Beach. This area has a small beach with a roped off area for swimming in the warm Gulf waters. It also has a fishing pier. We were not lucky enough to see one of the beautiful west coast sunsets (it was cloudy). However, we did enjoy sitting on the pretty white sand on the beach while the kids swam. I did notice that this area is frequently checked for bacteria levels, so use your discretion before swimming in the area. Make sure to check the posted signs.
Day 3 – Hunter Springs
The next day was our final day in the area. We chose to spend it at Hunter Springs Park, which is free, aside from the parking. The parking is only $1 an hour. Although the park was crowded, it was easy to find a spot on the deeper side of the swimming hole to get in and be by ourselves. The water was SO clear and blue!! The girls brought their inner tubes, snorkels, and boogie boards. They were able to see a few tiny fish and a crab. I wouldn’t say this is a great place for snorkeling, but it was a fun place to swim!! (if you want to snorkel, you need to take a boat or a kayak out into the Three Sisters Springs area).
At Huter spring, you can rent a kayak at a couple of local places nearby, but they are pretty pricey. Since we had splurged on the tubing, we skipped the kayaking part. We would have loved to bring our own kayaks from home to launch. Maybe next time! There are so many beautiful things to do on the water in Crystal River. We can’t wait to make another trip!