When most people think of Florida, they picture crowded beaches, theme parks, and tourists but there is another side to the Sunshine State many people never see. People come to Homosassa year round to camp, dive, standup paddleboard, go boating, and see the manatees. It’s a perfect respite from the commotion of more commercial parts of Florida. It is one of Florida’s most underrated destinations and provides a beautiful view to the unique natural environment.
The best time to visit Homosassa, Florida
The best time to visit depends on what brings you there. While manatees are around all year, they gravitate towards the spring water when the gulf temperature dips below 68 degrees. If you go on a manatee diving tour, you’ll probably see some no matter what, but you’ll have the best experience when it’s cooler out. If you just want to go to experience the Florida wildlife, visiting in spring or fall is the best. This is when the scalloping rush is over and the weather is warm, but less hot and humid.
The best accommodation and hotels in Homosassa
The best way to stay in Homosassa is through vacation rental sites like Airbnb or VRBO. For the price of a hotel room, you can have your own private home away from home, directly on the water. Many rentals are owned by people who live in Florida in the winter and venture up north during the summer. Because of this, most of the houses come with fishing gear, kayaks, and canoes to borrow. Another bonus to rentals is that they often allow pets!
If you only plan on staying for a couple days to dive, a hotel might be a better option. Here are some of the best place to stay near Homosassa:
TradeWinds Homosassa Marine Resort: Private villas set on the Homosassa River! Each villa has a kitchen, boat slip, and access to a community clubhouse, pool, and cycling path.
Plantation on Crystal River: While this is technically in the next town over, it’s still close to all the attractions in Homosassa. The resort is beautiful and they have a dive shop on-site.
How to get around
Homosassa is a little over an hour from Tampa International Airport, so finding an inexpensive flight shouldn’t be challenging. You will need a rental car to get around as there is no bus line or shuttle. If you want to explore the area on the water boat rentals are a stress-free and affordable way to explore the bay.
For about $200 you can rent a pontoon boat for nine hours. If you’re inexperienced with boating many marinas will let you “rent” a captain as well. This is a great option if you want to enjoy the water with your friends or family. And of course you can bring your dog!
The best restaurants in Homosassa
The Freezer: Enjoy some of the best fresh seafood Homosassa has to offer at this no-frills bar and grill. They are known for their shrimp, crab legs, and cheap beer.
The Shed at MacRae’s: This is by far the most popular bar in the area. It is right on the water and has live music Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Dan’s Clam Stand: This restaurant is known for their fried clams and gives you a taste of “Old Florida” charm. It’s a perfect place to go with your family after a long day at the Springs.
Wild Sassa Seafood: Wild Sassa Seafood is a charming outdoor diner that is a little offbeat. They’re happy to prepare and cook fish that you catch yourself.
Greenhouse Bistro and Market: This restaurant brings a refreshing upscale-but-rustic vibe to the area. They are known for their beautiful view of the sunset and river.
Adventurous things to do in Homosassa
● Dolphin and manatee tours ● Boating and jet skiing ● Paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing ● Visit the historic sugar mills ● Swim in the springs ● Hiking and birdwatching ● Hang out at MacRae’s
Crystal River vs. Homosassa
Crystal River is the neighboring town to Homosassa. It offers many of the same attractions and is only about twenty minutes away. The main difference is that Homosassa is quieter and more popular among locals. Both offer great experiences, it just comes down to personal preference.
Chapter 2: Scuba diving in Crystal River and Homosassa
Why dive in Homosassa and Crystal River?
Some of the best dive sites in the area include the Blue Grotto, Devil’s Den, Paradise Springs, Ginnie Springs, Homosassa Springs, and the Rainbow River. Many dive sites have caverns and caves, so be sure to dive strictly within your limits.
The best dive sites around Crystal River and what you can expect to see
What you’ll see: This region is home to the West Indian Manatee, a curious creature (some say manatees are the original mermaids) that gravitates toward warmer waters — especially from October to February. Some of the springs also host underwater flowers, sea grass, and ancient fossils.
While it’s possible to dive in the gulf, you’ll need to dive from a boat to truly experience depth and reach environments where interesting marine life lives. Instead, stick to the rivers and springs which are much more accessible and interesting.
Blue Grotto: This scuba site is a sinkhole that spans 100 feet (30 meters) deep and is equipped with dive lines, underwater lights, and an air bell.
Ginnie Springs: The ultimate dive site for cave divers and open water divers who want to get a glimpse of cave diving by exploring the Ginnie Spring Cavern. There are over 30,000 feet of passageways for cave divers that weave throughout the Devil’s Eye and Ear cave system.
Rainbow River: A dive site that’s known for its great visibility, geothermal vents, and fields of sea grass that is a safe-haven for many types of turtles and juvenile fish.
Manatee Springs: Open water scuba dive site where you can enter from the main spring or at Catfish Hotel. If you are a cave diver, you’ll be able to enter near the Friedman Sink or Catfish Hotel to explore the Springs’ many overhead areas. There are over 20,000 feet of caves mapped in Manatee Springs State Park — making it one of the best dive sites for cave divers. It has extreme depths that span thousands of feet deep and it’s common to see fossils during a dive.
Three Sisters Spring (snorkel/freedive): A shallow spring that often hosts over 300 manatees at a time. Clear, warm water that’s perfect for shallow freediving and snorkeling.
Devil’s Den: Devil’s Den is a privately owned spring where you can dive with a buddy and advance your training down to 50 feet. The site is prehistoric and home to fossils from the Pleistocene Age.
Would you want to visit Homosassa and Crystal River?
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