Crystal River: Florida's Hidden Gem
Located 4 ½ hours from Miami and 1 ½ hours from Tampa or Orlando, Crystal River does justice to its name. Prepare yourself to be dazzled by breathtaking crystal clear springs and plenty of manatees, very docile animals that migrate to Florida every winter, also known as sea cows.
There are about 30 different springs in the Kings Bay area, where Crystal River is located, and the pictures above were all taken by me in the Three Sisters Springs, a true gem that along with Crystal River itself, are unknown to most of Florida’s visitors.
Kings Bay receives over 400 manatees every winter and is the only place in the US where people can legally interact with them.
Let’s talk about Crystal River’s locals, the manatees. These friendly and large mammals are slow-moving animals that populate Florida’s coastal waters and rivers. Crystal River is known as the home of the manatees, therefore the city’s main business and tourist attractions are all related to these big buddies. Kings Bay receives over 400 manatees every winter and is the only place in the US where people can legally interact with them. Crystal River is “crowded” with manatees and visitors from November to March but note that designated manatee sanctuaries are closed from November 15th through March 31st. Tourists can still visit and view the manatees in their natural habitat, however, it must be done from boats or in the water outside of the marked boundaries. We went to Crystal River on spring and we only got to see a few manatees from a far. There are various ways to encounter manatees and to explore the beautiful waters of Crystal River, please check below for a list of things to do and tips for a trip that is a must for everyone visiting or living in Florida. Manatee encounters and access to the springs are available through the following ways: · Boat tours: Prices range from USD 55-70 per person for a 3h long snorkeling and swimming tour with manatees. · Kayaking: Prices are USD 30 for a single seat kayak and USD 40 for a 2-seat kayak, rates estimated on half a day rentals. · Paddle boarding: Prices are USD 25 for a 2h rental and USD 40 for a 4h rental of a beginner board. It takes around 1h to get to Three Sister Springs on a paddle board depending on wind conditions. If you are used to this sport, it’s definitely worth it, but it might turn wearing for beginners to arrive at the best part of this adventure. Tips: Get a map of the springs: There are plenty of places to see in Crystal River while kayaking or paddle boarding on your own. You will need a map to find the different springs as this is a large area with various canals. Gear up: water up there is very cold, so unless you are visiting Crystal River on summer, you will need a wetsuit. Tour companies have gear, masks and snorkels available for rental in case you don’t have them. Bring in an underwater camera, just trust me and you will see why with your own eyes. Please keep distance: manatees are extremely docile creatures but an endangered species, protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Both of these laws make it illegal to harm, harass, injure, kill, etc. manatees. Please respect their space, this helps them with their struggle for survival. If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to hear from you! With love, Bella.