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Crystal River offers outdoor family adventures, including swimming with manatees

by Attractions Magazine Staff

A popular alternative for travelers looking for a memorable Florida vacation away from crowded theme parks and busy beaches, Crystal River in Citrus County, Fla. is home to five top-rated Florida state parks and offers plenty of options for safe outdoor family fun.

Crystal River, Manatee swim
Images courtesy of Discover Crystal River

Crystal River sits on Kings Bay, a unique natural wonder fed by over seventy springs (and as many as 40 more seeps) that provide 600 million gallons of freshwater a day into the freshwater bay located only six miles from the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, as a leading winter refuge for the Florida Manatee, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge in the United States dedicated to the preservation and protection of a single species.

“More people are looking at travel differently, favoring the kind of wide-open outdoor spaces we offer for a getaway that is affordable, unforgettable, and that meets health and safety guidelines,” said executive director of Discover Crystal River John Pricher. “These strange times are a unique opportunity for us to showcase our natural wonders to people who haven’t considered this kind of natural travel experience before.”

Water Activities in Crystal River

For many travelers, no visit to Florida is complete without some quality time spent in or on the water, but Crystal River – known as the Manatee Capital of the World – is the only place in the U.S. where families can legally have an up-close and personal encounter with manatees. Here, expert tour guides offer opportunities to get in the water with the gentle giants, always making sure everyone minds their “manatee manners.”

Crystal River, fishing

Paddlers can explore the area by canoe, kayak, and stand up paddleboard (SUP) as they cruise through the crystal-clear springs, seven winding rivers, opens bays from the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes to the St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve. Plus, whether it’s freshwater or saltwater, off the pier or offshore, from the bank or the boat, Citrus County and Crystal River have plenty of fishing options for families looking to reel in some fall fun.

Crystal River, Paddling, Kayaking

Biking and Hiking Trails

This hidden gem also offers travelers the opportunity to explore a network of beautifully maintained trails and waterways in and around the charming towns, Homosassa, Inverness, and Floral City. One of the most popular activities for families is biking the Withlacoochee State Trail, with 46 miles of trail that passes through natural communities and small towns. Each trailhead offers a unique adventure like the Inverness Trailhead at the newly opened Depot District, home to playgrounds, an open-air pavilion, a stage, and a picnic area. Riders can continue their adventure in the bike-friendly downtown or park their bikes and wander along the Lakeside Scenic Boardwalks. 

Crystal River, Lakeside Scenic Boardwalk

The area is also a favorite for hikers with trails through thousands of acres of Florida coastline at the Crystal River Preserve State Park and the Withlacoochee State Forest, both of which are home to an impressive variety of native plants and wildlife.

Click here to learn more about these Crystal River activities (and more).

Crystal River Refuge's "Manatee Manners" for Swimmers

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