We were in Homosassa Springs from 1/19 to 1/21/2022 as part of our Florida in January trip.
Spoiler: FINALLY WE SAW MANATEES AND IT WAS GLORIOUS!!!
In our original route-planning, we were shooting for a stay in Crystal River, just north of Homosassa, but couldn’t get a campsite there. Both towns are wintertime manatee meccas as the manatees head in from the ocean to the warm water of Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, and Homosassa Springs. Crystal River is a little bigger and posher (and more crowded), and we ended up really enjoying the more laid-back, local vibe of Homosassa.
Remember my pronunciation note from two stops ago when we camped on the Myakka River? Same deal here–Homosassa is pronounced ho-mo-SASS-uh. Not ho-mo-SAUCE-uh. That took us some practice.
And like our Myakka River stop, our focus while in Homosassa was on the water. We wanted to spend as much time on or near the Homosassa River as possible!
From Dunedin, it was a pleasant hour-and-a-half drive up the west coast to Homosassa. Our campground, Camp’n’Water Outdoor Resort, was quiet and shady, with friendly people, a pool, a boat launch, and boat parking available. It seemed a little dumpy though–the spot originally assigned to us had a bunch of junk left behind from the previous residents, and the spot they moved us to had deep tire trenches cut into the dirt site pad. There’s a nicer-looking RV park up the road that we might try on a future visit.
Eating and drinking
There’s not a whole lot going on in Homosassa, but we found some fun spots to eat and drink!
The Freezer is a tiki/dive bar and seafood restaurant in a little cove very close to the campground and the center of Homosassa. We were there for dinner on a Wednesday and it was verrrry busy; turns out Wednesday is steak night. After waiting a while in line to order, service was fast and all our food was super: salmon dip, clam chowder, steamed shrimp. Our only complaint was the no-see-ums. The Freezer is a popular spot with the locals and felt way less touristy than anywhere else we visited.
Crumps Landing is a fancier tiki bar/restaurant a thirteen-minute drive from the campground–in a car, that is. By boat, it’s just across the river, and we that’s how we went for a drink and a snack while out exploring on the water. Boat parking was easy and it was the perfect dog-friendly place to stop and enjoy the river scene.
Monkey Bar is a unique place for a drink: it overlooks Monkey Island, a small private island with a resident family of spider monkeys. They put on a fun show swinging and playing, and they’re well-cared for by the resort, so hopefully they’re happy!
If you’re wandering farther afield, J had a fantastic Vietnamese chicken lettuce wrap in Inverness at Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters (my wrap, pictured above, was just ok). It was a cool shop, with a zillion varieties of coffee beans, and live music.
While it’s possible to see the manatees from land, to get up close and personal you have to go out on a boat! If you don’t want to captain your own vessel, there are lots of options for boat tours and river safaris.
The first thing we did after parking the Airstream was find a kayak rental, and we landed nearby at River Adventure Tours for a $25 two-hour rental. The boat lady pointed us in the direction of the manatee zone and off we went toward the springs.
It was very exciting to spot our first few manatees and then suddenly they were everywhere! Lots of moms and calfs, and a couple even approached our kayaks to say hello! It was awesome.
The next day we thought it would be fun to cover more territory and bring Bugsy along, so we rented a pontoon boat from River Safaris. Our goals for this outing were to see more manatees (of course), but also to go toward the gulf and hopefully see some dolphins. Stop 1 was back to the manatee zone where we had kayaked, stop 2 was Crumps Landing for a snack, then stop 3 was allll the way down to the mouth of the river where we saw dolphins!
The river is scenic (other than the nuclear power plant!) and undeveloped toward the gulf and it was a super fun adventure. If you’re looking into pontoon rentals, make sure the company allows you to take a boat to the areas you want to go. The place we talked to before River Safaris was much more restrictive.
If you don’t want to get in a boat, the best place to see manatees is at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. There’s an underwater viewing area for the manatees and all sorts of fish, and a nature boardwalk weaving through animal habitats. The animals are mostly rescues who can’t live in the wild, but some of the birds are wild birds who have chosen to live there, or just come at feeding time.
We loved it all: the whooping crane love story, Lu the hippo who was a TV star in the 60s, and learning that bald eagles and vultures can be friends (I couldn’t find reference to that online but I’m sticking with it)… It’s a wonderful park.
Just a couple minutes from the campground, the Salt Marsh Trails were a lovely place to kill an hour with Bugsy while J had a zoom meeting in the Airstream. The side trails were really muddy in spots, but the main trail was dry, and we had the place entirely to ourselves.
J had another meeting, so Bugsy and I drove north to Crystal River. After walking the cute downtown strip, we continued on to Crystal River Preserve State Park for a hike. We walked for a couple miles along the peaceful and unpeopled Crystal Cove Trail with some views of Crystal River (no manatees though).
Finally, the morning we left Homosassa for Bronson we stopped in Inverness for lunch (mentioned above) and to walk on the highly-rated Withlacoochee State Trail multi-use path. It’s a 46-mile paved rails-to-trails that touches the edge of downtown Inverness, a small town with a little bit going on.
Here’s where we parked the Airstream near the trail and downtown without trouble on a weekday. The Withlacoochie Trail would be a super place to ride a bike–maybe we’ll ride some of the trail next visit.
Homosassa was an excellent stop and we’d return!
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