Today's Stop.....the Crystal River!
On Friday we stopped first at Weeki Wachee. Just about 20 miles north is Crystal River destination the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of several islands, totaling Approximately 46 acres and surrounded by the crystal clear, spring-fed waters of Kings Bay. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is oriented toward preservation and protection of the West Indian Manatee and its habitat. During the winter when manatees concentrate at certain areas in Kings Bay and are designated, Manatee Sanctuary areas. These sanctuaries provide places for manatees to rest and feed undisturbed in the warmth of the springs.
(this pic from website)
The refuge also aids in preserving Florida's most significant naturally occurring warm water haven for the manatee and provides critical habitat for approximately twenty percent of flow daily from more than thirty natural springs. The temperature of the water flowing from the springs remains a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Manatees are like people and susceptible to cold and hypothermia and cannot survive from extended periods when water temperatures fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. These warm water springs are essential for manatee survival. This gentle giant is endangered largely because of alteration and destruction of coastal habitats by man. Refuge islands and surrounding waters provide excellent habitat for a large number and variety of wildlife species
To Do:Well, swim with Manatee's of course! Established in 1992, Florida Manatee Tours & Crystal River Watersports family owned business is located at the Days Inn Resort in Crystal River, Florida is one of the oldest and most trusted Manatee Tour operators in Citrus County.
(this pic from website)
If you do not want to get in the water, you can stay on the boat and sight see. They have nice warm boats with hot chocolate and coffee onboard, if you are chilled by the year round 72 degree water temperature.
Florida Manatee Tours guarantees that you will see manatees in Crystal River. That being said, they cannot force the manatee to swim with you. They will bring you to the manatees and if the manatee chose to interact they will come to you, as they are very curious creatures (much like cats). The manatees we encountered were very sedentary. Our guide believes it is because it was the end of the "season" for migrating manatee.
We did see and swim with several, but the ones we swan with much preferred to eat and swim, rather than play, as they do in the fall when they arrive. There are about 40 resident manatees in Crystal River all summer and in the winter about 300 manatees or more.
(this pic from website)
Our guide, Shay suggested that we try out Peck's Old Port Cove in Ozello for supper. "This place is a local favorite. It's a long drive...nine miles from Hwy 19 (ab 20 minutes from Crystal River) but worth it. The drive is the most beautiful in the state of Florida, I think, and the view of the sunset from there......a must! I highly recommend."
And Shay was right. The drive was beautiful, as he promised. Most of it though estuaries and backwater, it was swampy and full of wildlife, which made it interesting for everyone on the way. The nine miles went by like seconds. In no time we were at the unassuming block house that was quick becoming crowed with the locals. A good sign, indeed. Peck's is famous for it's soft shell crab raised in house. But with any dish at Peck's you really cannot go wrong. Big Daddy opted for their Fried Seafood Platter.
I enjoyed their tossed dinner salad, with a side order of hushpuppies. The hushpuppies, perfectly crisp on the outside, light and fluffy inside. And ask Sister Sledge what she loved about Peck's and she will tell you that she loved their sweet tea, served like we do in the south....from a mason jar! In central Florida, many don't know how to make sweet tea, but Peck's is educated in that as well. Good call, Shay! Thank you for the recommendation!
Peck's Old Port Cove
139 N Ozello Trl
Crystal River, FL 34429
Where to Stay
Located on the water, just behind the Days Inn Resort (see below) in Crystal River, Florida, there are no fees to pay for safe secure parking, you board your boat just outside your room at our marina for your Crystal River Manatee Tours, River Cruises, Scuba Tours, or Fishing Charters offered year round.
Now, for a limited time, book through Florida Manatee Tours and they can reserve you a discount room at the Days Inn (right across the parking lot) for $58.50 per night (plus 9% tax). We got this deal for two nights and were very pleased with Days Inn...and for that price, who wouldn't be? There is a 24 hour Denny's on location, perfect for a late night bite. If you are a hotel guest, you can get 20% off of your Denny's tab. The Days Inn features a wonderful pool located in their courtyard, as well as a wooden sundeck and great playground for children. There is also a large grassy area to enjoy a game of football or Frisbee (if you packed them!).
Florida Manatee Tours