October 16th, 2012 by Donna Dorsey
|Citrus County is My Specialty…
Citrus County is located about 65 miles north of Tampa Bay and is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico and along the north and the east by the Withlacoochee River and the Tsala Apopka lake chain. The county’s 683 square miles have a distinct “northern” look due to the gently rolling hills which are common throughout the area. Over 152,000 acres of the county have been set aside for wildlife preserves making the area a popular destination for bird watchers and others interested in experiencing Florida the way it used to be – natural and unspoiled. The Withlacoochee State Forest, which comprises much of the wildlife preserves in Citrus County, was named as one of the “Top 10 Coolest Places You’ve Never Seen” in North America by the World Wildlife Fund. Enjoy the county’s beauty by car, boat or take a leisurely bike ride, walk, jog or skate down the 46-mile paved Withlacoochee State Trail as it winds through some of the most beautiful scenery on Florida’s west coast.
Just to the south of Crystal River, are Homosassa and Homosassa Springs which offer yet another aspect of Florida the natural way with a major attraction being the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, home to many of Florida’s native creatures as well as a shelter for the endangered Manatee. Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins State Historic Site in Homosassa was once part of a thriving sugar plantation owned by David Levy Yulee, who later became Florida’s first State Senator when the state was admitted into the Union in 1845. Still standing are the stonework chimney, well, foundation, steam boiler, crushing machinery, and large cooking kettles used to process the sugar cane. The Old Mill House & Printing Museum across from the Sugar Mill Ruins features antique presses and a look at printing the way it used to be.
So Much To Do…So Little TimeYou may get a difference of opinion about that statement with some folks who have made Florida their home. But it’s true. The weather in west central Florida, which includes Citrus County and the Ocala area, is ideal year ‘round for just about any outdoor activity. The 47,000-acre Withlacoochee State Forest is situated in the heart of Citrus County and the Ocala National Forest is a short drive away. Both are beautiful tracts of preserved land which are perfect for hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, birdwatching and more.
In Citrus County, the lakes and rivers are teeming with largemouth bass and speckled perch while off the coast, the Gulf of Mexico yields grouper, snapper, sea trout and, on occasion, record-size tarpon. The shallow waters along the coastline provide an ideal spot for snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and the harvesting of scallops. Your time spent on the Crystal River or the Homosassa River will often be rewarded with a glimpse of the huge but gentle manatees grazing on the sea grass, a group of playful otters, or the majestic leap of a dolphin.
Adding to the beauty of Citrus County are its magnificent golf courses. Currently, there are 12 public or semi-private courses offering a variety of challenges for serious or casual golfers. Long waits or delays are rare but many golfers do take the time to appreciate the courses as they weave over, around and through hills, valleys, greenbelts, lakes and wildlife preserves.
If you want something more exciting, most of the major Florida attractions are within a 90-minute drive in Orlando or Tampa. While there, be sure to visit the many factory outlet malls, shopping centers and some of the world’s famous restaurants. If you want world class beaches, visit Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Daytona, to name a few.
Leaving town? Go anywhere in the world from the major airports located in Tampa, Orlando or Gainesville, which is about a 70-minute drive northeast of Citrus County. Major cruise ships have numerous departures from Tampa Bay as well as from Port Canaveral. Floridians love to explore other parts of Florida. But when it’s time to come home, Citrus County is a welcome sight.