If your family loves to spend time outdoors communing with mother nature, then pack your bags and head to Homosassa Springs, Florida! You won’t be disappointed because Homosassa Springs is no ordinary travel destination. From birdwatching and kayaking to saying hi to Lu, a resident hippo, there’s no shortage of things to do and try at this park. And that’s not even including the highlight of the location; the Homosassa Springs manatees! So, keep reading to learn everything you need to know in order to make the most of your trip to Citrus County’s most prized spring.
Where is Homosassa Springs?
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Homosassa springs is a small town named after the famous Homosassa main spring, located on the west coast of Florida in Citrus County. It is bordered by the Crystal River to the north and Sugarmill Woods to the south. To see exactly where it is located, simply enter “4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. Homosassa FL 34446” into your GPS.
The springs are located within the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which provides accessible parking, adult strollers, and manual wheelchairs. It’s a very family-friendly park, and if you live in and around Florida, it’s a perfect day trip. You can take the I-95 North if you are located in South Florida and the I-275 West towards Tampa if you are somewhere north of Homosassa. But if all that is too much of a bother, you can also choose to fly directly into Tampa, and then take a taxi or a direct bus right to Homosassa Springs.
If you’re driving in by car, it’s likely you’ll want to spend the night to really take in the beauty of the springs. Camping is a great option to do so, and we get into that in greater detail down below. But if you’d rather not spend the night in a tent, there are plenty of more plush lodging options nearby. The Holiday Inn Express and the Retreat at Crystal Manatee are two of the tourist favorites in the area.
What is Homosassa Springs?
Spring water is basically groundwater that comes out of the surface of the earth due to pressure. Some springs have to travel from the earth’s surface thousands of years before they are exposed. In these cases, springs have different properties depending on where their waters come from.
These natural springs are one of the best ways for kids to have fun within nature and one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area. One of the unique features of the Homosassa headspring is that the main vent flows from three points underground with each vent having different salt content and water quality.
Homosassa Spring is one of Florida’s most fascinating natural wonders and is home to a large variety of wildlife. It has attracted people for several centuries. In fact, legend has it that the banks of the spring were home to some of the earliest people in Florida. You would be surprised to know that the Homosassa main spring is one of nearly thirty springs that form the Homosassa Springs group, which collectively make it one of the largest springs in the state. These springs are part of the head of the Homosassa River, which eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Today, the Homosassa spring is best known for being a haven for West Indian manatees, but you can also spot a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater fish while there. And a visit to the springs is incomplete without a visit to the rest of the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which has remained a major tourist attraction since the 1900s. It’s the proud home to many animals in captivity, including black bears and whooping cranes.
What Are The Opening Times For Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is open between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., but the ticket booth closes at 4:45 p.m., so be sure to plan your trip ahead of time if you are planning to go after noon.
General discounts are available to senior citizens (above 65 years) and disabled Florida residents, subject to certain conditions. You will also get discounts on overnight accommodations provided you are able to provide certain information. If you want to combine your trip to the springs with other nearby attractions, then purchasing a Family Annual Entrance Pass might be a good idea.
How Busy Is Homosassa Spring
While the park is busiest in March due to the pleasant weather and blossoming foliage that springtime brings, don’t be fooled; February and January follow closely behind. This is because wintertime is the season that the Homosassa springs manatees pay a visit. So if you’re looking to beat the crowds, just know that November is your best bet.
Since the weekends are busier than the weekdays, make sure to get there before 10 in the morning. However, you won’t have to worry too much either way, since the crowds tend to clear up post noon on most days.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Homosassa Springs?
The great thing about visiting Homosassa Springs State Park is that it has no entrance fee for kids who are under 6 years of age. However, there is a small fee for kids who are aged between 6 and 12 years of age. Anyone who is above 13 years of age is considered an adult and will be charged a full fee. So, if you are traveling as a family of four with two kids, it could cost you anywhere between $26 to $104. In addition, you might be charged an extra fee for some activities in the park, like for kayak rentals and for other events. Dining at the park cafeteria could also cost you a little bit extra.
Of course, there are many things you can do to cut costs, and the best way is to keep your trip fairly simple. Roam around using the Homosassa Springs Park’s walking trails and observe the most gorgeous foliage, birds and wildlife. You can also scout online for discount coupons.
What is the water temperature at Homosassa Springs
On an average, the temperature at Homosassa springs is around 77°F but it can range anywhere between 60.2°F and 88.2°F. In the winter, it does tend to get a bit colder, so remember to carry a wetsuit hoodie and even a pair of boots!
The best time for swimming is between March and November, when the temperature is at a nice and comfortable 68°F. Just keep in mind that swimming directly in the springs is not permitted at Three Sister’s Springs. There are also private tours, boats, and kayaks that take visitors out to the Crystal River, where swimming is possible.
Are There Alligators At Homosassa Springs?
There’s an alligator enclosure within the Homosassa springs park, but that isn’t something you have to worry about. There are alligators within the springs as well, but these are mostly found in the swampy and less visited areas. As a general rule of thumb, alligators tend to stay away from areas that see lots of human traffic, which means as long as you stay where the crowds are, you should be fine.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Campground Information
While there are no camping facilities or Homosassa RV resorts at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, there are several that are located in the general area of Homosassa Springs. The “Homosassa Springs RV Site with Dock,” is one such location where you can set up your RV and enjoy direct access to the springs. This site is hosted within a private residential property that is quite close to the head of the Homosassa River, which is why it is perfect for swimming and kayaking. The facility offers campers a full hookup service with water and sewer facilities.
There is another popular campground by name of “Manatee Delight RV Campsite” located next to Pepper Creek, connected to the Pepper Creek trail, which is part of the Homosassa Springs park. While the campground does not have any sewer hookups, the park has plenty of bathrooms for visitors to use. It’s the best option for families who are visiting for the hiking potential of the state park.
Things To Do At Homosassa Springs With Kids
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
A trip to Homosassa Springs is incomplete without a visit to the endemic species of wildlife at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. You will see red wolves, white-tailed deer, panthers, river otters and even exotic birds, among other fascinating wild creatures! The Wildlife encounter program is a popular guided tour that is favored by many, available at 10:30 a.m. and at 2:30 p.m. The Alligator and Hippopotamus tour is another that is also quite famous! And while you are there, don’t forget to wave “hi” to Lu (short for Lucifer), Homosassa’s own superstar hippopotamus who was a television star in the 60s.
The fresh water of this beautiful river comes to you directly from the springs, and legend goes that it is always at a constant of 78°F. This is a great place for you to try snorkeling and kayaking! But did you also know that the Crystal River is known as the Manatee Capital of the World? Between January and March every year, the manatees come here for an annual gathering. If you want to check them out, then you are in luck because the Homosassa Springs Manatees tours are offered every day at specific times (11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm).
Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory
The Homosassa Springs observatory is 55 feet deep, weighs a whopping 157 tons, and is the place to go for young marine enthusiasts to get a close-up look of the beautiful manatees. Don’t worry if enclosed spaces give you or your kids the jitters, because you can always settle for the fun of seeing the manatees through the television screen on the sundeck.
If you’re under the impression that land and water is all that is worth looking at Homosassa Springs Park, we assure you, it’s not! This Wildlife State Park offers you some of the rarest bird watching sites, with guided tours offered between October and April by the Citrus County Audubon Society. With about 20 birding trails to explore in all, birdwatching in Citrus County is simply a must-do!
Homosassa Springs Swimming
While swimming at Homosassa Springs is not an option, the nearby Crystal River is the perfect spot for those who love swimming and are also intrigued with the possibility of swimming with manatees. In fact, Citrus County is the only place in the U.S where it is legal to swim with manatees, and some agencies like River Ventures even offer swimmers manatee snorkeling tours so that you can get up close with these gentle giants.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to visit Homosassa Springs without exploring a hiking trail or two at the park; even if by accident! Families with young children will enjoy a nice warm stroll along the Homosassa Springs Boardwalk, a 1.1 mile stretch within the park where visitors get to observe the park’s wildlife and Homosassa Springs. There is also a trail called the Pepper Creek Trail outside the park, which is about 3/4th of a mile long and is quite famous among birdwatchers and families with toddlers.
Family Tips For Homosassa Springs
Florida has a warm and tropical climate, so you want to keep your eyes open for the weather forecast to ensure there is no heat advisory. Plus, you will want to make sure that you are all stocked up on water (ice-water, if you can!). And also remember that it’s most likely going to be a long day, so packing loads of snacks will definitely come in handy.
Here are some of the essentials you’ll need when traveling to Homosassa Springs:
- Bug spray (for the mosquitoes, of course!)
- A camera, so that you take lots and lots of pictures
- If you are traveling with a toddler, then you want to pack your diaper bag with wipes, extra clothes and a hot water bottle.
- An extra pair of clothing for each member of the family.
For food, the Wildside Café, located at the west entrance of the park and operational everyday between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m, is a popular option for day-trippers. However, it is also always a good idea to bring packed lunch because of all the fantastic picnic spots that the park offers!
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