Crystal River is a charming coastal city in northwestern Florida, located along Kings Bay within Citrus County. It is traversed by the gorgeous Crystal River, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, which connects the city of nearby Homasassa Springs. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and the Three Sisters Springs offer opportunities to view manatees throughout the year from a variety of visitor boardwalks and overlooks.
1.Three Sisters Springs
Three Sisters Springs are a trio of beautiful natural springs located within an inlet on the eastern end of Kings Bay, contained within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and open to the public each year between mid-November and late March. The 57-acre preserve, which was acquired and opened to the public in 2010, is accessible via land or via water by kayak or canoe, known as a significant habitat for endangered manatees in Citrus County. Visitors can view manatee populations and other native wildlife via a quarter-mile boardwalk with viewing platforms or stroll along over one and a half miles of nature trails throughout the preserve, which offer chances to view natural landmarks such as Lake Crystal and Magnolia Springs. Manatee tours of the springs region are also offered by a number of companies and marinas within the city of Crystal River.
601 Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-586-1170
2.Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located along Kings Bay within the city of Crystal River. The 80-acre refuge, which is only accessible via boat, was originally established in 1983 as a protected habitat for the endangered West Indian manatee. Today, it protects 20 barrier islands and several small parcels of mainland area and is overseen as part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also oversees the nearby Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and the three refuges of the Tampa Bay region. Popular visitors activities include fishing on the refuge's manmade lake, though no fishing is permitted within the refuge's protected natural waters. Other recreational opportunities include boating, paddling, photography, and wildlife watching opportunities, with guided tours and interpretive manatee talks offered periodically throughout the year.
1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-563-2088
3.Crystal River State Archaeological Site
© Florida State Parks
Crystal River State Archaeological Site is a United States National Historic Landmark and Florida state park that is located along the beautiful Crystal River, accessible from the city of the same name from Museum Point and US 19/98. The archaeological site, which is located within Crystal River Preserve State Park, protects a complex of six significant indigenous mounds, which provide evidence of the region's history as one of Florida's longest continually-occupied sites. Evidence of trading at the site indicates a connection between the region's indigenous people and the Hopewell people of the Ohio River area. Park visitors can view the site's preserved mounds, plaza area, and midden, which were all believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes. A half-mile paved loop trail surrounds the structures, while an observation deck atop Temple Mound offers panoramic views. Recreational opportunities at the park include fishing, birding, and picnicking. A visitor center on site also offers collections of artifacts and showings of a documentary on the region's indigenous groups.
3400 N Museum Point, Crystal River, FL 34428, Phone: 352-795-3817
4.Hunter Springs Park
Hunter Springs Park, also known as Hunter Springs Beach, is a beautiful public park located along the Crystal River, open to the public daily between 8:00am and sunset. The park is anchored around Hunter's Spring, which consists of five distinct spring vents clustered within a 10-foot diameter area. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, and other non-motorized watercrafting. A boat launch is provided on site for an additional fee. Park visitors can also make use of the park's newly-installed children's playground or enjoy lunch at its day-use picnic sites. During the spring months, opportunities for swimming with manatees are offered. The park is located less than 20 minutes by watercraft from Three Sisters Springs, making it a great spot for those looking to make a day out of paddling the area's natural wonders.
104 NE 1st Ave, Crystal River, FL 34429
5.Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous 30,000-acre United States National Wildlife Refuge, located along Florida's western coast near the city of Crystal River, approximately an hour north of the city of St. Petersburg. The refuge, which is overseen by the Crystal River Complex along with the nearby Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and the three National Wildlife Refuges in the Tampa Bay area, is home to the 23,000-acre Chassahowitzka Wilderness Area and is best known as the southern wintering site for endangered reintroduced whooping cranes. A wide variety of recreational opportunities are offered throughout the year for visitors, including opportunities for fishing, hunting, and nature photography. Though overnight camping is prohibited at the refuge itself, visitors can stay overnight at the nearby county-operated Chassahowitzka River Campground. Interpretive programming is offered for school and adult groups, including hands-on ecology workshops.
1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-563-2088
6.Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park, also known as the Crystal River Buffer Preserve, is a Florida state park preserving one of the state's most biologically diverse estuary habitats, stretching along 20 miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline between the cities of Crystal River and Homosassa. The 27,500-acre park preserves one of the most significant stretches of undeveloped coastline that has remained relatively unchanged since the arrival of Europeans in what is now Florida, home to gorgeous salt marsh, mangrove island, hardwood forest, tidal creek, coastal scrub, and pine flatwood habitats. Major attractions include the Crystal River State Archaeological Site, which protects significant indigenous structures, and the Eco-Walk Trail, which offers 11 interpretive stations providing family-oriented natural education. Recreational opportunities include hiking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, birding, and wildlife watching for manatees and a wide variety of shore and migratory bird species.
3266 N Sailboat Ave, Crystal River, FL 34428, Phone: 352-228-6028
7.Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts
© Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts
Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts is one of the premiere fine art galleries in Citrus County, showcasing a wide variety of artists working contemporary and traditional styles across a number of mediums. The gallery, which is operated by owner Karen Anderson, showcases artists working in styles such as oil and acrylic painting, nature photography, pottery, metal arts, glass, woodworking, sculpture, and jewelry, with many artists represented having received national and international acclaim throughout their careers. Other unique art mediums represented include gourd art, walking sticks, and art representing the region's noted manatee populations. A variety of special events are offered at the gallery throughout the year, including Meet the Artist events, music performances, crafting classes, and featured artist openings.
659 N Citrus Ave., Crystal River, FL, 34428, Phone: 352-697-2702
8.Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park is a National Register of Historic Places-listed Florida state park located in the city of Homosassa, accessible from Crystal River via US 19. The historic park protects the remains of a sugarcane plantation that was established in the mid-19th century by David Levy Yulee, the first Jewish American to serve in the United States Senate. The plantation, which formerly spanned 5,000 acres throughout the Homosassa region, enslaved more than 1,000 African Americans to produce sugarcane, cotton, and citrus, including byproducts used to create rum. Today, the park preserves the plantation's stonework mill foundation, iron gears, cane press, and other machinery. Day-use picnic sites with barbecue grills are also available for visitor use, along with public restrooms and a picnic pavilion.
Co Rd 490, Homosassa, FL 34448, Phone: 352-795-3817
9.Cross Florida Greenway - Withlacoochee Bay Trail
Cross Florida Greenway - Withlacoochee Bay Trail is part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, a mile-wide recreational trail that stretches between the St. Johns River and the Gulf of Mexico and offers separate portions for hikers, bikers, and equestrian riders. The greenway, which was originally known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal, was originally proposed as early as 1567 and funded for development as a canal system in the 20th century, though its construction was halted due to environmental concerns. After the project's cancellation in 1991, it was redeveloped as a greenway and named in honor of one of the project's most vocal environmental opponents. Today, visitors to the Crystal River area can traverse the Withlacoochee River portion of the trail, which connects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Yankeetown to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway via portions following the routes of the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers.
10.The Coastal Heritage Museum
© The Coastal Heritage Museum
The Coastal Heritage Museum is a social and cultural history museum overseen by the Citrus County Historical Society, housed within the historic Crystal River Old City Hall. The building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, was originally constructed in 1939 as part of developments by the Works Progress Administration, housing the city's government until the early 1970s. Since 1986, it has housed exhibits related to the early history of Citrus County, including a reconstructed jail holding cell and the facade of a former fish house used in the area. A diorama of Citrus Avenue circa 1927 is also showcased, along with a wide array of artifacts connected to the region's early history, including furniture and photography. The museum is operated by an all-volunteer staff and is open to the public for free each Wednesday through Saturday during the morning and afternoon hours.
532 N Citrus Ave, Crystal River, FL 34428, Phone: 352-257-3870
11.Copp Winery and Wine Bar
© Copp Winery and Wine Bar
Copp Winery and Wine Bar is Crystal River's premiere wine bar, showcasing more than 40 handcrafted wines produced on site at the company's Citrus County winery facility. Delicious Cabernet, Merlot, shiraz, Chardonnay, and zinfandel blends are produced from the finest imported grapes and juices available, with limited production methods intended to produce the highest possible quality table wines for casual enjoyment. Visitors can taste a variety of wines at the company's wine bar, accompanied by a light snack menu and an assortment of fine cheeses. A brewery on site also produces a selection of handcrafted craft beers, available on tap at the company's brewpub bar.
11 NE 4th Avenue, Crystal River, Florida 34429, Phone: 352-564-9463
12.Rock Crusher Canyon Pavilion and Amphitheater
Rock Crusher Canyon Pavilion and Amphitheater is a lively 20,000-square-foot open-air pavilion and amphitheater in Crystal River, constructed within a former rock quarry facility, which provides unique acoustic experiences for concertgoers throughout the year. Throughout its history, the facility has hosted popular country and rock music acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Barbara Mandrell, Lee Ann Womack, Sister Hazel, and the Charlie Daniels Band, along with a wide variety of regional and local music performances. Each concert can accommodate up to 5,000 concertgoers, with full concession areas, RV hookups, and sound systems available for private special event rentals. Visitors can also rent the facility's pavilion for private special events, including weddings, receptions, and community festivals.
275 S Rock Crusher Rd, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-746-4000
13.The Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve
The Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve was originally established in October of 1969 to protect a rich offshore marsh, mangrove island, mud flat, and oyster bar habitat located along the intersection of the Crystal and Homosassa Rivers. The 23,000-acre preserve is part of the broader Saint Martins Marsh and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves complex, which preserve some of the world's most extensive seagrass bed habitats. Some of northwestern Florida's best commercial and recreational fishing opportunities are offered at the preserve, as well as opportunities for kayak tours with local touring companies. A wide variety of migratory bird and waterfowl species frequent the preserve, particularly during wintering and stopover times.
3266 N Sailboat Ave, Crystal River, FL 34428
14.Crystal River Boat Builders
© Crystal River Boat Builders
Crystal River Boat Builders is a nonprofit organization in Crystal River that was founded in 2009 as part of the programming for Crystal River Preserve State Park. The organization, which strives to preserve the maritime heritage of the Nature Coast, operates as an independent organization today, hosting a museum facility and boatbuilding shop along US Highway 19. Volunteers operate the facility's working museum during limited hours throughout the week, showcasing craftsmen working on boatbuilding projects and teaching visitors about skills and tools of the trade. Replicas of historic boats used along the Gulf Coast for recreational and commercial purposes are showcased, along with collections of traditional hand tools. Tours are available for school and community groups with advance reservations.
28 NW US Hwy 19, Crystal River, Florida 34428, Phone: 352-249-6996
15.Vintage on 5th
© Vintage on 5th
Vintage on 5th is an eclectic restaurant and wine bar in Crystal River's historic downtown district, housed within a renovated 1940s-era cottage church. The restaurant, which is owned by restaurateurs Jennifer and Rodney Carr and overseen by executive chef Aaron Davidson, has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 2009, noted for its inexpensive menu of high-quality wines meant for pairing with Southern favorite comfort food dishes. Entrees served up at the restaurant at dinner include shrimp and grits, fried green tomato macaroni and cheese, and seafood dishes prepared with locally-caught fresh catches. More than 35 wines are available by the glass, with over 140 available for purchase by the bottle at reasonable and competitive prices. Indoor and outdoor seating as available, including dog-friendly seating at the restaurant's veranda and courtyard area.
114 NE 5th St, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-794-0004
16.Seafood Seller and Cafe
© Seafood Seller and Café
Seafood Seller and Café is a vibrant New Orleans-style restaurant housed within the Crystal River Mall, offering delicious Cajun-style entrees featuring locally-sourced daily fresh fish catches. Excellent seafood entrees include Maryland-style crab cakes, fresh Florida grouper, ahi tuna medallions, and fried oysters, complemented by Cajun options such as chicken and alligator sausage jambalaya, catfish Louisanne, and crawfish étouffée. Raw and steamed seafood options include New Zealand green-lipped mussels, Cedar Key littleneck clams, and bacon-wrapped oysters. At lunch, a variety of burgers and sandwiches are available, including clever po'boy sandwiches stuffed with options such as alligator, roast beef, and crawfish. Beers, wines, and liquors are served up at the restaurant's full-service bar, and private dining areas are available for groups of up to eight diners.
300 SE US Hwy 19, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-228-4936
17.The Crab Plant
© The Crab Plant
The Crab Plant is a delicious seafood market operated along Kings Bay at the head of the Crystal River, opened to the public in 2014 by the Kofmehl family. The family, which has operated a regional wholesale crab and grouper market since 1995, operates all of its own boats and catches fresh fish daily, bringing more than six decades of combined experience in the seafood industry to all of its operations. Visitors can peruse the facility's seafood market Tuesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours and purchase a wide variety of fresh seafood, including fish, crab, shrimp, squid, and calamari. Delectable seafood entrees are served at lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays at the market's restaurant, including steamed seafood platters, seafood appetizers, and Southern-style entrees such as shrimp and grits, jambalaya, and clam linguine.
201 NW 5th St, Crystal River, FL 34428, Phone: 352-795-4700
17 Best Things to Do in Crystal River, Florida
- Three Sisters Springs, Photo: pclark2/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: tyler/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal River State Archaeological Site, Photo: Florida State Parks
- Hunter Springs Park, Photo: Xamara/stock.adobe.com
- Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: m4ry/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal River Preserve State Park, Photo: geargodz/stock.adobe.com
- Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts, Photo: Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts
- Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park, Photo: evannovostro/stock.adobe.com
- Cross Florida Greenway - Withlacoochee Bay Trail, Photo: stars_hjp/stock.adobe.com
- The Coastal Heritage Museum, Photo: The Coastal Heritage Museum
- Copp Winery and Wine Bar, Photo: Copp Winery and Wine Bar
- Rock Crusher Canyon Pavilion and Amphitheater, Photo: aarstudio/stock.adobe.com
- The Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve, Photo: cppzone/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal River Boat Builders, Photo: Crystal River Boat Builders
- Vintage on 5th, Photo: Vintage on 5th
- Seafood Seller and Cafe, Photo: Seafood Seller and Café
- The Crab Plant, Photo: The Crab Plant
- Cover Photo: Zoe/stock.adobe.com