I’ve previously written about  The Crystal River and Scalloping. I also shared that in 2018 we would be scalloping out of Homosassa which is considered the mecca of scalloping. For many Floridian’s, scalloping out of Homosassa is an annual event, a tradition and many swear by Homosassa over the Crystal River. We spent three weekends out there this year and launched from Homosassa several times. Is Homosassa better than The Crystal River? For something things yes, for others no. Both offer treasures and both have their advantages.

Homosassa – Is It Better Than The Crystal River?

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About Homosassa

Homosassa is best known for one thing, scalloping. Like many towns on the west coast of Florida, it’s a throwback to simpler times.  Our first journey out here was on July 7th, the first Saturday of the season for 2018. A catastrophic mistake unless you are docked the night before you will be inline for a couple of hours to use one of the public boat ramps. My advice here is simple. If you plan to go out on opening weekend, you need to head back up to The Crystal River. Homosassa also hosts Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park home of Lu, the famous oldest hippopotamus in captivity.

Homosassa Accommodations 

Like The Rainbow River and The Crystal River, it’s slim pickings. I would venture as far as to say it’s even harder to get a place in Homosassa because it’s so popular during scallop season.

Homosassa Accommodations We Have Stayed At:

Homosassa Riverside Resort
The hot spot in town. You must book directly through their website and if you are scalloping you better do it way in advance — reservations for scalloping season open in December. This place has it all! It’s on the water, a private boat ramp, boat slips to rent and the soon to be refurbished Riverside Crab House. It’s also home to Monkey Island. Most importantly, it has a boat ramp, and you can rent boat slips.

The Chassahowitzka Hotel
More bed and breakfast than a hotel and most of the rooms share a bathroom. I did not realize this when I booked it, and that was my fault, it clearly stated on any site you use to reserve. Sharing and crapping do not go over well for us. Getting naked, sure but crapping – let’s pass on that one.

Let’s start with the locals are so friendly and helpful. They introduced us to Pecks. This place also hosts a ton of regulars and the hotel is quite intimate in this sense. Think sitting on a porch chatting to guests that return time and time as you inhale the distinctive smell of weed. I have nothing against pot at all. It made me laugh because this honestly reminded me of many nights out in the UK where people go for it.

This place is spotless and homely. You will have a shared run of the house. Just be sure to book a room that meets your needs. We would consider staying here again. But we will reserve a place that has a private bathroom.

Homosassa Accommodations We Have Not Stayed At:

Bella Oasis Hotel
We have not tried this one yet and don’t plan to in the short-term. The photos make the place look dated and grubby. You can book this one on any travel website or directly via theirs.

Mac Raes of Homosassa
Like the Bella, this does not look overly appeal in the photographs. You must book directly over the phone.  Mac Raes is the home of the famous Shed. A tiki bar where you can experience a taste of old Florida. This place also offers boat rentals and a bait and snack shop. It’s right next to the main boat ramp – Duncan J. MacRae and next door to Homosassa Riverside Resort.

Seagrass Resort
This option won’t fit all, and we have not tried it, so I can’t vouch for it, but the photos look decent. You must call to reserve.

The Last Resort
Interesting, this place looks like a combination of river and island rentals. I just heard about this one recently. It’s another you need to call directly to reserve.

Outside of these options, its Airbnb.  Be prepared to book at least a year ahead — stress at least a year. If you want a decent waterfront rental home, you are looking at a couple of years out.

Homosassa Public Boat Ramps

There are five public boat ramps:

Facility ID Ramp Name County
CI00053QZ Chassahowitzka River County Park Citrus
CI30003RG Homosassa (Duncan J. MacRae) Public Boat Ramp Citrus
CI00048DO Mason Creek Road Public Boat Ramp Citrus
CI00033WC Riverhaven Marina Citrus
CI70001PQ South Hancock Road Boat Ramp Citrus

The Two Most Most Popular:

Old Homosassa (Duncan J. MacRae) Public Boat Ramp
The most popular launching spot. The famous Monkey Island is immediate on the right. Be prepared for long lines if you go at the beginning of the season. Even the state’s website states this. There is limited parking, so limited that locals offer you a ride via golf carts to park. It’s $10 per person – a total rip off.

This ramp is right next door to The Shed. When you return, be prepared for a cast of drunken judges who will boo and heckle you if you can’t land your boat on your trailer in one shot. While typical at boat ramps, it was brutal here. If you are new to boating or can’t perform this in one shot, steer clear of this ram

Address: 5300 South Cherokee Way 34448

Mason Creek Road Public Boat Ramp
We have not tried this one, but it’s further south than Duncan J. MacRae. I can only imagine that this is just as busy. Looking at the map, I would suspect it’s harder to get to as you would still need to bypass the traffic heading to Duncan J. MacRae.

Address: 6891 South Mason Creek Road 34448

For information on where to catch scallops, how to find them and how to clean see this article Florida Scalloping Everything You Need to Know.

Florida Scalloping

Homosassa Restaurants

  • The Freezer: Casual, open-air tiki bar. They say they have the best stone crab claws when in season.
  • The Shed: This is a hot spot with live music. Read the reviews; I don’t think they are known for fantastic food as much as they are known for their atmosphere and Tiki Bar.
  • Seagrass Waterfront & Tiki Bar: I’m not sure about this place. The cocktails look amazing so could be worth stopping in for a drink. The menu seems confusing or lacking an identity. The menu features food from around the world. Maybe this is their way to differentiate from the norm.
  • Pecks: Not actually in Homosassa, it’s in Ozello, but it should be on your list of must do’s. They sell fresh local blue crab that is to die for. You can order it steamed Maryland Style (ole bay) or garlic. This place is on the water in the middle of nowhere, but it is beyond worth the drive. By far my favorite restaurant in this region.

Something to Consider

Everyone knows everyone, and this place is clicky. Ask a simple question like “Is the route to the channel marked” and you will be getting this. The “are your local” question followed by a char of slaver liken to that of the Bayous of New Orleans. Or simply stated completely non-understandable verbiage. It’s the deep south folks. Most of the locals were fabulous and helpful. Some seemed perturbed that we dared to take on this precious location. This does not phase us; we will be returning.

Closing Thoughts

2018 was our first year in Homosassa, and we loved it. It might be a novelty for us given our first year, but a couple of things stood out:

  • The drive to the scalloping ground is shorter and more scenic. It’s remote in some spots conjuring up the idea that you might have got lost in what might be an otherwise beautiful swamp. And, tons of little islands, many with homes on them.
  • There is a lot more action on the river, especially the Homosassa River section. Several restaurants, marina, bars, etc.
  • You can walk to all the hot spots; everything is centrally located whereas at the Crystal River you must drive over the water or by land.
  • The rental boats are far superior to the Crystal River. All modern, well-kept and some appeared to have faster motors. Most of the rental boats going out of Crystal River are old and decrepit.

Homosassa is lovely; everyone should experience it. My only caution is to consider your boating experience level before you take it on. It’s not for beginners.

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