The Crystal River Archeological Park is a fantastic place to go. Crystal River can get a bit crowded during scallop season or manatee season. The Park offers amazing views of the river from the top of the largest mound. Multiple burial mounds, middens and an air conditioned visitor’s center make up the park. Because the park is located directly on the river, there is often a cool breeze even in the hottest part of July and August. Crystal River Archeological Park is one of the more impressive ancient sites we have visited, especially considering it was rescued from being a trailer park.
The largest mound has stairs that allow you to climb to the top. The other mounds give an idea of the size of the native population for this area. Beads and other trade items show trading from the Ohio River Valley down to Meso America. A paved walking trail winds around the site. There are two stone stele. One contains a carving of a soldier with hair flowing behind him. Stop and see if you can find him! The rangers at the Park are very knowledgeable and always eager to talk about the area. There is a $3 per car honor system payment as you come in the gate. The Park is tucked away in Crystal River. It could be easily overlooked, but add this one to your GPS and head out to explore.
Homosassa Fun Things to Do! Some days we head South about 70 miles to Homosassa to visit the manatees, eat at one of our favorite restaurants “The Freezer,” and check in on Lu the Hippo. Lu is a retired Hollywood actor that was made a Florida resident by Order of the Governor to ensure he could stay in his home when it became a state park. You can also check out the monkeys on Monkey Island while enjoying a drink or an ice cream at Florida Cracker Kitchen. If you are looking for fun things to do, Homosassa may be worth the drive, just stay out of the splatter zone.
Our first stop is the Ellie Schiller State Wildlife Park where you can meet Lu and go down to an underwater manatee viewing area. It is amazing how the cool spring keeps the viewing area cool even in the summer. We see manatees in the Park even when it is not prime manatee season.
Next, on our stop is just a few minutes up the road to the Freezer tiki restaurant. It only takes cash, but does have an ATM. There menu is on boards around the restaurant. If you sit outside, you will need to come to the bar to order. If you sit under the roof, even on the porch, the wait staff will come to help. It is always busy, so going when it is not prime dinner or lunch time is recommended. Also, it is open air, even inside.
A pre-Civil War Sugar Mill is located between the Park and the Freezer is a good stop to explore some “old Florida.”
The Original Florida Cracker Resort and Kitchen is also just a few more minutes up the road. Monkey Island is right in front of the restaurant. You may need to pay $5 for parking when it is busy. A great ice cream shop is just next door.
The boats start coming in from their trips by afternoon and a great way to end the day is to relax at the Marina. Cold drinks are served and there’s lots of room on the top decks to check out the view. Often times there is a food truck to grab a snack.
Bring your own kayak and use the launch area right at the Landing Resort. On high tide you can explore up the creek on property. Paddle up to Steinhatchee falls and then enjoy letting the river bring you back to the resort. If you need to rent a kayak there are a few options that will help deliver you or the kayak where you need to go.
Did you know Florida’s WIDEST waterfall is in Taylor County, Florida, on the way to Steinhatchee?!
Steinhatchee Falls is located about two miles south of Tennille, Florida, on Florida Highway 51. It was formed by a limerock outcropping. Native Americans and settlers crossed the river here for hundreds of years!
Early in the 1900s, people would also use this spot to cross the river with their vehicles, prior to modern bridges being constructed; the flat natural bridge extends completely across the river and the water is only a few inches deep on top of the flat rock shelf! Traces of the old road are still there.
Don’t let the name throw you off. It may be the WIDEST waterfall in Florida, but it’s not very tall: the waterfall only has a drop of 3 feet! You can visit this spot for yourself, but keep in mind, the last mile of the drive to the falls is on a dirt road once you make the turn off of Florida State Highway 51. Also, you can’t really see the falls if the water level is too high!
There is also a great trail to the right of the rope swing. It’s well traveled in the beginning, but becomes more remote as you keep going. Beautiful cypress trees and old forest growth along the river. Definitely worth a trip.
People have enjoyed the cool waters of Manatee Springs for more than 10,000 years, from early Paleo Indians to modern park visitors. The first-magnitude spring releases an astounding 100 million gallons of water daily. This makes it a popular cooling-off spot and a great place to stroll on the park boardwalk and gaze into watery depths.
True to its namesake, manatees can be seen in the cooler months, and birds, mammals and fish are spotted year-round.
This is a great spot to rent a kayak or canoe and head out to the rover or just float near the crystal spring. There is a concession stand with snacks for lunch and several great trails.
Fanning Springs produces 65 million gallons of water daily, making it a second-magnitude spring. Historically, Fanning Spring was a first-magnitude springs as recently as the 1990s. The springs not only offer the perfect 72 degree water to cool down on hot Florida days, it also offers an abundance of underwater wildlife to view such as musk turtles, bass, mullet, freshwater flounder, bowfin, and manatees during the colder days, just to name a few.
Visitors can enjoy grilling and picnicking under the majestic live oaks, kids can swing and run around at the playground, and friends and family can have a friendly game of volleyball on the white sand volleyball court. We have a boardwalk that allows you to step back in time to old Florida as you stroll through a breathtaking cypress swamp with cypress knees standing six feet tall. This boardwalk ends with an overlook allowing you to see the Suwannee River and all it has to offer, including massive sturgeons jumping during the summer months.
White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers and barred owls are some of the animals that may be seen around the park. An overlook at the park allows you to see the spring in its entirety and has a spectacular view of the boil.