If you go
Getting there: Crystal River is in Citrus County, about 80 miles north of Tampa. From South Florida, it’s about a five-hour drive. Take Florida’s Turnpike north and continue as it turns into I-75 north after Orlando/Winter Garden exits. Take exit 329 and go west on State Road 44 toward Inverness/Wildwood. Continue following SR-44 as it turns slightly right. Turn left on U.S. 19 South/North Suncoast Boulevard, which runs through the heart of Crystal River.
Season: This year, the bay scallop recreational harvest season runs through Sept. 24.
License: Scalloping requires a recreational saltwater license. An annual license for Floridians is $17 and can be purchased from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, 888-347-4356, www.floridaconservation.org. If you charter a scalloping excursion, the boat captain’s license covers you.
Limits: State law limits each harvester to two gallons of whole scallops in the shell or one pint of scallop meat per person per day. No more than 10 gallons whole or a half-gallon meat per vessel is allowed.
Equipment: Mask, fins, snorkel, sunscreen, a mesh bag for gathering the harvest and a cooler of ice for storing the scallops. A dive flag must be visible when snorkelers are in the water.
Excursions last four to six hours.
Plantation at Crystal River Adventure Center, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, 352-795-5797, www.crystalriverdivers.com. Scalloping charters are $300 for up to four people; $50 per additional person. Also offers manatee, sightseeing, scuba and snorkeling tours; rents jon boats, pontoons, kayaks and canoes.
Osprey Guide Services, 6115 Riverside Dr., Yankeetown, 352-400-0133, www.ospreyguides.com. Captain Rick LeFiles offers private scalloping charters, $50 per person; minimum four people, maximum six. Also offers fishing charters and eco tours.
Family Adventure Charters, Pete’s Pier & Marina, 1 SW First Pl., Crystal River, 352-445-5489, http://familyadventurecharters.com. Captain Tim Green offers scalloping excursions, $55 per person; up to six people. Also guides night shark fishing, manatee and dolphin tours, sunset cruises and sightseeing tours.
Runn’n Shallow Guide Service, 5566 S. Island Dr., Homosassa, 352-628-7397, http://homosassacharters.com. Captain Leo Riddle offers scalloping and fishing charters. $55 per person, up to six people. (Larger groups can be accommodated.)
WHERE TO STAY
Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, 352-795-5797, www.PlantationonCrystalRiver.com. The newly-renovated inn-resort is the nicest property on Kings Bay, with 196 rooms and 12 golf villas. There’s a pool, Aveda spa, an 18-hole golf course, bar, restaurant and marina, plus seawall docking for guests with boats. Florida resident rate through Sept. 30 is $99 per night Sunday-Thursday and $129 per night Friday-Saturday; it includes a $25 nightly resort credit. Scalloping packages, which include a two-night stay, a welcome bag and a “cook your catch” dinner one night, start at $199 per person for those with their own boats and $250 per person for those who charter a captain on Sunday-Thursday; the rate goes up to $150 and $300 per person Friday-Saturday.
Port Hotel & Marina, 1610 SE Paradise Cir., Crystal River, 352-795-3111, www.porthotelandmarina.com. Old Florida relic on Kings Bay with dated rooms, small pool, dive center and marina, great views and on-site restaurant and bar. Its claim to fame is that Elvis slept here when he was filming the 1962 musical “Follow That Dream.” Standard room starts at $74 per night.
Quality Inn, 4486 N. Suncoast Blvd., Crystal River, 352-563-1500. Budget option on main highway within driving distance of water and marinas. Standard room starts at $80 a night.
Homosassa Riverside Resort, 5297 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa, 352-628-2474, www.riversideresorts.com. More of a waterside motel than a resort, this rustic and rowdy property has docks for boaters, a small pool and very basic rooms; popular with locals and heavily booked on weekends. Standard rooms start at $85 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
West 82 Bar & Grill, Plantation on Crystal River’s on-site restaurant, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, 352-795-4211, www.PlantationonCrystalRiver.com. One of the best restaurants in town, with Gulf-inspired seafood, such as pan-seared grouper with citrus slaw, mahi mahi ceviche and shrimp-n-grits with andouille sausage and peppers; also have steak, lamb and ribs. The kitchen will cook scallops you bring in for $11.95 if they are clean (an additional $5 a gallon if they have to clean them). Entrees $15-$26.
Riverside Crab House, 5297 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa, 352-628-2474, www.riversideresorts.com/RiversideCrabHouse.html. Part of the Riverside Resort, this rustic wood building serves up fresh blue crabs caught locally and other seafood (will cook your catch); better known for its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Homosassa River and the tiny “Monkey Island,” inhabited by spider and squirrel monkeys. Live music most nights in adjoining Monkey Bar. Entrees $10-$29.50.
Neon Leon’s Zydeco Steakhouse, 10350 W. Yulee Dr., Homosassa, 352-621-3663, http://neonleonszydecosteakhouse.com. Owned by the family of Leon Wilkeson, the bass guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd who died in 2001, the roadside joint features catfish, gator, grouper, hush puppies, fried okra, gumbo and other Cajun dishes, including a delicious jambalaya. Live Zydeco music Wednesday-Sunday. Reservations recommended. Entrees $8.69-$20.99.
Cody’s Original Roadhouse, 305 SE U.S. 19 North, Crystal River, 352-795-7223, www2.codysoriginalroadhouse.com. North Florida chain with burgers, wings, steaks, ribs and fish. Known for its buckets of roasted peanuts, with shell throwing on the floor encouraged. Entrees $7.89-$22.98.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, 352-628-5343, www.floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings. View manatees year-round from underwater observatory; there’s also a small zoo, with black bears, bobcats, deer, alligators and river otters. Choose between a boat or tram to get to the park. Admission $13 adults, $5 ages 6-12.
The Shoppes of Heritage Village, 657 N. Citrus Ave., Crystal River, 352-564-1400, www.theshoppesofheritagevillage.com. Collection of gift shops, eateries, wine and tea bars in repurposed, cracker cottages in historic downtown shaded by oaks and magnolia trees.
Singing River Tour, departs from Angler’s Resort, 12189 S. Williams St., Dunnellon, 352-804-1573, www.singingrivertours.com. Boat captain and musician Jon Semmes guides eco tours on a 40-foot pontoon boat, with history, nature and education talk, guitar strumming and singing along the way through clear, spring-fed Rainbow River and dark, swamp-fed Withlacoochee River. $15 per person for two-hour tour.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, Spring Hill, 352-592-5656, http://weekiwachee.com. About 25 miles from Homosassa, one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions features daily mermaid shows viewed from a theater submerged in the spring’s basin. There’s also a riverboat cruise, animal shows and an adjacent water park. Admission $13 adults, $8 ages 6-12, free for 5 and under.
Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau, 800-587-6667, www.visitcitrus.com
River Cam: View King’s Bay in real time at www.visitcitrus.com/LiveRiverCam