Homosassa Springs: The Florida State Park That Has a Hippo!

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Nestled in the heart of Florida, Homosassa Springs is a little-known natural treasure boasting crystal-clear springs and diverse wildlife.

We visited this park and absolutely loved it! The combination of a small wildlife park and manatees was perfect, and I'm here to share what I've learned with you here.

The town and its nearby state park offer a unique attraction, the Crystal River, which is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. We actually combined our visit here with Kayaking to the Three Sisters spring - easy to do on the same day.

The river is home to hundreds of manatees, which are gentle giants that attract visitors from all over the world.

The state park also features a wildlife park where you can observe various animals, such as black bears, alligators, and panthers. Our absolutely favorite was the hippo!

Homosassa Springs is a perfect destination for those who want to experience the beauty of Florida's natural springs and wildlife in a peaceful and relaxing setting.

Where is Homosassa Springs?

Homosassa Springs is located on the west coast of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. It is towards the north of the state, in Citrus County.

You can find Homosassa Springs to the east of U.S. Routes 19 and 98, also known as Suncoast Boulevard.

The Crystal River lines the northwest border of Homosassa Springs, and the south is lined by Sugarmill Woods.

What is There to Do in Homosassa Springs?

Homosassa Springs is a great place to visit if you love the outdoors! Opportunities for kayaking, hiking and animal adventures abound.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Entrance to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs is home to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

There are so many things to do within the park, many of which are completely accessible to any kind of visitor.

There truly is something for everyone, from hiking, birdwatching, and underwater observation to snorkeling, rollerblading, tubing, and mountain biking.

Hike through the park for an intimate, up-close experience with Florida's natural foliage.

Elevated boardwalks allow for a kind of aerial view, a unique vantage point for visitors to witness the incredible wildlife.

Natural rain shelters are built along the way, so visitors are able to hike without fear of incoming weather.

The park is extremely accessible, having paved trails and boardwalks throughout that are accessible for visitors in wheelchairs or strollers.

Guided tours of the park are offered daily. A Wildlife Encounter program is offered every day at 10:30 AM and at 2:30 PM.

The tours will start at the Wildlife Encounters pavilion, and participants will be introduced to the various creatures, plants, and life that Homosassa has to offer.

In addition to the Wildlife Encounters program, there is an Alligator & Hippopotamus Program. These tours are hosted daily at 12:30 PM.

The Alligator & Hippopotamus tour begins on the bridge between the alligator lagoon and the hippopotamus pool; be sure to be on time to catch these one-of-a-kind tours.

Crystal River

Divers swimming with manatees at the Crystal River

Cutting through the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the Crystal River, named for its crystalline blue water.

The water itself flows fresh from the springs and is said to be a constant 78 degrees.

Consider snorkeling to get up-close and intimate with all the water creatures! Alternatively, you could kayak along the crystal river.

Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory

The Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory, a 157-ton, 55-feet deep glass bowl, brings you down into the crystal clear spring water.

In theory, visitors can catch an incredible view of the water, fish, and manatees. Yes, manatees!

Why "in theory"? Because we couldn't really see much through the murky windows when we were there. At least, not more than you're able to see from the shore. Still, the concept is nice.

Wildlife State Park

If you're looking for a break from land and water activities, The Wildlife State Park offers a great opportunity for bird watching.

Citrus County has a whopping 20 birding trails, all a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Citrus County Audubon Society offers guided bird tours from October to April.

You can see so many birds in this park, just hopping around the place. We saw flamingoes, caracaras, herons and so many vultures!

Vultures in Homosassa State Park

Can You Swim at Homosassa Springs State Park?

You cannot independently swim in the springs of Homosassa Springs State Park.

However, boats, private tours, and kayaks will take you out to the Crystal River, where swimming is possible.

Private agencies even offer swim with the manatee tours! Consider booking a tour with River Ventures to get a one-of-a-kind view of the river.

Consider swimming at Three Sister's Springs, a small intimate cove on the east side of Kings Bay.

Hunter Springs Park is another option for a day of swimming and is only a 13-minute drive from Homosassa Springs!

There you can find a kayak launch and spend time exploring the river. The water is said to be a warm 78 degrees--perfect for manatees.

Can You See the Manatees There?

Manatee swimming in clear waters

Yes, you might be able to see manatees there! The Crystal River that cuts through Homosassa Springs is known as the Manatee Capital of the World.

A large population of Florida manatees swims through the river from January to March each year, so if you are looking for manatees, be sure to visit during those months.

There is a fenced sanctuary where they keep rescued manatees that are on the mend. Seeing them there is easy enough -

Manatee in the sanctuary

The State Park offers manatee programs daily, at 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and at 3:30 PM.

These programs can be seen from the mainspring in the bleachers that overlook the Fish Bowl underwater observatory from April 1 until November 15.

From November 15 to March 31, the programs are presented indoors, at the in-ground manatee pool at the Manatee Care Center.

What Other Types of Wildlife Can You See in the Park?

Otter on a log near water at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

The state park is the perfect place to see all kinds of wildlife. Native to the area are all kinds of creatures: bobcats, panthers, red wolves, white-tailed deer, alligators, river otters.

When you walk through the park, you will be surrounded by lush green foliage: cypress, palm trees, and grand oaks.

Up in the foliage, you might catch sight of some exotic birds: the great blue heron, the white pelican, or the roseate spoonbill, among others.

In the water, if you're lucky, you may catch flamingos preening in the sun, or crabs crawling on the underwater observatory's glass.

You might come across some captive animals along the boardwalk of Homosassa Springs State Park. These animals are here for various reasons. They may be unable to live in the wild or are caged for rehabilitation.

They now serve as ambassadors of their species, educating visitors.

What's the Best Time of Year to Visit Homosassa Springs Park?

If you are visiting Homosassa Springs Park in search of manatees, then you will want to visit the park from January to March.

However, the foliage and natural life are beautifully mind-bending year-round, so don't let your schedule deter you from checking out this incredible park!

What Time Does Homosassa Springs Open?

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM.

Note that ticket counters close at 4:45 PM, so if you are planning a late afternoon trip, be sure to get to the park before 4:45.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Into Homosassa Springs?

To get into Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, it will cost adult visitors, $13.

Anyone over 13 is considered an adult; children ages 6-12 will cost $5, and there is no entrance fee for children under 6 years of age.

How to Get to Homosassa Springs

If you are in or near the state of Florida, the easiest way to get to Homosassa Springs would be to drive.

If you're in South Florida, you're going to want to take I-95 North.

If you're north of Homosassa, the easiest route would be to take I-275 West toward Tampa.

If you simply live too far to drive, your best bet would be to fly into Tampa. It's only a short Uber ride from the airport.

A bus can also take you from Tampa Airport to Homosassa Springs.

How Far is Homosassa Springs From Tampa?

Tampa is only an hour's drive away from Homosassa Springs!

If you're staying in Tampa, you might as well make the visit to Homosassa Springs for a night--it will be unforgettable.

How Far is Homosassa Springs From Daytona Beach?

Daytona Beach is a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from Homosassa Springs!

Daytona Beach is on the Atlantic side of the state, while Homosassa Springs is on the Gulf side. Consider trekking out to Daytona for a day to catch a sunrise.

Where to Stay When Visiting Homosassa Springs

If you have not gotten tired of Florida's natural life yet, you can camp at Homosassa Springs State Park. Reservations are accepted from one day to 11 months in advance.

Call 1-800-326-3521 (toll-free!) to book a campsite at Homosassa Springs State Park, or click here for more information.

If you need a hot shower and clean bed, here are some hotels in the area that have great reviews.

Holiday Inn Express

Holiday Inn Express logo on a building

This Holiday Inn Express is a great option if you're looking to stay close to Homosassa Springs.

Only one mile away from River Ventures Manatee Swim Tours and Kings Bay, it will help keep your visit streamlined and simple.

The hotel offers an outdoor pool for lounging. Each room comes with free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs with cable.

Breakfast is provided daily, but this hotel is also within walking distance of local restaurants.

Click here to book a stay at the Holiday Inn Express.

Retreat at Crystal Manatee

This hotel is located in Crystal River—only seven miles away from Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Three Sisters Springs is only a twelve-minute walk from Retreat at Crystal Manatee, and River Ventures is less than a mile from the hotel!

At the Retreat at Crystal Manatee, you can find an incredible garden, and each room is equipped with a terrace.

Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Breakfast is offered every morning.

Couples are said to adore this location, with the garden, private terrace, all within walking distance from Homosassa Springs' great attractions.

Click here to book a stay at the Retreat at Crystal Manatee.

And that wraps up our Homosassa Springs visitor's guide. If you liked this article, do share it on Pinterest using this image below.

Homosassa Springs, Florida: A Visitors Guide

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    • Hello, Mariann – thanks for asking about pets. As Anne doesn’t travel with any pets (though she is a cat lover!), this was not an issue to access the park. However, according to the Florida State Parks it appears that dogs are not allowed at Homossassa because of the captive wildlife.

      However, don’t let that be a deterrent to experience this park! You can access the complimentary kennels to keep your dog safe and comfortable while you explore.

    • Hi Theresa,
      I must have missed that comment earlier. I don’t live nearby so I’m not sure about their calendar. These days, I think it’s best to call parks before arriving. Who knows what their plans are with the covid-19 situation going on.

    • Hi Chris,
      There’s a free boat tour included in the park entrance fee. This is from their web page

      Included in your admission, weather permitting, is a boat tour that transports visitors along Pepper Creek from the Visitor center to the West Entrance to the Wildlife Park. Rangers give an introduction to the park and the Florida Park Service. Native wildlife is identified along the way.

      From what I’ve read, when the boat isn’t available, you can take a similar tram ride, again free (or included in park fees). I’m not seeing any indication that you need to reserve either, but you can call them and ask directly – 352-628-5343. Enjoy your visit and if you can come back and let us know how it went, that would be great.

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