We started our trip on the north end of Kings Bay in Crystal River, close to Pete’s Pier Marina. Kings Bay was once a shallow wetland that has since become a popular destination for visitors. It serves as the home to Ichetucknee Springs State Park as well as two of the world’s most popular snorkeling and diving spots, Three Sisters Springs and Homosassa Springs.
Since we did not bring our own kayaks, we rented double kayaks at Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals. By the way, they were the nicest people around. They gave us a map to find our way around the bay. Honestly, I think it was more about us not getting lost.. After watching the safety video we headed out for the adventure. The water was a bit choppy at times but still manageable to get across the bay.
The best way to explore Kings Bay is with a kayak. Boat launches, several kayak rentals, and outfitters are available in the area to get you started. Once you’re out on the water, you’ll be able to observe a variety of aquatic wildlife including manatees, dolphins, seabirds, and sea turtles. You can also explore the nearby islands and bays while keeping an eye out for the occasional bald eagle or osprey.
We took the trip down to Crystal River in February 2023. The weather was amazing, not too hot but not cold either. Just a perfect day out on the water.
We love food; to our surprise we saw a food pontoon – like a food truck but on the water. Of course we couldn’t go any further until we tried it out. The food was amazing, service outstanding, and drinks ice cold. What more can you ask for? The boat was the Floatin’ Gringos Food Boat and Taqueria – will definitely stop there on my next kayak trip to Crystal River. It’s a great spot to hang out and talk to other boaters or kayakers.
Passing the first bridge after crossing the bay we were right inside the “Manatee Zone”. We saw hundreds of other kayakers all headed to the same place – Three Sisters Springs.
Three Sisters Springs was probably a 30 min ride in the kayaks, passing beautiful canals, shallow water, an abundance of wildlife and many other boaters. Three Sisters Springs is a 95-acre wildlife refuge located within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. This unique and protected area of the Gulf of Mexico is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.
Three Sisters Springs was simply breathtaking. No watercraft allowed inside of the spring. The water was too deep to walk, but many of us tied the kayaks to the shore and swam into the spring. The spring itself is a great spot to jump in and explore the shallow water habitat. You’ll find plenty of fish as well as incredible waterfowl watching opportunities.
We did not see any Manatees in or around the Three Sisters Springs, but the view and natural beauty sure made up for it. If you happen to see them while you’re there, make sure to keep your distance from the manatees as they often hang around the spring during the winter months to stay warm. Other animals to look out for include bald eagles, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, and various water birds. As with any other wildlife, you just have to “catch” it at the right time. The day after we left we have seen several Facebook posts from kayakers in Crystal River that saw manatees.
This was definitely a trip to remember. Maybe next time we go we will find Manatees. In the meantime we’ll head back to Hernando Beach. We have seen Manatees several times; swimming in the canals and the flats. These gentle giants are just beautiful to watch how they elegantly glide through the water.
Make sure to plan ahead as you’ll need to rent or bring your own kayak as well as follow all local regulations. The area can get crowded so arrive early to enjoy the experience with fewer people and kayaks. There is no admission to the spring. Overall, a kayak trip to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, FL is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and explore the stunning wetlands of the Nature Coast.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia