Crystal River was the first “long-distance” trip we made with our camper last year. We were still towing with the Ford Explorer so it was a long enough drive with two antsy 5 year old boys in the backseat. The drive from South Florida to Crystal River was uneventful, but as soon as we pulled in to this cute little town by the water, we felt at home.
We chose Labor Day weekend for the visit, which for most tourist-driven communities would probably be a bad choice of times to visit. Crystal River was different – it felt like everyone was a local, even though it was still scallop season so everyone we encountered was probably a visitor.
We chose Crystal Isles RV Resort because it was part of the Thousand Trails membership we purchased when we bought our travel trailer. The resort is a short drive down Fort Island Trail, which is really close to Three Sisters Spring as well. We were nervous upon initially driving in at night – it had been raining A LOT and the ground around our slab was under water. Kudos to their drainage system because by the morning it had mostly drained away.
On our first day we explored Hunter Springs Park. The park was a playground/grass area, with a man-made (my assumption) beach on the spring. This was clearly the place to be on a Saturday. An area for swimming was roped off, and then there were kayaks and small boats out beyond the swimmers. Hunter Springs was an area people could rent the kayaks to paddle out to nearby Three Sisters Springs. There was no food vendors in the area, so we were happy we thought ahead to bring a cooler with drinks and snacks. There were some picnic tables with cover but I wished we would have brought a personal beach umbrella. The boys thought the imported white sand was ok – but they LOVED the mud that was past the water line. As gross as it looked…it actually felt pretty awesome between my toes. 🙂 Here are some photos:
We were a little disappointed to find out that we couldn’t access Three Sisters Spring from land. There is a park with a walking trail, which would provide observation of the springs, but we really wanted to swim in them. That got a little complicated with the boys in tow, because kayaks were actually a little pricey and I wasn’t sure about each of us making the trek with one boy in each kayak. We ended up renting a boat for half a day from our campground – the price was unbeatable and it afforded us the opportunity to explore the area from the water. We were able to find the spring as well…and then it got more tricky. It’s a swim/kayak in only entrance, so we tied the boat up to some vegetation and jumped in using life vests as rafts. The boys had their swim vests on, but do to the current exiting the spring area, it was a pretty good workout dragging them in to the spring. It was still totally worth it. I do regret not having a kayak so we could get a better view of the springs, but swimming in it was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, due to the weather, there were no manatees yet. 😦
The other main attraction for us was Fort Island Beach, located at the end of the road the campground was on. This beach was similar to Hunter Springs, with white sand but then a kind of icky mud in the water. I say it’s icky because realistically we are used to a certain kind of sand in South Florida, but I’m probably being close minded. It was soft and still fun to swim and walk in. We had fun chasing fiddler crabs and also watched an epic Florida storm roll in from the gulf.
We also spent a lot of time just enjoying Crystal Isles RV Resort. It was a great place for the boys to run around. They hosted activities, the long-term residents were friendly, and there is even on old-school ice cream stand that was open everyday. We will definitely return. In fact, I could be convinced to move here. This community is a gem.