Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Crystal River, FL

  • Published 2021/07/31

Crystal River is a charming and laid-back town in Florida.

A coastal town near Kings Bay, Crystal River is about an hour and a half north of Tampa in Citrus County with the stunning Crystal River, a bay of the Gulf of Mexico.

The river crosses the town connecting the city to nearby Homosassa Springs.

Crystal River is slightly touristy, funky, has great seafood, beautiful beaches, and more than enough activities to keep tourists busy.

The Crystal River Wildlife National Refuge, along with the Three Sisters Springs, provides tourists with stunning views of amazing Manatees all year-round.

Here are some of the best things that you can do in Crystal River:

Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs

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The Three Sisters Springs is a trail of alluring natural springs.

They are located inside an inlet towards the east of Kings Bay.

They are a part of the Crystal River Wildlife National Refuge and are open for public viewing every year from mid-March to late November.

This 57-acre sanctuary is a significant habitat for the endangered species of Manatees in Citrus County, approachable either by land or by kayaking or canoeing.

It was acquired and opened for visitors in the year 2010.

Inside, visitors can stroll over various boardwalks with view structures or platforms.

They can also take a walk along the nature trails to view the Manatee populations and other wildlife.

The nature trails provide some great views of beautiful natural sights, such as Magnolia Springs and Lake Crystal.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

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The city of Crystal River along the Kings Bay contains a United States National Wildlife Refuge known as Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

It spreads across 80 acres of land and is accessible only via boats.

A protected habitation for the at-risk species of West Indian Manatee, the National Wildlife Refuge was initially established in 1983.

Presently, this refuge protects twenty barrier islands and numerous small patches of a mainland area.

It is better known as a portion of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge complex that oversees Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and the Tampa Bay Bridge’s three refuges.

Some of the most popular activities for visitors here include fishing in the artificial lake of the refuge, paddling, boating, photography, and watching wildlife.

However, fishing is not allowed within the naturally protected waters of the refuge.

There are periodical guided tours along with interactive Manatee tours available throughout the year.

Hunter Springs Park

Hunter Springs Beach or Hunter Springs Park is a lovely public park situated near the city of Crystal River.

It is open for visitors every day from morning till late evening.

The park is situated around the Hunter Spring, with five different spring outlets clustered amidst a 10-feet diameter portion.

There are numerous outdoor activities for recreation and enjoyment opportunities for visitors, including canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and even non-motorized watercraft.

The park features a well-equipped children’s playground, which doubles up as an excellent picnic site.

What’s more, you can also swim with Manatees during the months of the spring.

Not more than 20 minutes away from Three Sisters Springs, the park is approachable by watercraft.

It is an excellent spot for a single day-out and for paddling through the natural wonders of the area.

Crystal River State Archaeological Site

Crystal River State Archaeological Site

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

This beautiful archaeological site belongs to the United States Historic National landmark and Florida State Park.

It is located near Crystal River and is easily accessible from the city.

Crystal River Preserve State Park contains this archaeological site and protects a cluster of six indigenous mounds, which are symbolic of the historical background of the region.

It is one of the most extended, continuously occupied sites of Florida.

Visitors to this park can view some of the mounds on the site that have been preserved.

There is also a half-mile loop trail that surrounds these structures and provides panoramic views.

Bird-viewing, fishing, and picnicking are some other recreational opportunities at the park, along with a visitor center on-site with a collection of artifacts and a documentary film on the region’s indigenous groups.

Crystal River Preserve State Park

Crystal River Preserve State Park

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also called the famous Crystal River Buffer Preserve, this preserve is a Florida State Park.

It looks after the state’s most biologically heterogeneous estuary habitations that stretch for 20 miles on the Gulf of the Mexico coastline.

It connects the towns of Homosassa and Crystal River.

Spread across 27,500 acres, this stretch of the park is an undeveloped coastline, and there is no change since the advent of Europeans.

It is home to mangrove islands, tidal creek, gorgeous salt marsh, flatwood pine habitats, and hardwood forest.

Major activities include an eco-walk trail in the Crystal River State Archaeological Site that offers 11 interactive sessions for family-oriented nature education.

Some other options for recreation include kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird-viewing, and watching wildlife, especially Manatees with various species of migratory birds and shorebirds.

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

Tyler Fox /

This vast and gorgeous 30,000-acre Wildlife Refuge is located on the western coast of Florida near the Crystal River.

It is an hour’s drive away towards the north from the city of St.Petersburg.

This refuge takes care of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and Tampa Bay area sanctuaries and is known as a South winter site for the endangered species of whooping cranes.

The refuge offers an exciting overnight camping facility at the nearby county-operated Chassahowitzka river camping ground with other options for recreation such as hunting, fishing, and nature photography.

It also provides interactive programming that includes hands-on ecology workshops.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

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This historical State Park finds its place in the Florida State park historic places list.

It is located in Homosassa and is accessible from Crystal River.

It was established during the middle of the 19th century by the first American Jewish, David Levy Yulee, who served in the Senate of the US.

The plantation that earlier spanned 5,000 acres across Homosassa was home to 1,000 African American slaves.

These slaves worked to produce cotton, sugar cane, and citrus.

The by-products were used to produce rum.

The State Park presently looks after the plantation’s mill foundation stonework, a cane press, iron gears, and other machines.

It is a good spot with grills and barbecue stations for visitors for a single-day picnic with the availability of picnic pavilions and public restrooms.

Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts

One of the premier fine art galleries across Citrus County, the Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts showcases an extensive contemporary and traditional style artwork collection across several mediums.

Karen Anderson operates the gallery.

The gallery showcases the artists who work in pottery, natural photography, woodworking, oil and acrylic painting, jewelry, pottery, metal arts, glass, and sculpture.

Other unique art mediums have found recognition here, such as walking sticks, Gourd art, and arts representing the Manatee population of the region.

Several events are held at the gallery, including music performances, featured artist openings, artist events, and crafting classes.

The Coastal Heritage Museum

Coastal Heritage Museum

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Citrus County Historical Society takes care of a sociocultural Historical Museum by the name of the Coastal Heritage Museum.

This museum showcases a perspective of the Citrus Avenue Circa 1927 with a wide array of beautiful artifacts relating to the region’s early history, along with furniture and photography.

Originally constructed in 1939 and home to the city government up to the early 1970s, this museum exhibits Citrus County’s early history.

It includes the outer look of an earlier fish house and reconstructed jail holding cell since 1986.

The museum allows public viewing for free from every Wednesday to Saturday from morning to afternoon.

Cross Florida Greenway – Withlacoochee Bay Trail

Withlacoochee Bay Trail sign

DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This beautiful trail is part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida the Greenway, a mile-wide recreational trail stretching between the Gulf of Mexico and River St.Johns.

The track has separate portions for bikers, hikers, and equestrian riders.

Originally known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal, the trail Greenway was proposed in 1567.

After its cancellation in 1991, the Greenway was redeveloped, and today attracts lots of visitors to the Crystal River area.

The Withlacoochee river portion of the trail connects the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway near Yankee Town to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway through St.

Johns and Ocklawaha rivers.

Rock Crusher Canyon Pavilion and Amphitheater

This vibrant 20,000 square foot open-air amphitheater and pavilion is constructed within an earlier facility of the rock quarry.

It offers mind-blowing acoustic experiences to concert-goers throughout the year.

The facility has played host to famous rock and country music acts such as Barbara Mandrell, Jerry Lewis Lee, Sister Hazel, a band of Charlie Daniels, and Lee Ann Womack.

This facility can contain up to 5,000 concert viewers with RV hookups, concession areas, and sound systems that are available for special private events.

It’s the best place to check out a wide variety of local and regional music performances.

You can rent out the facilities’ pavilion for weddings, receptions, individual special events, and festivals of the community.

Copp Winery and Wine Bar

A one-stop destination for all wine lovers is this premier wine bar.

Copp Winery and Wine Bar in Crystal River showcases 40+ handcrafted wines that are produced on-site.

Some of the finest wines – Merlot, Cabinet, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Zinfandel blends – are created and imported from this Citrus County winery facility.

The visitors can taste from a wide array of wines and some light snacks, and an assortment of fine cheese.

The brewery also produces handcrafted beers, which are available at the company’s brewpub bar.

Crystal River Boat Builders

This builder of boats is a non-profit organization since 2009 and is a part of the Crystal River Preserve State Park program.

It looks after the marine heritage of the nature coast and presently functions as a stand-alone organization.

It hosts a museum and boat-building shop open to the public during a few hours of the week.

The volunteers showcase the replicas of historical ships and boats used for commercial and recreational purposes along the Gulf Coast with a collection of traditional hand-made tools.

There are special tours at hand for school students and community groups with reservations in advance.

The Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve

This 23,000-acre aquatic preserve was established in 1969 October to protect mangrove islands, rich offshore marsh, mudflat, and oyster bar habitat located at the intersection of Homosassa river and Crystal rivers.

This reserve is a part of the broader Saint Martins Marsh and Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves Complex that looks after a few of the world’s most extensive seagrass bed habitats.

Northwestern Florida provides commercial and recreational fishing opportunities at the preserve.

It provides kayak tours and migratory bird and waterfalls viewing, especially during winter and stopover times.

Seafood Seller and Café

This seafood cafe is an amazing restaurant that resembles the style of any New Orleans restaurant in the Mall of Crystal River.

It offers sumptuous Cajun-style delicacies and features freshly caught fish that are locally sourced.

They serve various wines, beers, liquors, sandwiches, burgers, fried oysters, alligator and chicken sausage jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, catfish Louisiana, raw, steamed seafood varieties, Maryland style crab cakes, and many more excellent seafood entrees.

Vintage on 5th

Vintage on 5th is one of the most eclectic restaurants and wine bars in the historic downtown district of Crystal River.

Interestingly, it is housed inside a renovated 1940s era cottage church.

It is noted for its impressive menu of various high-quality wines and favorite comfort food of the south.

Indoor and outdoor seating is available, including dog-friendly seating at the courtyard area and veranda of the restaurant.

It has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 2009.

The Crab Plant

This seafood market is one of its kind operated at the kings Bay in the Crystal River.

It was a Kofmehl family-owned market that the family opened for visitors in 2014.

This family has functioned as a regional wholesale market for crab and grouper since 1995.

It used its boats and daily-caught fresh fish.

This family brought in more than sixty years of experience in the seafood and allied industry in their various operations.

Visitors can use the seafood market of the facility from Tuesdays to Saturdays during afternoon and morning hours.

They can shop from a wide array of fresh seafood that includes crab, fish, squid, shrimp, and calamari.

What’s more, they also serve delicious seafood dishes during lunch as well as dinner from Tuesdays to Saturdays at their market’s restaurant.

The seafood dishes include appetizers, platters of steamed seafood, southern-style dishes such as jambalaya, grits and shrimp, and linguine from clams.

There are so many things to do and several places to visit in and around Crystal River.

It is a great place to be in, especially when it comes to trying out some delicious seafood.

Make your reservations now.

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