Crystal River & Homosassa Springs
Known as a great area for water activities, you will find plenty to do in this area in the way of swimming and trails. There are tons of places to launch a kayak or canoe into the springs or the Gulf, if you have your own that you can bring. Here is our list of the top places to visit in the Crystal Springs area:
1. Fort Island Gulf Beach and Fishing Pier – Free
One of the best parts of the west coast of Florida is being able to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. This park and fishing pier is one of those awesome places to do just that! Free parking, free boat ramp, and a secluded spot to go fishing. Pictured above is the boardwalk leading from the beach to the fishing pier – pictured below is the beach area.
2. Crystal River Preserve State Park – Free
One of the few free state parks in Florida, this park offers miles of trails and fishing opportunities. The trails are natural, with wetlands, scrubs, pinewoods, and mangrove islands. You can look on their website for the different lengths of the trails, the most popular one being the 2 mile eco walk.
There is also a 7 mile trail for bikers! Pets are welcome at this park on a 6ft leash. Before you head out for your adventure, stop by the visitor center to view displays of the different habitats in the park, aquariums, a touch table, and more. Both Crystal river state parks also offer boat tours for a fee ($20 for adults, $10 for kids).
3. Rainbow Springs – $2 per person
This state park and springs is located to the east of Crystal River, over in Dunnellon. It’s a great place to experience swimming in the cool waters of Florida Springs! The park is a walk-up park that often fills to capacity on the weekends. It’s $2 per person up at the gate. They have limited things they allow you to bring in the park (such as no floats). The swimming area is a small roped off area at the head springs. You can rent a kayak here as well or walk a trail. The map below shows the address for the head springs. They also have a 2 hour lazy river tube run here (at a separate entrance and with a $20 fee per person).
4. Crystal River Archaeological State Park – $3 per vehicle
This location is a huge historical landmark, a native American archaeological site. Visit the historic site, burial mounds, temple mounds, a shell midden, and a plaza area. Come visit their museum displaying artifacts, which is open Thurs-Mon.
5. Hunter Springs Swimming Hole – FREE
Enjoy this nice and cool springs to swim in for free! All you pay for is parking, which is $1 an hour. The park has a walk in beach access area and a large roped off section for swimming. You can also launch a kayak or paddle board here for free in a separate section. If you want to rent one there are several places in the area that offer this (for a steep fee). The water is always a nice refreshing 72 degrees and super blue! In the winter, it is common to see manatees in the area.
6. Yulee Sugar Mills – FREE
This historic plantation is home to a large (5100 Acre!) sugar mill ruins. View a 40ft limestone chimney and a kane press. This is an excellent place to take photos, relax and walk around, and have a picnic at one of the tables. There are restrooms available. Also, you can bring your dog here! All at no charge.
7. Alpaca Magic USA – FREE
If you enjoy animals and gardens, come to this place and visit with some Alpacas! This farm & gardens is open 10am-2pm seven days a week at no charge to the public. They have many unique perennials and trees in their gardens. On site is a gift shop if you would like to support their family business!
8. Bonus… Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park & Three Sisters Springs – $$
I wanted to include these last two locations, because they are prominent and popular spots in the area. They are not included in the free and inexpensive locations though. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park offers an experience to view both captive and wildlife up close – red wolf, manatees, Florida panters, and more. You can get up close with the manatees and the fish in the springs. At Three Sisters Springs, you’ll find another popular spot to see Manatees. They have a trolley that takes you to best spots to find a view.