Homosassa

5 Fun Things to Do in Homosassa

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Being located near small towns like Inverness and Crystal River while also being close to bigger cities like Orlando and Tampa is one of the best things about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But our community is also located near some of the most amazing natural attractions in all of Florida.

When you are ready to get out and embrace Florida’s Nature Coast, one of the best places to do just that is Homosassa. Located just 10 miles south of Crystal River and about half an hour from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Homosassa offers up a world of possibilities for anyone looking to get outside.

Let’s take a quick look at five fun things to do in Homosassa.

Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Known as the place in Florida for getting up close and personal with manatees, Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an amazing experience with nature that never disappoints.

One of the main attractions here is the underwater observatory that lets you see the manatees from a different perspective without having to jump into the water. The park also offers plenty of education on manatees for anyone looking to learn more about our beloved sea cows.

And there is so much more for you than just manatees here. The park is also home to a stunning collection of wildlife, amazing birding opportunities, and excellent hiking trails.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

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If you like your outdoor adventures to come with a bit of history, then Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park should be the top Homosassa destination on your list.

This area was once the home of a 5,100-acre sugar plantation. Today, you can explore the ruins of that plantation, which includes a towering masonry chimney, iron gears, and a cane press.


The park also has a picnic site, which makes it a perfect destination for outdoor meals in Citrus County.

Alpaca Magic USA

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Just when you thought you had seen everything that Florida’s Nature Coast had to offer, a little place called Alpaca Magic USA showed up on your to-do list.

This working farm in Homosassa started out with two alpacas back in 1996, and they have slowly grown that number to 20 alpacas calling the farm home today.

Visiting Alpaca Magic USA is completely free, and all guests get to visit with the alpacas while learning a bit about them. Plus, there is a gift shop with all kinds of alpaca-related products.

Airboat Tours

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While visiting state parks and alpaca farms represent calm ways to spend an afternoon in Homosassa, you can also kick up the excitement level by heading out on one of the many local airboat tours.

Companies like Top Gun Airboat Tours and Native Sun Tours are always taking visitors out through the Gulf Coast marshes, and those amphibious airboats can make for quite the wild experience.

Festivals of Homosassa

One of the great festivals in Homosassa is Shrimpapalooza that normally happens in the month of March. The annual festival is hosted by the Rotary Club of Homosassa Charitable Foundations. Thousands of party goers from all over the state attend every year emphasizing the fun in fundraising. With an awesome Parade, Live Music, Tons of Great Food, there is guaranteed fun for all ages.

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The Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival is one of West Central Florida’s most beloved fall festivals.  The festival includes a juried art show, true crafts, live entertainment, and delicious seafood along with other tasty delicacies.

Homosassa is packed full of relaxing ways to enjoy nature without having to venture too far from home. So whether you are looking for fun with manatees, an exciting airboat tour, or a weekend on the water, you can have it all in Homosassa.

Florida Scalloping Season Starts July 1st!

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the 4th of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: Scallops! 

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Monday, July 1 and runs all the way through Tuesday, September 24.

And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.  

Bay scallops are a type of shellfish that live in shallow waters along the Gulf Coast of Florida just minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills.

They tend to be found living in sea grass areas, where they can blend in well except for their bright blue eyes. If startled, you will see the scallops attempt to make their getaway by quickly opening and closing their shells to propel them backwards.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations 

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2019 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.  

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.  

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There are only three acceptable ways to harvest scallops; you must either catch them by hand, landing, or dip net. The most popular method is by hand, which is usually done while snorkeling with a mesh bag to hold your catch. You’re also required to utilize diving flags to alert any other boats in the area to your presence.

One particular rule that might seem confusing at first is that any boat that catches scallops in the legal area to do so, must also dock in the same area. It is illegal to catch scallops in the legal area and then unload them outside of the legal area.

The following link will bring you to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with all the official information.

https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.  

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.  

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure. The following link will bring you to a wonderful website, Discover Crystal River, with a few charter companies to consider.

https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/play/scalloping/ 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops 

After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.  

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you. 

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop 

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them!

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However, scallops are actually incredibly easy to cook. All you need to do is pan-sear them with a little bit of oil over very high heat. Just cooking them for about one minute on each side is all you have to do. There is actually a better chance of you overcooking them than undercooking them.  

Some recommended approaches to cooking scallops include seasoning with salt and pepper, lemon pepper, or blackened Cajun seasoning before you sear them. Many recipes also recommend basting them with butter while cooking.  

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 34 delicious scallop recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious. 

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes 

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

This recreational fishing activity combines all of the excitement of the catch that comes with traditional fishing without the worms. If you have ever enjoyed delicious scallops at a local restaurant, this is your chance to get out and catch your own.  

Because some of the best scallops in the world are basically sitting in our backyard, we would all be crazy to not go out scalloping at least a few times each year. The fact that there are so many great charter operations in our area makes it even easier. 

Even if you don’t care for seafood, the treasure hunt feeling you get from scalloping is a blast. Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

The Top 5 Places to Take Visitors in Citrus County

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One of our favorite things about living in Citrus County is that there is an endless number of things to see and do.  There is always something happening right here in the Villages of Citrus Hills, and there are just as many fun attractions throughout the rest of the county.  

All of these attractions and activities are great for those of us who call Citrus County home, but they can be a little overwhelming for those who are just visiting with us for a short time. For that reason, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top five places everyone must see while visiting in Citrus County.  

5. Fort Island Gulf Beach

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Fort Island Gulf Beach is one of those places that you probably say, “We should come here more often,” just about every time you visit. It has beautiful white sand beaches, public restrooms, and a great boardwalk overlooking the water.  

When your guests visit the Gulf Coast of Florida, they are definitely going to want to SEE the Gulf Coast. This is the perfect way for them to see it right here in Citrus County, and it’s also an extremely relaxing way to spend a day.

4. The Withlacoochee State Trail 

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Bicycling is a fun way to show your guests a good time outdoors, making the most of our great Florida weather. There are lots of trails to choose from around Citrus County, but the Withlacoochee State Trail is the one that is a must-see attraction. 

This is a perfect place for cyclists of all skill levels. You can take your time and cruise just a few miles, or push the envelope and explore all 46 miles of former train tracks.


3. Rainbow River Tubing

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 If your visitors are looking for something a little more adventurous that is still a great representation of life in Citrus County, taking them tubing on the Rainbow River is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. 

Tubing is popular from the beginning of April through the end of September and is the kind of experience that your visitors will be sure to tell everyone back home about!

 

2. Downtown Inverness 

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Whether your guests are interested in history, shopping, or great food, there is something for everyone to enjoy just a few miles away in downtown Inverness.  

Every tour of Inverness should start at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, but you might also want to explore the local shopping or grab some takeout food and head to Fort Cooper State Park for a picnic lunch.


1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 

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A lot of people who visit Florida want to get to the beach, which we addressed with number five on this list. But the main interest for many who visit Citrus County specifically is to see live manatees, and the best place to do that is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!  

Visitors can get up close and personal with live manatees from the underwater observatory. They can also learn a lot more about these local mammals from the information sessions held regularly at the park.

Among each of these five attractions, you will definitely show your guests some of the very best highlights of Citrus County. And if you haven’t been to all of these places yourself, what are you waiting for?

Are You Ready for This Year’s Scalloping Season?

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: SCALLOPS!

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Sunday, July 1 and runs all the way through Monday, September 24. And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2018 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

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If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure, but here are just a few:

      Fun2Dive - http://www.fun2dive.com/scallop-trips/

      River Ventures - https://riverventures.rezdy.com/catalog/61542/scalloping

      Red Ed’s Adventures - http://www.homosassaredfish.com/scalloping.php

 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops

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After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.

 

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you.

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them! The most common way to prepare scallops is to pan fry them on each side for about a minute. Keep in mind that you are more likely to overcook them than to undercook them. So don’t panic!

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 25 unique recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop-Spinach Spread and the Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious.

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

 

Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by

 without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

The Mermaids & Margaritas Festival

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Located just west of downtown Crystal River is the peaceful Fort Island Gulf State Park. But that beautiful beach is going to be anything but relaxing on Saturday, April 14 during the Mermaids and Margaritas Festival from 12 pm to 8 pm.

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This all-day festival was created by "The Mertailor" Eric Ducharme, who has been selling the best swimmable mermaid tails on the market since 2009. Along with a great selection of mermaid apparel, the festival will also feature three local bands, lots of amazing food, and enough margaritas to make Jimmy Buffett jealous. 

 

The Mermaid Contests

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When you attend a festival that is sponsored by a company that makes swimmable mermaid tails, you can certainly expect to find plenty of people dressed up as mermaids. Those people will be competing in a Mermaid Costume Contest sponsored by MezMerEyes starting at 2 pm.

There will also be a Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest held later in the day at 5 pm.

The Live Music

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This fun-filled festival will kick off with live music right at 12 pm when The TJ Brown Band takes the stage. He might not be a Florida native, but Thomas Junior (T.J.) Brown has been a Florida resident since he was nine years old, and his version of country music feels well-grounded in our local Florida culture.

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Following The TJ Brown Band, the parrot heads will be out for The Landsharks. This Jimmy Buffett tribute band has toured all over Florida while holding down a steady two-year gig playing at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in Orlando. Add a Hawaiian shirt and a margarita to your mermaid tail and you will fit right in with this crowd!

After the Ms. Mermaid and Mr. Merman contest, Homosassa native Ashley Young will take the stage to perform for her hometown residents. After spending time in both Nashville and New York City, Ashley is on the move again and will be singing all over Florida for much of the summer. 

The Food

Spending the day at the beach can be a real blast, but you are going to get hungry at some point! Fortunately, there are plenty of Citrus County businesses that will be on hand to help you out.

When you are ready for a meal, you'll be able to choose between pizza from Light My Fire Mobile Pizza Co., tacos and rice bowls from Riviera Mexican Cantina, seafood from Dan's Clam Shack, and all kinds of bar and grill food from Dawg House Dogs & Grill, Inc.

If you're just looking for something to munch on in between meals, there will also be snacks available from Kona Ice of Citrus County, Lynn's Ice Cream, Calypso Concessions, Tropical Acai Bowls, and Pop Fusions Gourmet Ice Pops.

The Booze

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With all of the exciting festivities planned for the Mermaids & Margaritas Festival, it's easy to forget about the margaritas part of the event. But don't worry, because Riviera Cantina will make sure to remind you that they will be selling those margaritas all day.

There will also be beer and wine for sale. Visitors can choose from Budweiser, Bud Light, Landshark, Bud Light Straw-Ber-Ritas, Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas, and Bud Light Mong-o-Ritas, as well as a selection of merlot, cabernet, and white zinfandel.

Getting to the Party

One important thing that every mermaid and merman planning to attend the event needs to know is that there will be no parking available at Fort Island Gulf Beach. Everyone attending will need to park at the lot on the corner of US-19 and Fort Island Trail, across from the Winn Dixie Plaza and Clawdaddy's.

There will be a free shuttle taking people back and forth out to the beach from this free parking lot.

No matter how serious you are about your mermaid costume, just about everyone could benefit from just a little bit more glitter in their lives. So, grab your tail, and we'll see you at Fort Island Gulf Beach on April 14!