"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Florida's Nature Coast I: Crystal River

Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park

This is a two night stop on the first leg of our visit to Florida's "Nature Coast."  Rock Crusher Canyon is a very large campground laid out more like a state park than a private RV park. You don't feel like it's a big park at all, as you can only see a few of your neighbors. The sites are sand and grass, very long and wide, and most are wooded. We're lucky and have a site clear enough to the SW sky to locate the requisite three satellites on our Direct TV dish.  We chose this park based on very high recommendations from several sources, and they were right. It is a comfortable, high quality place with nice amenities, and a great location to visit Inverness, Crystal River and Homosassa, which is just what we did.


The town of Inverness has a small historical square around the Citrus County Courthouse (above) and a thriving sprawl just outside of town. In contrast to Titusville its a regular Hilton Head. We started our visit at Liberty Park, on the banks of Cooter Lake, named after the Florida cooter I assume, based on the statue at the entrance. 

The park must be pretty new, with several nice pavilions and a path that looks like it goes around much of the lake.  The Withlacoochee State (bike) Trail also goes right through the park. There were kids fishing and lovers strolling along the lakeshore. Idyllic.

They've got their own 9-11 memorial as well.  I liked Inverness, even though we didn't see a lot of it.

Crystal River

Our explorations of the area took us next to the town of Crystal River on Kings Bay, fed by 30 springs, waterway to the Crystal River National Wildlife Preserve, home to a multitude of manatee. There are plenty of public parks, marinas and boat launches in town to help folks get on the water. It was a windy 57 degrees, so we did our sight-seeing from land.

Roger Goettelmann Memorial Peer with a nifty public canoe/kayak launch on the right

Roger Goettelmann Memorial Peer
Hunter's Spring Park

King's Bay from Hunter's Spring Park

Fort Island

A drive out Fort Island Trail Rd. took us closer to the Gulf, but still not beyond the many islands and salt marshes that line the coast here.  At the end of the long, winding, scenic road there is a boat launch, fishing peer and beach.

The Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant from Fort Island

Fort Island Beach - Pretty, but NOT a beach day

Although there were no people enjoying the beach on this chilly day, the birds were happy.

We saw our first confirmed black skimmers, standing around on the beach, facing into the wind, with royal terns and laughing gulls. (We think we may have seen them before out on Merritt Island, doing their skimming thing, but we weren't sure until now.)

On our way back on Fort Island Trail Road we slipped into the Fort Island Trail Park for a quick look.  It had a picnic area, a boat launch and a reminder about manatee friendly boat behavior.

While we were there some clammers pulled in the canal. (Is that what you call clam fishermen?) They had about ten burlap bags filled with shellfish, that we guessed were clams. ("Hard" clams are seeded and farmed around here.)  

Those cute houses next to the canal seemed to be empty and had "Auction" signs on them. We hear that living on the water is becoming difficult due to rising home owner's insurance costs.

Another view of the canal at Fort Island Trail Park.

Peck's Old Port Cove

For lunch we sought out Peck's Old Port Cove Restaurant, based on recommendations from the internet. It is supposedly a real favorite for seafood. It was in a great location, on Ozella Trail Road, one of these roads that meanders out through the salt marshes and rural neighborhoods, right on to the water. It reminded us a lot of the outlying islands of the Caribbean, except the water wasn't as blue. 

Frankly, I thought the food experience was, well...meh. The place was kind of old fashioned, and not in a good way. It needed a thorough steam cleaning and an updated menu.  The most interesting thing about Peck's was the "crab farm" out back...

...and the crabs.

Next post, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

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