Crystal River is located right on the Gulf Coast of Florida just a little over an hour north of Tampa, a little over an hour south of Gainesville, and about and hour and a half west of Orlando. This area is commonly referred to as “The Nature Coast” because of the abundance of parks, preserves, and wildlife, and it is also one of the best places to get up close and personal with some West Indian Manatees.
Crystal River is also known for all of the natural springs that produce warm water year round. This is what attracts all of the manatees, and also what produces some of the best natural environments in all of Florida that are open for locals to explore freely.
Crystal River History
Human life in Crystal River tracks back as far as 500 BC. At that time, the area was home to many Native Americans that were known for building large mounds of discarded shellfish shells. However, the area was abandoned prior to being discovered by European settlers.
During the era of the Civil War, the turpentine business was big in Crystal River. That was followed by the discovery and production of phosphate during the time of World War II. Today, the area is known for having some of the best tarpon fishing in the world and being a calm and relaxing place for nature lovers to retire.
Crystal River Lifestyle
The lifestyle in Crystal River revolves around enjoying all of the state parks, wildlife preserves, and open waters that local residents have access to. Whether you are looking to swim with the manatees, explore the areas history, or catch and cook your own seafood, there are plenty of options in Crystal River.
As you begin to explore the area, you will definitely want to check out Three Sisters Springs, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, and Fort Island Trail Park. Each of these local attractions offer a unique version of the nature-lover lifestyle that Crystal River is known for.
Crystal River Culture
It’s location close to Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville means that residents of Crystal River are never far from the cultural activities and events of those large cities. There is almost always something interesting happening at one of the historic theaters located in each of these cities.
On top of that, there are also plenty of small theater groups that operate right in Crystal River.
Crystal River Shopping
While the mall and shopping center are more mainstream operations, Heritage Village is a unique place that you will definitely want to explore if you are into shopping local. It is a great place to locate awesome gift ideas for the entire family.
Crystal River Dining
Crystal River is known for having a plethora of outstanding fresh seafood restaurants, but one of the most unique is Seafood Seller & Cafe, which just happens to be located in the food court of the Crystal River Mall. Now we aren’t usually big on recommending restaurants in mall food courts, but this one is definitely worth making an exception…they don’t serve the standard food court food here!
Another popular option for fried seafood is Dan’s Clam Stand. Whether you prefer the popcorn shrimp, fried grouper bites, or fried clam strip, you will definitely want to try their signature cajun fries!
Since seafood isn’t for everyone, you might also want to try the Brooklyn Dockside Deli. This little place combines the fantastic flavors of an authentic Brooklyn deli with the relaxed environment of Florida’s Gulf Coast. There is a wide variety of options to try here, but the standard club sandwich and the cajun turkey salad are two of our favorites.
One of the favorite local spots for celebrating special events is Vintage on 5th. This renovated church serves a delicious combination of local seafood, great steaks, and other local favorites. They also have an excellent wine list.
Crystal River Developments
With more than 10,000 single-family homes, the Villages of Citrus Hills is definitely the largest and most impressive retirement community in the Crystal River area. They have been building and reselling homes here since 1982 and the typical house can cost anywhere from the low $100s all the way up to almost $1 million.
The big attraction at the Villages of Citrus Hills is their fabulous collection of amenities. The community includes three 18-hole golf courses, a first-class tennis facility, three full service restaurants, and an entertainment calendar that is absolutely packed with exciting activities.
The Nature Coast Experience
Crystal River offers residents almost endless opportunities for hiking, boating, fishing, birding, and many other types of nature experiences. The entire area revolves around the idea that getting close to nature is what life is all about.
If exploring the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast is how you envisioned your retirement years, then the Crystal River area is the perfect place for you!