Crystal River, Florida is the ideal vacation destination for nature-loving families. Beyond the warm temperatures and sunny beaches, this popular area offers a variety of water sports, fine dining, and opportunities for sightseeing. Spend a day at a renowned golf course, swim with manatees, go for a hike, or enjoy a family bike ride while basking in the Florida sun. Here are nine things to do with your kids when you venture out from your cozy Crystal River vacation rental.

1. Swim at Fort Island Gulf Beach

If your kids love to splish and splash in the ocean, Fort Island Gulf Beach is the place to go. Spend some time on the beach building sandcastles and searching for seashells, or put the kids in their life jackets and water wings and go for a dip in the perfect ocean water that has an average temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. The beach area is equipped with restrooms and picnic areas, so you can enjoy a snack or meal without having to leave the sights of the water and sand.

2. Take an Eco-Tour Cruise

View the scenic waterways when taking an eco-tour cruise on Kings Bay in Crystal River. This popular activity lasts 90 minutes, taking you and your kids on an adventure to see dolphins, manatee, eagles, and osprey. A USCG master captain leads the tour and offers interesting information about the area’s special ecosystems. When you need some downtime from water activities, and eco-cruise is the perfect way to get an up-close view of what Crystal River has to offer while staying dry.

3. Take a Dip With Manatees

Crystal River is home to the West Indian manatees. Allow your kids to make friends with these glorious mammals when opting to take a group tour and swim. A guided tour sponsored by Premium Houseboat affords up to six people the opportunity to snorkel alongside the manatee. If you’re not interested in getting in the water, board the vessel with bay windows for an underwater view. Check out the rooftop platforms to enjoy stunning views of the ocean, and order refreshments for the family if you need to quench your thirst.

4. Visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Take a guided tour through the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to teach your children about the natural habitats of the area’s wildlife. Your kids can feed manatee, spot fish in the underwater viewing area, and observe the unique birds flying above while enjoying a walk along the refuge’s nature trails.

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5. Kayak on King’s Bay

Ride along with the manatees when kayaking on King’s Bay with your children. Take a guided tour with the Crystal River Kayak Company, or self-guide yourself along the Three Sisters Spring. You have a choice of paddling down the St. Martin, Chassahowitzka, or Withlacoochee rivers, with many areas rich with dolphin sightings and shore birds along the way. More experienced water enthusiasts can try their skills at paddle boarding.

6. Hike Through Crystal River Archaeological State Park

If you’re seeking to find beautiful views of Crystal River, the three-quarter mile trail at Archaeological State Park is a popular option. View the Midden, Burial, and Temple mounds, and snap a few family photos on the observation decks. Give your kids a history lesson when walking by the marker stones, originating from ancient river dwellers. Stop at the nature trail’s audio stations to learn all about the archaeological site. Before heading back to your vacation rental, be sure to swing by the park’s visitor’s center to pick up a few souvenirs and see exhibits on artifacts.

7. Plan a Golf Outing

Make good use of your clubs when spending a day golfing at the Plantation on Crystal River Golf Course. This world-class course offers 18 holes and stunning views. Bring your own gear or rent clubs for the family on site. More experienced golfers can navigate through the bunker and water obstacles and challenging fairways, while the younger golfers in your group can opt to play a quick nine-hole game on the lagoon course.

8. Bike Along the Withlacoochee Bay

On a day when the kids have extra energy to expel, break out your bicycles and head to the Withlacoochee Bay Trail. As you bike the trail, check out the Felburn Park Trailhead and observe the unique wildlife nestled west of the Gulf of Mexico. This bay area features salt marshes and maritime hammocks for all to see, as well as a 40-acre lake developed as a result of limerock mining activity. Enhance the journey by crossing the Florida Greenway along the path.

9. Snorkel With Nature

No family vacation in Crystal River is complete without a guided snorkeling adventure with Bird’s Underwater, which offers a full line of diving rental gear for children and adults. Take an excursion to snorkel and swim with sea creatures or manatees in the spring-fed waters of Crystal River for an entire afternoon, or bring along an underwater camera to snap a few photos of the unique fish that populate the river. Once your journey has ended, sit down for a bit and enjoy snacks and cold drinks before retreating back to your vacation rental.

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