I’ve previously written about scalloping at the Crystal River, but people always want to know if we have scalloped out of Homosassa. In 2018 we started scalloping out of Homosassa, which is considered the mecca of scalloping. For many Floridians, scalloping out of Homosassa is an annual event, a tradition, and many swear by Homosassa over the Crystal River.
Since 2018, we’ve scalloped and launched from Homosassa several times. For some of our friends that join us, it’s become the location of choice. For others, I still prefer the Crystal River.
Is Homosassa better than The Crystal River? For some things, yes, for others, no. Both offer treasures and both have their advantages. And everyone has their take on it.
Homosassa is best known for two things – scalloping and the springs. Like many towns on the west coast of Florida, it’s a throwback to simpler times. Less known is that it is home to Yule Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park. You can check out this historical mill on your way into town.
Our first journey to Homosassa, Florida, was on July 7th, 2018, the first Saturday of the season for 2018. A catastrophic mistake unless you dock the night before. If you skip this step like us, you will be in line for a couple of hours to use one of the public boat ramps. This is, of course, assuming you are planning to hit the waterways. If you are. My advice here is simple. If you plan to go out on the opening weekend of scalloping, you need to head back up to the Crystal River.
Scalloping From Homosassa
First and foremost, regardless of where you start, you will end up at the same scalloping patch – period. So, realistically, in terms of scalloping, there is zero difference relative to the hunting ground. The two locations are different, but you will end up in the same place no matter where you start from.
Once upon a time, Homosassa Springs was a popular train stop in the early 1900s. People would take a much-needed rest while the trains reloaded. Passengers would swim and fish. By all accounts, Homosassa was considered one of the most beautiful spots to take a break at. I am not surprised by this, and once you experience a Florida spring, there is no going back. And Homosassa, Florida, is one of the most special.
The hot spot in town. You must book directly through their website, and if you are scalloping, you had better book way in advance — reservations for scalloping season open in December. This place has it all! It’s on the water, a private boat ramp, and boat slips to rent. It’s also home to Monkey Island. Most importantly, it has a boat ramp, and you can rent boat slips.
More beds 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 is 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! They are so friendly and helpful. They introduced us to Pecks, one of my new all-time favorite restaurants in Florida.
The Chassahowitzka Hotel 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 without inhibition.
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.
Lastly, breakfast is included and not missed; it’s where you will meet the residents if you missed them the night before.
Conveniently located on the Homosassa River in Citrus County. One of the oldest landmarks in the historic town of Homosassa, Homosassa River Retreat riverside cabins are in direct view of the Homosassa River flowing out to the Gulf of Mexico and within a mile from the cold springs of the Homosassa River. Newly renovated, all nine riverside cabins offer a kitchen, an AC, and a Cable TV with freshly made beds in the beautiful surroundings.
According to Craig Allmann, this is the place to stay. He told me that people are amiable and the cabins are lovely. It’s on the water, so I might have to give this place a try!
Like the Bella, this does not look overly appealing 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. Next to the main boat ramp – Duncan J. MacRae and next door to Homosassa Riverside Resort.
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 ramp.
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 suspect it’s harder to get to as you would still need to bypass the traffic heading to Duncan J. MacRae.
Casual, open-air tiki bar. They say they have the best stone crab claws when in season—a legend to all that live in the area or visit. The Freezer is an interesting place. First of all, it was once a freezer. Yes, a bait freezer for Cedar Key Fish and Crab and the retail and wholesale seafood market were attached. There is no table service here; it’s a place where you order and pick up. Nonetheless, the food is fabulous!
The Shed: This is a hot spot with live music. Please read the reviews; I don’t think they are known for fantastic food 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 it 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 of differentiating from the norm.
Pecks: Not actually in Homosassa, it’s in Ozello, but it should be on your list of must-dos. 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.
Swimming With Manatees at Homosassa
Swimming with manatees is not allowed at the Homosassa Springs. However, the endangered Florida manatee can be seen every day at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Visitors can go below the water’s surface to view these gentle giants from the underwater observatory in Homosassa’s mainspring.
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 is followed by a char of slaver like New Orleans’s Bayous. Or 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 have returned many times and can now speak local!
Frequently Asked Questions About Homosassa
What is the weather like in Homosassa? It’s the same as the rest of northwest Florida.
Can you swim at Homosassa Springs? You can swim around the area but not inside the state park.
How much does it cost to get into Homosassa Springs? As of 2020 – Adults (age 13+) $13, Children (ages 6-12) $5, Children 5 and under are free.
Is Homosassa Springs open today? The park is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Ticket counters close at 4:45 p.m
How far away is Homosassa Springs? It’s about two hours northwest of Orlando.
Can you camp atHomosassa Springs State Park? No, there are no camping facilities on site.
How far is Homosassa, Florida, from Tampa, Florida? About 75 miles north.
Are there alligators in Homosassa Springs, FL? Technically, anybody of fresh or brackish water in Florida potentially has an alligator in it, but they are not “common” or in abundance in springs.
Can you KayakHomosassa Springs? Yes, in many areas’s not within the state park’s mainspring.
2018 was our first year in Homosassa, and we loved it. So much so we returned many times. Here are some things that stand out and separate Homosassa from the Crystal River:
The boat 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, a marina, many bars, etc.
You can walk to all the hot spots; everything is centrally located, whereas you must drive over the water or by land at the Crystal River.
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 frail.
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.
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job, how to travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.