It’s possible you’ve never even heard of Homosassa, unless you are from Florida, and even then you still might not know about this rustic river side town. Located on the west coast on Florida, about an hour and a half north of Clearwater, Homosassa is a delightful historic city with much to offer vis0itors and residents. Known for its manatee viewing opportunities, and thrilling airboat rides, and fresh, REALLY FRESH, seafood, we highly recommend putting Homosassa on your list of weekend getaways.
A Weekend in Homosassa
We started the day early with an airboat tour. Florida can be brutally hot in the afternoons, so we wanted to get our ride in early. We’ve also seen pro-tips that wildlife is more active in the early hours. We took our tour with PT Airboat Adventures, and lucked out by getting a totally private ride, with just us and the airboat pilot. The ride took us around Monkey Island, more on that later, and down the Homosassa River.
While we were navigating through the no wake zone, the boat ride was pretty tame, but as soon as we reached the channel leading to the gulf, the boat really took off. The boat drifts and slides through the channel waters, prompting the pilot to tell you to hold on to anything not tied down. The fan in the back stirs up quite the noise, so grab some headphones to protect your ears.
An airboat ride has been on Jeremy’s bucket list ever since we started taking trips around Florida. I am so glad we got to experience this while we were here. We certainly have plans to take another thrilling ride the next time we are in town.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of our favorite Florida State Parks. We’ve visited a couple of times now, and every time the experience is a little bit unique. Unlike many state parks, at Homosassa Springs you can come face to face with Florida’s wildlife, without worry about your or their safety. Serving as ambassadors for their species, these animals are permanent residents here due to various injuries and circumstances that make them unable to rejoin the wild.
You’ll see black bears, bob cats, foxes, and cranes, that could all be spotted around the state. However one resident you probably won’t see anywhere else in the state. Lu, the oldest hippopotamus living in captivity, has been at the park since before the state took over. He was named an official Florida resident in the 1980’s in order to keep him at the park.
Homosassa Springs State Park started as many things in Florida do, a tourist attraction. They brought in animals to encourage visitors to spend a little time, and money in the town of Homosassa. The area also draws a large crowd of manatees on cold days. They have created an underwater viewing area to give visitors an amazing of these gentle giants.
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park
Visiting Historic sites like the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins can be a great way to learn about this history of Florida. However, this park should also serve as a reminder about the enslaved people who were forced to work through the state. Although not considered a traditionally southern state, Florida played an active role in the Civil War, and many of the powerful, wealthy, and politically important leaders during that time benefited from the labor of these enslaved peoples.
This sugar mill stands as the only remaining artifact from a plantation that spread out over 5000 acers, after a fire in the 1860’s cause the rest of the plantation to burn to the ground. Sugar cane was a major crop in the area at the time, and the Sugar Mill was used to process the cane to make sugar, molasses and rum. Although seemingly archaic, sugar production hasn’t changed much to this day, so this mill is a great insight into the history and future of the sugar industry in Florida.
One of the most unique tourist attractions in Homosassa is definitely Monkey Island. Located on the Homosassa River between the Florida Cracker Kitchen & Monkey Bar and Crump’s Landing. The Island didn’t always exist, and has evolved over time to its current state, as the home of Homosassa’s banana loving residents.
Originally just a pile of rocks which kept causing issues for boaters at high tide, a local has the area dredged to create the island. However the island because an eyesore for the waterfront guests, so they dressed it up with some landscaping and a lighthouse. When the money residents of the Nearby Wildlife Park started to get loose and wreak havoc with the tourists and locals, they decided the best place for them was the island. The water discourages the monkeys from leaving the island, and since they are well cared for the by Florida Cracker Resort, why would they ever want to leave?
The Monkey Bar is a great place to spend the afternoon, with excellent views of the island, you can sit back and relax and watch them play around the island. Without the fear that they might come from behind you and steal your wallet, like they did before they took us residence on the island.
In the summer months, specifically July through September, Homosassa becomes the hub for those looking to get out on the water, and go scalloping. If it’s your first time scalloping, you can hire a charter to take you out to the best spot and show you the ropes. You will head about 2 miles out into the gulf and anchor in water about 4 to 8 feet deep. And its just as simple as swimming down to the bottom and picking them up.
Scallops also have a very unique way of swimming, by opening and closing their mouths, and propelling themselves through the water, its pretty amazing to see. You are limited to 2 buckets of scallops a day per boat. Once you get back to shore, its Time to Enjoy your Fresh Catch.
Manatees are one of Florida’s most treasured residents. Manatees are very particular about the temperature of their water, so when the cold weather sets in, however briefly, the manatees take refuge in our springs. Because the springs maintain a constant temperature year round, its pretty predictable when you will find them.
So in the colder months, tourists and residents alike will flock to the springs to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. In Homosassa you are never more than a few miles from a spring. And if you are brave enough, or maybe fool hearted enough, you can jump into the cold water and swim along side these manatees. Throughout Homosassa you can find tours that equip you with the snorkeling gear needed. Keep in mind if you dive in, manatees are to be left alone to do as they please, you are just there to observe and enjoy as they float on by.
When you make your plans to visit Homosassa, you can jam pack your day with as much adventure as can fit into 24 hours, or keep your day slow with relaxing time on the water. No matter what pace you plan your day, you will be planning your trip back to Homosassa before you’ve even headed home.