Top Things to Do in Crystal River, Florida’s Nature Coast Gem

swimming with manatees photo

Table of Contents

Amazing Things to do in Crystal River

For animal lovers and tourists around the world, Crystal River is more than just another Hamlet in Florida. According to the city, the Crystal River is also referred to as the ‘Home of Manatees‘. These one-of-a-kind species make their way to the river’s abundant springs in their hundreds during winter to warm up. This makes it one of the spots in the world with the highest population of manatees.

While Crystal River is a renowned tourist destination due to its manatee population, it is also a hidden gem full of experiences that are sure to impress, just waiting to be discovered. Named after the pristine waterway that flows through it, this charming town is a haven for nature enthusiasts, and people seeking a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

You will find numerous local attractions, and things to do in Crystal River, Florida. In addition to swimming with manatees, other popular activities include discovering street art and visiting museums.

So prepare and grab your camera and get ready to dive into this aquatic wonderland to discover why Crystal River is the ideal vacation spot for anyone seeking outdoor fun. Here are some of the most amazing things to do in Crystal River

Our Rating Approach & Criteria

Wondering how we chose the experiences to present here? Let us walk you through our rating approach and criteria.

Vetting & Great Booking Experience

Right off the bat, we knew we wanted to narrow our options to: 

  • Vetted tours, activities, and providers
  • Offers that provide an easy booking experience.

That’s why we only chose experiences listed on our marketplace. Here’s what makes them different and oh-so-suitable for families with children.

  • We are very picky about who we work with and personally vet all our partners. That means all the experiences we present here are high-quality, kid-safe, and led by professionals. No compromises.
  • We’re committed to providing you with the best possible booking experience. Unlike many self-advertising experience providers, we offer you several payment options, give you our “lowest-price guarantee,” and are available for all your questions through easy-to-use web chat. 

We then further narrowed and rated our options according to several criteria.


In order to provide a comprehensive list where every family can find something for themselves, we decided to:

  • Include a mix of private, exclusive experiences and more budget-friendly family activities, 
  • Select only kid-safe and family-friendly experiences,
  • Include a good number of experiences that are specific to Hawaii (a.k.a., activities you can’t experience elsewhere!), and 
  • Strike a balance between educational, sporty, and entertaining activities for the whole family.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive right into our list of the 20 best things to do in Crystal River with kids.

Visit Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge sits on 80 acres of pristine wetlands dedicated to protecting over 600 manatees. This ecological beauty demonstrates the necessity of maintaining natural environments. As you enter the refuge’s well-maintained boardwalks and trails, the aura of peace and tranquility that fills the air immediately welcomes you.

As you explore, bird calls, rustling foliage, and fish splashes create a soothing background. The refuge has many bird species, making it a pleasure for birdwatchers. The refuge has binoculars that you can use to observe ospreys, majestic bald eagles, and many migratory species that spend their winter in this reserve.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is also famous for its population of West Indian manatees. So, you can take a private tour to see and appreciate this spectacular wildlife. A private tour ensures you enjoy the experience at your speed, with the undivided attention of an experienced guide.

Your expert guide will provide you with information about the manatees’ behavior, habitats, and the conservation measures that are currently in place to safeguard these gentle giants. If you want to learn more about these aquatic creatures and the refuge’s environment, then this should be on your list of things to do in Crystal River.

Editor’s Pick: Private-Boat Magnificent Manatee Tour

  • 5-star experience
  • Low risk to the manatees
  • The fee covers the captain and tour guide
  • Includes wetsuit, snorkel, and mask
  • Private boat for 1 to 6 persons
  • Suitable for anyone above two years old.

kids floating viewing a manatee on a manatee tour crystal river

Source (A manatee in Crystal River)

Kayaking in Crystal River

Exploring Crystal River by kayak is one of the best things to do in Crystal River. This activity offers you a sense of peace and adventure. As you glide across the water’s surface, the crystal-clear waters reveal a fascinating undersea environment.

The best part about Kayaking is that it allows you to explore the water without missing out on the distinct view of the shoreline. It’s like paying for one experience while enjoying two! Besides, you get to explore secluded coves, small canals, and regions of the water that larger vessels can’t reach.

These activities provide both relaxation and a workout. Silently drifting across the calm waters with the occasional ripple is meditation in motion. So, if you are looking for a great way to reconnect with nature and have lasting experiences, you should try Kayaking.

This experience is great for all ages and experience levels. So, you can try it out with friends or as a solo exploration.

Editors Pick: Crystal River Kayak Rental   

  • Offers gifts and apparel for customers
  • Provides Kayak accessories
  • Allows you to rent swimsuits, snorkel sets, etc.
  • Changing room, restrooms, and water coolers available
  • Suitable for paddlers of all experience levels

kayak rental in crystal river

Source (People enjoying a Kayak Session)

Crystal River Paddle Boarding Rental

Paddle boarding is one of those things to do in Crystal River that combines balance, tranquility, and adventure. Feel the smooth rhythm of your paddle strokes as you glide along the crystal-clear river at your own leisure. This exercise provides an unmatched sensation of freedom and natural connection.

You’ll get a clear perspective of the underwater world from your board, giving you better chances to see fish and wildlife than from a boat. You can enjoy the river’s tranquility while exercising and receiving some fresh air.

You may also locate the equipment you need at local paddle boarding rental shops, whether you’re an experienced paddleboarder with your own gear or a beginner looking for a guided rental. Anyone visiting this Crystal River should definitely have paddle boarding  on their list of things to do in Crystal River. This is because it mixes physical activity with a deep connection to nature.

Editors Pick: Crystal River Stand-up Paddleboard Rental

  • Changing rooms, restrooms, and water coolers are available.
  • Suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.
  • Provides apparel for customers.
  • Provides accessories.
  • Allows you to rent swimsuits, snorkel sets, and other related items.

paddle board rentals crystal river

Source (People paddle boarding at Crystal River)

Visit Crystal River Archaeological State Park in a Tiki Cruise

Next on our list of amazing things to do in Crystal River is the Tiki Cruise. Tiki Cruises to Crystal River Archaeological State Park gives you a dose of history infused with pleasure. This unique journey is an amazingly fun way to appreciate the region’s rich heritage. Tiki Cruises make the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, noted for its Native American heritage and ancient burial mounds, even more exciting.

When you board one of these adorable Tiki boats, you’ll feel the laid-back mood and the promise of a great trip. Tiki Cruises combines a relaxing boat ride with guided excursions, letting you enjoy your favorite drinks while taking in the sights.

This is one of those things to do in Crystal River where you can learn about the park’s history and its inhabitants. Tiki Cruise instructors share intriguing information about the indigenous people who lived in the state park, enriching your experience.

The region’s early inhabitants’ interesting history is revealed via shell mounds and burial sites. This archaeological site plus a Tiki Cruise make a perfect day out for history aficionados and watersports enthusiasts. This experience gives you a glimpse into the past while letting you enjoy the present in a peaceful setting.

Editor’s Pick: Tiki Cruise

  • Includes Captain
  • Can accommodate up to 6 passengers
  • Sunset Tiki Bar Cruises Available
  • The rental fee includes fuel
  • Includes safety equipment

lady celebrating at her tiki bar

Source (Tiki Cruise ship)

Snorkeling at Hunter Springs Park

If you are looking for a family-friendly day out as part of your itinerary of things to do in Crystal River, head to Hunter Springs Park. With its sandy beach and swimming area, Hunter Springs Park in Crystal River is a beautiful place to have a day by the sea and a great place for snorkelers to explore Florida’s Nature Coast.

Hunter Springs Park’s pure spring waters and rich aquatic life provide for a fascinating and relaxing underwater trip. When you put on your snorkel gear and dive into Hunter Springs, you’ll see a world of underwater splendor.

Both novice and professional snorkelers can enjoy the rich marine life in the crystal-clear waters. Schools of fish run through the submerged grasses while freshwater turtles gently glide. Submerged flora and limestone structures make the park’s underwater topography perfect for aquatic life.

Snorkeling at Hunter Springs Park is one of the best things to do in Crystal River because the spring’s freshwater keeps the temperature comfortable year-round. You can snorkel in the park’s refreshing waters year-round, making it a perfect way to escape the Florida heat. Plus, the park’s swimming area allows snorkeling in a controlled and safe atmosphere, making it perfect for families and all ages.

Hunter Springs Park is also a great place to learn and practice snorkeling. This park’s tranquil, clean waters and shallow shoreline parts are ideal for beginners to gain confidence. So, if you are open to learning about snorkeling, this should easily fit in your list of things to do in Crystal River.

Grab your snorkel gear and get ready to dive into Hunter Springs Park’s crystal-clear waters for an incredible Crystal River aquatic excursion.

Editor’s Pick: SDI Open Water Diver Certification

  • 1 to 6 people per lesson
  • Scuba diving gear available for sale or rent
  • Available for children above 10 years
  • Pricing starts at $85

Qualified diver with Open Water Diver Certification

Source (Snorkeling is one the amazing things to do in Crystal River)

Pontoon Boat Rental at Crystal River Preserve State Park

The Crystal River Preserve State Park is truly one of those places that should be on your list of things to do in Crystal River. Often called a ‘mosaic in nature,’ the park sits over 27,500 acres of scrub, pinewoods, hardwood forests, saline marshes, and mangrove islands. Interestingly, most of its land has remained untouched. This allows visitors like you to get a view of what Florida looked like centuries ago.

While there are many ways to explore this area, exploring with a pontoon boat is one of the best things to do in Crystal River. With a pontoon boat, you can explore the park at a relaxed pace, observing its different ecosystems, beautiful marshes, and rich wildlife from a vantage point.

Rental pontoon boats at Crystal River Preserve State Park is one of best things to do in Crystal River  because it lets you create your own journey in comfort and space. You can explore the park with family and friends since the boats are easy to ride for all ages and skill levels because of their large, solid base.

As you move through the park, you will see the beauty of nature unfold in front of you. The park has ospreys, eagles, alligators, and wading birds. If you are lucky enough, who knows, you might even see a manatee or dolphin swimming nearby.

Anchoring at picturesque areas is a highlight of Crystal River Preserve State Park pontoon boat rentals. After taking a long day of checking your list of things to do in Crystal River, you can also use the pontoon boats to picnic, swim, or relax in the park’s natural environs. It’s a great way to escape the daily grind and enjoy the park’s tranquility.

Editor’s Pick: Crystal River Boat Rentals | 21-Foot Pontoon Rental

  • There are up to six seats available on the Crystal River Pontoon Boat.
  • Price includes captain
  • Fuel and safety equipment included
  • Offers an adventure full of unforgettable memories and things to do in Crystal River

family renting a pontoon boat rental

Source (White pontoon boat)

Fishing Charters in Crystal River

The Crystal River is a haven for fishermen of all ability levels, as it is known for its redfish, trout, snook, tarpon, and other fish. Aside from the fact that fishing is one of the best things to do in Crystal River, a fishing charter is a great way to maximize your fishing trip. Whether you are a seasoned angler or you are new to fishing, these charters reignite your passion for fishing and make the experience unforgettable.

One of the biggest advantages of these charters is that they come with experienced captains. These captains know the greatest fishing sites, have high-quality gear and know the latest techniques. They’ll tailor your trip to your interests, whether it’s light tackle inshore, deep-sea, or fly fishing. This gives you an immersive yet easy fishing experience. More importantly, with their help, you’ll have the best chances of reeling in a good catch.

Beyond the thrill of landing the big one, a Crystal River fishing charter lets you enjoy the Nature Coast’s beauty and quiet. You can see manatees, dolphins, and birds as you cruise the clear waters. Such a unique experience is not just about fishing; it’s about reconnecting with nature and admiring Crystal River’s preserved beauty.

Editor’s Pick: Crystal River Fishing Charters

  • Beginner friendly charters
  • Fishing charters with professionally trained guides
  • Ideal for groups of friends and families
  • United States Coast Guard Master licensed captain

crystal river fishing charter king fish

Source: (Man holding snook)

Crystal River Public Manatee Boat Tours

In Crystal River, a public manatee boat excursion to see these gentle giants in their winter home is a must. Why will anyone visit Crystal River without paying homage to the gentle sea giants that call this beautiful place their home?

During the winter, West Indian manatees gather in Crystal River’s warm, spring-fed waters, giving visitors a rare chance to see and enjoy these wonderful creatures in their native home. It’s a kind of experience that everyone must try out at least once.

Although Manatees are more during the winter, they can be seen almost all year round in Crystal River. One way to get in the action and see things for yourself is to get on a public manatee boat tour. These boat tours are amazing as they help you appreciate these sea mammals through education and personal interaction.

During your trip, you will listen to tour guides explain manatee biology, their behavior, and conservation initiatives in fascinating ways. The tour guides will also help you gently interact with these delicate animals in the best way possible through careful and ethical wildlife viewing.

The quiet, clear waters of Crystal River add more allure to the experience as it makes it easier to spot these beautiful mammals as they surface for breath or glide beneath the boat. Some of the programs allow you to snorkel with manatees under the supervision of experienced guides.

So, get on board, bring your camera, and prepare to be captivated by Crystal River’s manatees.

Editor’s Pick: Marvelous Manatee Public-Boat Tour

  • Boats can sit up to 6 people
  • Safety equipment included
  • Ideal for everyone from 2 years upward
  • 5-star rated experience


Source (Man swimming with a manatee)

Dining and Shopping in Crystal River:

If you are a food lover, eating should be on your list of things to do in Crystal River. After a day of adventure, you can unwind in Crystal River’s charming downtown area. Crystal River isn’t just a nature lover’s paradise; it also offers a delightful array of dining and shopping experiences that add a touch of culture and indulgence to your list of things to do in Crystal River.

Crystal River boasts a variety of restaurants offering fresh seafood and Southern cuisine. Don’t forget to explore the unique boutiques and art galleries for souvenirs to remember your trip.

Dining Experiences to Explore

Fresh Seafood Delights

Being located on the Gulf of Mexico means Crystal River boasts a wealth of fresh seafood options. One of those amazing things to do in Crystal River is to enjoy some fresh seafood. You can sample the catch of the day at any waterfront restaurant, where you can savor crab legs, shrimp, and oysters while enjoying the waterfront view.

Southern Comfort Food

Dive into the flavors of the South at places like “Vintage on 5th” or “The Shed.” These establishments offer classic dishes like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and collard greens, served with a side of Southern hospitality.

Tropical Tiki Bars

For a more casual and relaxed dining experience, head to one of Crystal River’s tiki bars. Sip on tropical cocktails and enjoy light bites while taking in the laid-back atmosphere at places like “Rusty Pelican” or “Cracker’s Bar & Grill.”

Local Cafes

Start your day with a hearty breakfast or brunch at local cafes such as “Peck’s Old Port Cove” or “Cinnamon Sticks Restaurant.” These places are known for their friendly service and mouth watering morning offerings.

Shopping Experiences

Unique Boutiques

Crystal River’s downtown area is dotted with charming boutiques and shops offering a variety of goods. Explore these shops, and you will find clothing, accessories, and home décor, or a selection of vintage finds.

Art Galleries

Crystal River is home to a vibrant arts community. After your day on the waters, you can discover local talent at art galleries like “Heritage House,” which showcases the work of talented regional artists.

Farmers’ Markets

If you’re in town on the right day, don’t miss the Crystal River Farmers’ Market. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce, artisanal products, and handmade crafts.

Things to do in Crystal River in a Nutshell

Crystal River is a Florida destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural experiences. Whether you’re looking to swim with manatees, immerse yourself in history, or simply relax by the water, there is an unending list of things to do in Crystal River.

So, pack your bags and head to this enchanting town to discover the wonders of Florida’s Nature Coast.

Things to do in Crystal River

    This content is created and owned by Rockon Recreation Rentals, all rights are reserved with respect to copyrighted and intellectual property that is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    Prevent your website from being banned on Google from using any part of the content, as we regularly seek, and report infringements to Google Legal, and  Lumens database. Thank you.

    Rockon Recreation Rentals partners with Commercial Tour, Activity, and Rental Companies  to populate the Largest Directory of Outdoor Recreation Rentals. 

    We author blogs and information to help serve, inspire, and inform the public about stories and experiences offered on Rockon.

    Top Things to do in Crystal River

      Explore Kayak Rentals Near You

      Explore Paddleboard Rentals Near You

      Explore Jetski Rentals Near You

      Share This