Things to do in Crystal River

Things to do in  Crystal River

Meet the manatees

Located along a stretch of Florida shoreline known as the Nature Coast, Crystal River is famous for its wildlife refuge dedicated to the preservation of manatees. Here, the river and dozens of freshwater springs set the scene for outdoor adventures including snorkeling with manatees, clear kayaking excursions, fishing charters, and eco tours. And in addition to the long list of things to do on the water, Crystal River also offers a historic downtown and attractions such as the Three Sisters Spring Boardwalk and Fort Island Gulf Beach.

Top 3 attractions in Crystal River

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

If you've ever dreamt of swimming with manatees in their natural habitat, Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is where to go. Established in 1983, the 177-acre (71-hectare) refuge is home to America’s largest concentration of the gentle giants. West Indian Manatees flock to the more than 70 turquoise-colored springs in Crystal River for warmth during winter. With hundreds of manatees in a small area, sightings are frequent.More

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Set on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is best known for its population of West Indian manatees. The park is primarily a rehabilitation center for the creatures, which swim in the freshwater spring while they are treated. On land, native Florida wildlife thrives in the dense surrounding forest.More
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

A relic of a bygone era when family road trips were still coming into vogue, Weeki Wachee Springs has been luring visitors off US 19 for 70 years. Why? This clear, cold and deep natural spring has real mermaids.Young women, outfitted with shimmering tails and an oxygen lifeline to the surface, perform synchronized dances in the currents of the steadily flowing Weeki Watchee Springs State Park.Occasionally accompanied by the unsuspecting wandering manatee, otter or fish, the mermaid shows are themed and involved—like underwater musicals—for onlookers to peer through the site's 16-foot, glass-fronted basin from their seats in the 500-person amphitheater (For the best view, higher levels are recommended).In addition to the shows, admission also includes riverboat rides, native Florida wildlife shows featuring alligators and snakes and access to picnic areas and Buccaneer Bay—a small beach with a kiddie pool and three waterslides dumping into the spring. With spring water always hovering at 75°F (24°C), it can be chilly to swim in on overcast days or in the winter months, given that a typical indoor pool is heated to 82°F (28°C) or so. Those visiting in summer can easily spend a full day or more—young mermaid enthusiasts ages 7 to 14 can join two-day camps to learn the underwater ballet moves of the Weeki Wachee mermaids.More

Top activities in Crystal River

The 'OG' Manatee Snorkel Tour with In-Water Guide/Photographer
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Exclusive Small Group VIP Heated Manatee Snorkel Tour
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Private 'OG' Manatee Snorkel Tour with Guide for up to 10 people
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Morning Swim and Snorkel with Manatees-Guided Crystal River Tour
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Morning Swim and Snorkel with Manatees-Guided Crystal River Tour

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Guided Small Group Manatee Snorkeling Tour with In-Water Photographer
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Full Day Single Kayak Rental In Crystal River
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Deluxe Manatee Swim Tour

Deluxe Manatee Swim Tour

Full Day Tandem Kayak Rental For Two People In Crystal River, Florida
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Private Manatee Tour for up to 10

Private Manatee Tour for up to 10

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All about Crystal River

When to visit

The best time to visit Crystal River is November–May when the manatees are most plentiful. Although manatee tours run year-round, the manatees prefer to chill in the spring-fed waters in the cooler months and the ocean in summer. Still, whenever you visit, there are plenty of other things to do, including kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, fishing, scalloping (July-October), shopping, eating, and visiting historical sites.

Getting around

Conveniently located on Florida’s “nature coast” between Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville, Crystal River is best accessed by road. To minimize driving, pick a spot on the waterfront close to Kings Bay and spend your time boating, SUPing, and snorkeling around the springs. The coast is a short drive away, and most of the town center can be accessed on foot or by bicycle—although if you visit in summer be prepared for plenty of heat and humidity.

Traveler tips

Crystal River is the only place in the US where people can legally swim with wild manatees, which means it’s very popular in peak manatee season. Visit out of season for fewer manatees but also fewer people, lower prices, and the chance to visit the springs that are closed off to boats in high season. Be sure to escape manatee mayhem at Crystal River Archaeological State Park, a 2,500-year-old pre-Columbian site a few miles out of town.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
EST (UTC -5)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is Crystal River known for?

Many visitors know Crystal River for its world-class fishing, but hundreds of manatees know these warm waters as their winter home. Each year, from November through May, hundreds of manatees migrate to Crystal River, offering visitors a chance to swim, kayak, and dive with these gentle creatures.

What is there to do in Crystal River?

You’d better bring your swimsuit, camera, and love of marine life when you visit Crystal River. Popular for being the only place in Florida where you can legally swim with manatees in their natural habitat, Crystal River is also a notable place to fish, kayak through mangroves, and take boat tours.

Does Crystal River have a downtown?

Yes, Crystal River has a compact downtown area which includes the Three Sisters Springs Visitor Center. The historic Main Street is lined with locally owned restaurants offering seafood and Southern barbecue. There’s also a monthly First Friday celebration with live music. The nearby Coastal Heritage Museum tells of local history.

Are there alligators in the Crystal River?

Yes, there have been alligator sightings around Crystal River. Florida is home to over 1 million alligators and these creatures may be present in any body of fresh water throughout the state. However, alligators are typically not in the areas of Crystal River where you’d swim or dive with manatees.

Can you swim in the Crystal River?

Yes, you can swim in the Crystal River and in the waters around Crystal River. Crystal River is the only place where you’re legally allowed to swim with manatees. You can also swim in Kings Bay and Three Sisters Springs, but marine life such as alligators may be present.

How far is Crystal River from a beach?

The closest beach to Crystal River is Fort Island Beach, sitting only a 15-minute drive west of the city. This soft, white-sand beach rests along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a family-friendly public beach that features a fishing pier, a boat ramp, covered picnic tables, restrooms, and plenty of parking.

Frequently Asked Questions
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