Gulf of Mexico

5 Fun Things to Do in Clearwater

Clearwater Map.jpg

Located on the Gulf Coast just west of Tampa, Clearwater is a little more than 90 minutes away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. And while those 90 minutes might not seem like much, spending time in this beachside paradise will make you feel like you are miles from anywhere resembling your normal life.

If you are looking to plan a weekend getaway to the beach or simply want a fresh day trip destination, the Clearwater area is packed full of things to do. Let’s jump right into the warm water and check out five fun things to do on your next trip to this white sand paradise.


Hit the Beach

When a destination is known around the world for its beautiful white sand beaches, spending some time enjoying those beaches should be at the very top of every visitor’s list.

Clearwater Beach is the most popular beach destination in the area, and it offers an absolutely gorgeous stretch of pristine sand and crystal clear water. This is the perfect place to lay out, walk with your feet in the water, or go for a swim.

So grab a towel, kick off your shoes, and get ready to hit the beach.

clearwater-beach.jpg

Beach Walk

When you are ready for a break from the beach, the Beach Walk pedestrian area offers a nice place to stroll along a paved sidewalk under the shade of palm trees.

The road is pushed back a bit from this area, which is also filled with local shops, restaurants, and an old-time ice cream parlor.

You won’t believe some of the cool things you will find in the boutique shops along the Beach Walk, so this is the perfect way to get your shopaholic fix in Clearwater.

Pier 60

Pier 60.jpg

Another popular destination that isn’t far from the beach is Pier 60. This 1,080-foot fishing pier is the perfect place to cast a line in Clearwater, day or night.

There is a small fishing shop right on the pier that can fix you up with everything you need to catch local fish like Spanish mackerel and spotted trout.

The pier also features a constant flow of entertainment from local musicians and jugglers, so there is always something to see and do here. It’s also a wonderful spot to watch the sunset.

Kayaking & Standup Paddleboarding

Moccasin Lake.jpg

Whether you prefer to kick back in a kayak or do your paddling while standing up, there are a number of fantastic paddling options around Clearwater for anyone who prefers to relax out on the water.

Spending some time exploring the waters around Sand Key Park, Moccasin Lake Nature Park, or Cliff Stephens Park is an activity that you could base an entire trip around.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium.jpg

In addition to everything there is to do outdoors, Clearwater is also home to the famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This massive aquarium features all kinds of marine life on display, including Winter, the dolphin who served as the inspiration for the movie Dolphin’s Tale.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium specializes in marine rehabilitation, so you can also learn quite a bit about how they are working to improve conditions for marine life along the Gulf Coast.

From kicking back on the beach to paddling kayaks through untouched nature parks, everything in Clearwater is focused on relaxation. So the next time you feel the need for a day or two of recovery, let Clearwater help you reconnect to nature in whatever way works best for you.

 

Stone Crab Season Has Finally Arrived

Stone Crab_whatsinseason_1-1087x1100.jpg

As we ease into the coming fall and winter seasons here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one of the many bright spots on the horizon is the return of Stone Crab season in Florida.

Whether you prefer to get out on the water and catch your own or simply buy them from one of our local fresh seafood markets, those delicious stone crab claws are going to be plentiful throughout the rest of this year and the first part of 2020.




About Stone Crab Claws

Unlike so much of the seafood that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, stone crab claws are actually a renewable resource since they are able to regrow their claws after those claws are harvested by local fishermen.

Stone crabs are able to regenerate their claws over the course of about a year, and with a life expectancy of about 8-9 years, they can produce that delicious claw meat quite a few times in their lives.

Catching Stone Crab Claws

Like any seafood that you might be looking for here in Florida, there are plenty of rules and regulations to be aware of when it comes to stone crab claws. The most important of those is the fact that you can only catch stone crabs when they are in season from October 15 through May 15.

how_to_measure_stone_crab_claws_400_01.jpg

Any amateurs fishing for stone crab need to obtain a saltwater fishing license and respect limits of just five traps, only collecting one gallon of claws per day, and making sure that all of those claws are at least 2 ¾ inches long.

Of course, if you don’t feel like remembering all of the details, you can always go the charter route and let the captain take care of worrying about the rules, or you can just purchase claws that someone else harvested at one of our many local seafood markets.

Cooking Stone Crab Claws

There are four ways to cook your freshly harvested stone crab claws, and the easiest one is to throw them right into a pot of boiling water. The only tips you need to worry about here are to make sure that you season the water with plenty of salt and be careful not to overcook the claws.

Another simple way to cook your fresh stone crab claws is to put them in a casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom and bake them covered in the oven at 350 degrees.

The slightly more complicated way to cook stone crab claws that often produces a better quality meal is to steam them in a basket over a pot of boiling water. It’s really only complicated in that you have to have the right equipment. Once again, you want to be careful not to overcook the claws.

Boiling your stone crab claws should take about 5-10 minutes. For steaming and baking allow 8-10 minutes. You know they’re done when they smell like delicious crab meat. You will also see the color change and brighten.

Stone-Crab-Claws-Limettenbutter-03.jpg

In Florida we love to grill all year round, so why not grill our claws. Simply put the claws on a medium heat grill for about 5 minutes for each side. The temperature for grilling should be between 300 and 325 Fahrenheit. When you are grilling, it's advisable to spread olive oil or butter on the claws.

Again, it is crucial to check the crab claws when heating them. Baking and grilling can give out sweet meat, but overheating them will make the meat tough and lose the flavor.

Stone Crab Claw Dippage

stonecrabsauce.jpg

One of the things that make stone crab claws so popular is that there is a wide variety of things you can dip them in. For many home cooks, the best place to start is with drawn butter or cocktail sauce.

Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is probably the most popular stone crab restaurant in the world, and they are known for serving stone crab claws with a unique mustard dipping sauce. Thanks to websites like Epicurious, you can make a great mustard sauce for your home-cooked stone crab claws using their version of that recipe.

636122477312565903-BrandyMayo.jpg

If you are a stone crab expert looking for some new flavors, this article from News-Press offers some unique twists on dipping sauces like Brandy Mustard Sauce, Jalapeno Honey Sauce, Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Spicy Marinara Sauce.

However you prefer to cook and dip your stone crab claws, there is no denying that they are one of the best treats available throughout the winter here in Florida. Make sure you take the time to enjoy plenty of these local delicacies this year!

Everything You Need to Know About the Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion

Deep-Sea Fishing.jpg

Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular activities for Gulf Coast tourists, but it isn’t always a common activity for people who actually live here. If heading out after some monster fish is something that you have always wanted to try, the Citrus HIlls Vacationers Club has the perfect day trip planned for you in October.

The club is planning an exciting deep sea fishing excursion out of Tarpon Springs that will be the perfect experience for all skill levels ranging from novice fishermen up to semi-professional anglers.

Gulfstar Fishing Charters

This particular trip will be a half-day trip with Gulfstar Fishing Charters, which is one of the most popular charter companies operating out of Tarpon Springs.

One of the best things about deep sea fishing on a chartered excursion is that you don’t have to worry about bringing any fishing gear with you. The captain will provide you with everything you need from rods and reels to bait and hooks. You don’t even need to purchase a fishing license.

The only thing that you will want to bring on this adventure is a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, which will then double as transportation home for all of the fish that you catch.

And as for what to wear, the only requirement is that you plan on being comfortable. It is often about five degrees cooler out on the water, so make sure to dress accordingly.

The Sundance II

Sundance II.jpg

The boat we will be boarding is the Sundance II, which was built by hand 1970. After surviving more than 40 years of cod fishing in New England, the Sundance II has found a new life operating charters here in Florida.

While the boat definitely has a rich history, it also boasts plenty of new technology.

Since its relocation to Florida in 2014, the Sundance II has been fitted with new electronics, a Furuno radar, and a digital fish finder.

What About the Fish?

After cruising for a little over an hour and getting about nine miles away from the shore, we will spend 2-3 hours fishing in water that is between 25 and 40 feet deep.

Black-Sea-Bass.jpg

Once the captain drops anchor and we start casting our lines baited with squid, there is a good chance that we will see Key West Snapper, Black Seabass, Porgies, and Grouper coming onto the boat.

Another perk that comes with a deep sea fishing charter is that the crew will be happy to clean all of the fish that you catch so that you can take them home in your cooler and cook them up however you like.

Our Trip Details

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning this deep-sea fishing excursion for Thursday, October 3. Tickets are on sale now, and the cost is $105 for members and $110 for guests.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Activity Center and everything that comes with the fishing charter, as well as ice to pack your catch for the ride home.

The plan is to leave the Activity Center at 7:30 am and return sometime around 6 pm.

No matter how passionate you are about fishing, this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone who participates. Don’t miss out on the fun, and don’t forget to invite your friends and family over for the cookout when you return!

 

Top 10 Reasons to Live in Citrus County

citrus county map.gif

As any resident of the Villages of Citrus Hills will happily tell you, there are hundreds of great reasons to choose Citrus County as your retirement destination. Depending on your own personal interests, there are a number of different things about our community that might excite you.

To help make sure that you don't miss the most important reasons to head our way, we have put together a list of the top 10 reasons to live in Citrus County!

10. Great Healthcare

CM Logo.jpg

 

One of the reasons to live in Citrus County that often goes overlooked is the fact that we have an outstanding network of healthcare providers.

Seven Rivers Medical Group.jpg

Between Citrus Memorial Health System and Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center, you won't believe the quality of care that is available here, should you ever need it.

 

9. Close to Major Cities…

Walt Disney World.jpg

Because we’re situated just over an hour from both Orlando and Tampa, there are big-city amenities associated with both of those cities that are available to residents of the Villages of Citrus Hills.

This is great to know for things like catching shows, shopping, or attending professional sporting events, but it can be an even bigger deal if you need to fly out of one of the international airports in those cities.

8. …Not Too Close Though

While many of our residents think nothing of driving to Orlando or to Tampa for a day, we are also located far enough away that you don't have to worry about any of the stress that comes with city living. Like big-city traffic.

88. Terrain.jpg

7. Fantastic Golf Courses

One amenity that Citrus County residents are not lacking is quality golf courses. In addition to the excellent courses here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, there are also more than a dozen other public and private courses to choose from in the area.

6. Beautiful Local Parks

Being "just far enough" from the big cities goes hand-in-hand with the number of local, state, and national parks you will find throughout Citrus County. Whether you are looking for a great picnic spot, a place to relax on the beach, or a walk through the woods, you will never run out of quality options here.

5. Rich History

logo-Citrus-County-Historical-Society.jpg

Many of our local parks also boast impressive history that tells the incredible story of the area. But in addition to the local parks, you will also find lots of history in downtown areas like Inverness and Crystal River, as well as in our local museums. 

 

4. The Nature Coast

Another thing our residents love about all of the local parks in Citrus County is the amazing amount of wildlife you can find there. We are located right in the heart of Florida's "Nature Coast," so there is never a shortage of wildlife to be seen, especially if you are passionate about birding.

3. Wide Array of Dining Options

You can find a single great restaurant in just about any town across the country, but here in Citrus County we are proud of the fact that we have an incredibly wide range of excellent restaurants. No matter what style of food you are looking for, you can find someone making it right here.

2. Pristine Waterways

CWard2015-05659.jpg

Between the Withlacoochee River, Crystal River, Kings Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, there are more waterways to explore in and around Citrus County that most people know what to do with. Whether you are passionate about kayaking, fishing, or just heading out for a cruise, there is always something happening on the waterways around the Villages of Citrus Hills.

 

1. The Manatees

As much as we love to brag about the rest of the wildlife you will find throughout Citrus County, our biggest selling point is that we are the only place in Florida where you can swim along with giant manatees right in their natural habitat. 

Kayak Manatee in Springs.jpg

Between Homosassa Springs and Three Sisters Springs, manatees make their homes here in Citrus County and our residents love to stop by to appreciate them.

As we said before, this list is just the tip of the iceberg as far as reasons you might choose to live in Citrus County. Come on down and see for yourself!