After my most amazing experience at Rainbow Springs, I drove about 30 minutes south to the town of Crystal River. Crystal River is well known for droves of manatees which populate the seaside waters in the winter. There are several underwater springs in the bays of the Crystal River which the manatees flock to in order to keep warm when the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico drops below 68°.
South Florida has had a warm (i.e. HOT) winter in December and January. In December it was a frequent occurrence that temps hovered around the mid-to-upper 80s (about 10-15° above normal), and January was very similar. Thus the manatees were few and far between during the start of our winter, since the gulf waters were warm enough for them to hang out in.
I was hoping that manatees would be more abundant in March, since the temps had been dropping somewhat. Weeelllll…I was mistaken. Trying to see manatees in March in Crystal River was a non-existent-event.
A big tourist attraction in this area is actually getting on a wetsuit and swimming with manatees. I had signed up for a snorkel trip to swim with these amazing, gentle creatures, and was GREATLY disappointing. Not the tour group’s fault….more my fault for coming when the water was too warm for the sea cows to be near the warm springs. We managed to see two of the lovelies, but they were sleeping and not active.
Here are a few snaps of my day in Crystal River.
BE WARNED. These pictures are not impressive.
If you look really closely, you can just barely make out the outline of a manatee tail in the middle of the image (near the top are snorkeler toes).
See…not impressive photos. But proof to Mom that I did see them!!!
We went looking for more manatees at the Three Sisters Springs area (where manatees typically hang out when they need warmth.) The springs underwater and foliage above water were so gorgeous! The pictures I snapped do no justice whatsoever. I could have spent all morning swimming around the springs area, the water was THAT clear, and the place THAT impressive.
Nonetheless, still no manatees in this sanctuary space, so all of us snorkelers hopped back on the boat and went back to doc with not much to show for ourselves.
Crystal River does not have much to do other than a visiting a few nature parks, and the manatee viewing/swimming. With the manatee viewing exhausted, I decided to check out somewhere interesting for dinner.
Trip Advisor’s 600+ reviewers recommended I try Pecks Old Port Cove for great seafood. I tell you what…getting to Pecks is half the fun! It was a leisurely 25 minute drive from the main area of town to get to this restaurant. The restaurant is located at the end of a very twisty, turney, windey road. Save for a few houses here and there, unless you’re headed to dinner, you’re not on this road, which added to the ambiance of a nice drive in the wild.
I sat down early (I was afraid there would be a crowd) around 5:30pm. I mostly had the place to myself at that hour, but the place rapidly filled up.
My server recommended the crab rolls (kinda like egg rolls, but with crab inside), which were topped with a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce. (The sauce probably was the best part of the appetizer.)
For my main course, it had to be blackened grouper. I love blackened fish, and grouper is a great fish if you can get it. This did not disappoint.
Served with typical uninteresting sides (hush puppies, fries, baked potato, cole slaw….I opted to forgo the fried sides for a lettuce salad.) They send over the salad, but still included a set of hush puppies. As you can see, this made me happy! 🙂
I wouldn’t say the food was AM-azing. But getting to the restaurant was a fun adventure, and the sunset view made it all worth while.
They had a small dock out back with a few pub tables so you could take in the view. I’d say it was a nice place to rest for a few beats before making the trek onto the next adventure.