Just an hour drive northwest of Orlando on the Gulf, Citrus County is the perfect place for travelers to get the perfect dose of Old Florida. Home to protected parks, endangered West Indian manatees and old-fashioned museums, the area offers fun and wonderful opportunities unique only to this part of Florida. On your next road trip through the state, do not skip Citrus County. Plan to stay a night or two in Citrus County to see some of the best of Florida. Here are six things to do during your stay.
1. Meet a manatee. Citrus County is one of the few places in the world where you can snorkel with the rare and endangered West Indian manatees. Operators like River Ventures can take you on a guided manatee tour with a captain who acts as a guide and educator. You’ll visit natural springs like Three Sisters Springs where the friendly giants dwell, giving you plenty of time in the water for a passive manatee encounter. Snorkels and wetsuits are provided.
More: Read about other ways to meet a manatee in Citrus County.
2. View more native wildlife at Homosassa Springs State Park. Another great place to get up close to manatees and other wildlife is at Homosassa Springs State Park. At this park, guests can have an underwater view of the creatures through a glass wall and see other Florida friends such as alligators, black bears, snakes, bobcats and river otters. Families can also enjoy hundreds of fish in the underwater observatory. Guests also can go on a scenic hike through the 1.2-mile trail at the park.
More: Read about why Citrus County is an ideal destination for families.
3. Explore the county’s history at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum. Elvis fans, take note: The King graced this museum during the filming of one of his great flicks, “Follow that Dream.” Built in 1912, the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum in Citrus County is home to ancient Indian artifacts from the area and tools used from the early pioneers. Guides can give educational tours through the museum explaining the history of old Florida and its inhabitants (a great activity for kids). The courthouse also hosts a series of concerts, so check the calendar in advance of your visit.
4. Kayak the Chassahowitzka River. Rent kayaks from Chassahowitzka River Campground and paddle down the scenic creek to see some of the best of Florida’s 31,000 acres of untouched nature. Paddlers can see wildlife like feral pigs, otters and hawks. Chassahowitzka River averages between 1 to 4 feet deep, so it’s incredibly easy to spot fish and underwater creatures. The campsite offers designated camping areas for tents and RVs.
More: Citrus County is a water lover’s dream vacation spot. Read six reasons why.
5. Rent a pontoon boat. If your road-trip crew requires more of a bus than a car, then consider renting a pontoon boat for a fun day out on the water from an operator like River Safaris. Pontoons hold up to 12 people, and an on-board captain can navigate Citrus County waterways like the crystal-clear Homosassa River for swimming or a snorkel outing. The captain also can guide you to a favorite local waterfront restaurant.
6. Go scalloping. If your road trip takes you through Citrus County in July, August or September, you have to go hunting for scallops during their prime harvesting season. To be properly equipped, all you need is a snorkel mask, fins and a mesh bag to store them in (and a fishing license if you’re over 16). Then it’s as easy as diving in, finding the scallops in the sea beds and collecting them in your bag. There are a number of cleaning stations by boat ramps that will clean your scallops for a small fee, and whether eaten grilled or raw, you can’t get a better taste of Florida than catching and eating bay scallops.