Our home away from home for our recent getaway to Florida’s Gulf Coast was a cute Airbnb in a quiet neighborhood near Crystal River. It was our first Airbnb experience and it was exactly what we were looking for. When we weren’t out exploring the area we enjoyed just relaxing on the large screened porch or walking around the neighborhood in search of wildlife.
I started each day with a walk. The sunrises were glorious and I enjoyed seeing the many birds each day.
Weeki Wachee Springs
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park was just a 45 minute drive south so we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the famous mermaid show there. The park is celebrating it’s 75th anniversary this year. In addition to the mermaid shows there is a swimming beach, Ranger led wildlife talks, picnic areas, kayaking and a nature cruise on the Weeki Wachee River. Mermaid statues around the park are part of the 75th anniversary celebration.
We took the nature cruise where we saw Martha, one half of the resident Bald Eagle pair George and Martha, and a Tri-Colored Heron in the mangroves.
The highlight of our visit was attending the mermaid show. We arrived early for the show and while we waited for the main show we were entertained with videos of the history of the park and highlights of some of the old mermaid shows. My favorites were the old black and white videos with the mermaids in their old style swimsuits.
Swimming with Manatees
One of my bucket list items was to swim with the manatees in Crystal River. We had done this back in the 1990’s and I’ve been wanting to do it again ever since. We booked an early morning tour with Fun2Dive in Crystal River. Before we left home we watched a manatee manners video which explained what was acceptable and what was not when in the water with these gentle giants.
I donned a wetsuit and met our guide at the dive shop before riding a bus to the dock where we boarded our boat, the Manatee Life for a tour through the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. There are several springs which are protected Manatee sanctuaries in the refuge. Henry stayed on the boat with the captain to watch the manatees from above the water. I was one of four guests who got in the water with our guide. As soon as we hit the water we watched a small female chewing on the anchor line of another boat.
Our guide led us in our search and showed us where to look. We spotted several manatees and stayed in the water for about an hour before getting back on the boat. Our captain then took us on a boat ride around the bay to a second location. The highlight of the day was observing a huge female moving along the bottom grazing on the grass as we watched. She weighed about 1500 pounds and ignored us.
We watched her for a while before it was time to head back to the boat. While we were in the water Henry and the captain spotted a mating herd in the water near us.
Scenic Drive on Fort Island Trail
Another day we took a drive along the Fort Island Trail. We stopped to walk out on a fishing pier on the Gulf and watched a manatee swim under the pier. We took a walk on a beautiful white sand beach near the pier and stopped at another smaller fishing pier before returning home.
Watching the sunset on Florida’s Gulf Coast was a great way to end each day.
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