A Wildlife Adventure: Outdoor Activities In Crystal River

Crystal River Florida Manatee
Photo by Eric Carlander

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Sunny, warm, and full of life, Crystal River is a coastal city in Florida that’s home to unique wildlife and beautiful natural scenery. Tourists typically visit Crystal River for its beautiful state parks, fun outdoor activities, and the gentle manatees that come and visit the river all year round. 

Read on to learn more about Crystal River and the best outdoor activities you can find here.


Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429, United States

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge at Kings Bay is the only wildlife refuge in the country that specifically takes care of Florida’s beloved manatee as well as other animals that reside in the area.

When winter comes, the Wildlife Refuge protects the habitat not only for the manatees coming to its warm waters but also the migratory birds that flock to its shore. The wildlife refuge serves as a sanctuary for these animals.

How To Help Out At The National Wildlife Refuge

The Wildlife Refuge has many ongoing programs for wildlife protection and conservation in the area, especially for the manatees. The refuge provides regular health assessments, monthly counts, animal rescue efforts, and wildlife release.

The wildlife refuge allows visitors to help out in the following ways:

  • Volunteering
  • Replenishing supplies
  • Assisting visitors
  • Watching manatees

To get more information on how you can help the refuge protect and maintain wildlife safety, contact the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge directly on its website. 

Crystal River’s Top Outdoor Activities

Swim With Manatees

Manatees reside in coastal areas like Crystal River during the summer. But when the temperature drops during the cold season, manatees from other coasts move to the warm waters of Florida. Because of this, manatees can be seen in the river all year round. 

Crystal River is the only place where you can legally swim with the manatees. At Kings Bay, tourists are welcome to snorkel and get up close and personal with the manatees. Each person or group will be accompanied by a swim guide to ensure the safety of both the tourists and the animals.

Go On A Kayak Tour At Crystal River And Three Sisters Spring

Have a unique experience in nature with a clear kayak ride along the Three Sisters Springs and Crystal River. In this guided tour, explore the freshwater springs and marvel at the beauty of its clear, colorful water. It’s a non-swimming tour, but the main draw is the wildlife you’ll encounter – watch out for manatees, otters, and other creatures.

Play Golf At Plantation Golf Course

Established in 1958, The Plantation on Crystal River is a full-service hotel with an 18-hole golf course and plenty of water sports and activities for guests. Tee off on the course designed by famous architect Mark Mahannah, which is surrounded by abundant landscapes, home to 14 species of birds and a variety of other wildlife.


Visit Historical Sites

A thousand years ago, the Native Americans of Crystal River built a temple mound in the city. You’ll find it at the highest peak of the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, one of the many tourist attractions that exhibit the beautiful cultural tapestry of this region. If you want to learn more about the Crystal River and its culture, consider visiting this historical site. 

Bike Around Parks And Trails

Crystal River has a lot of parks where you can take a stroll or take your bike. Enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze of this coastal city as you ride along the bay or its many park trails. The city has plenty of bike trails, especially around Crystal River Preserve State Park, such as:

  • 7-mile Loop Trailhead
  • Eco-Walk Trailhead 
  • Redfish Hole Trailhead
  • Crystal Cove Trailhead
  • Fort Island Trail Park
  • Withlacoochee Bay Trail

Go Bird Watching

If you are into bird watching, this city is perfect – Crystal River has the perfect climate for migrating animals like seaside sparrows, marsh wrens, and clapper rails. 

Take A Boat Tour Around Kings Bay

Go on a boat tour around Kings Bay to enjoy the natural beauty of Crystal River. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and will tell you everything you need to know about the city’s history, its attractions, and local wildlife. If you’re lucky enough, you might even come across the manatees that reside there.

Hike In Nature

Visitors who are into hiking should head to the Crystal River Preserve State Park, which boasts an eco-walk trail spanning two miles. Aside from gorgeous natural views, you might also get to see the different birds that love perching in that area. 

The path leads to a meadow as well as a forest full of pine and oak trees. There are plenty of benches scattered along the trail, so you can rest and recharge during your hike.

Camp At Resorts

If you’re into travel camping or often bring your RV on trips, pitch your tent or park your RV at Crystal Isles RV Resort. This resort has amenities for guests, like swimming areas, sports courts, and nature trails.


If you want to have a relaxing or adventurous vacation, Crystal River is the place to be. A home and refuge for the wildlife in Florida, the city has a lot of parks and bodies of water where people can relax, connect with nature, enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, and even swim with manatees!

If you want to explore other areas or learn more about what Florida has to offer, check out our other travel guides on our blog!

**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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