There are three main attractions in the Crystal River and Homosassa area of Florida – (1) beautiful natural springs, (2) manatees, and (3) scalloping! These springs offer fun all year round.
For this weekend adventure, we went scalloping! Scalloping season is only open for a limited time during the summer (typically July), so it’s best to plan this trip as far in advance as possible. Home rentals for scalloping season typically open in January. The house we rented was an updated and adorable 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a great layout and a dock out back.
We left our house on a Thursday afternoon and made the 2 1/2 hour drive trailing our boat. Once we arrived, the men went to the nearest boat ramp to launch the boat while the women went to Publix to buy food for the next several days.
That night, we went to dinner by boat to The Crab Plant – this was recommended by a friend that grew up on Crystal River. Another popular spot is Cracker’s, which was right across the way. If you want good seafood, Crab Plant is the place you want to be. After dinner we cruised around Hunter Springs to spot some manatees.
On Friday morning, we woke up to thunder and lightning (always be patient and understanding when traveling – especially in Florida during rainy season). We attempted to go out for a bit during a clearing but the storms were rolling in so fast that we had to make a quick run back in. Fortunately, we were with great friends and the Airbnb was stocked with games so we still had a fun day. Plus, we weren’t at work so we were happy!
Saturday was PERFECT! After breakfast, we loaded up the cooler and made our way out to scallop. You won’t have to worry about not knowing where to go… just follow the other hundred boats that will be in front of you. We picked a spot in about 5-7 feet of water (we heard the more shallow spots get picked over pretty quickly on opening weekend). Be sure that you have a dive flag on your boat, a bucket, snorkel & mask, fins, and laundry bags to hold your scallops while you’re swimming around.
I floated and enjoyed the sun all day while the other 5 did the hard work. I didn’t think diving at 32 weeks pregnant was the best use of my energy so I kept a headcount of everyone and watched for boats coming by – this worked out extremely well and I highly recommend having a watch person.
They collected a ton! Once everyone felt like our little spot was picked over, we cruised a couple hundred feet and they dove back in. You’ll never know where a perfect spot is, so just shift a little throughout the day and see what you can find. Everyone ended up finding even more in our new spot. The thicker the sea grass, the better. There will be more scallops that have stayed hidden.
Around 3:00, we packed up and made our way back in. Before going back to the house we made a quick pit stop at Dockside Ice Cream!
Once we were back to the house and the boat was unloaded, the guys started shucking! They had an assembly line that seemed to work pretty well. You can pay to have someone do it for you but we thought $30 was a little steep. I cooked a pasta dish that night that was perfect with the delicious little scallops.
On Sunday morning, we cleaned, loaded up, and made our way back home. Everyone had a great time and this is definitely something that we’ll do again. Hopefully we’ll have two full days of nice weather next time so we can have a day to play in all the springs! As long as you’re with a good group, nothing will damper your weekend.
If you don’t reside in Florida and/or don’t have a boat of your own, you can rent a boat or book a scalloping charter. I also recommend paddleboarding or kayaking through the springs.
Manatee tours are tons of fun, but you have a better chance of seeing manatees if you visit in the winter. When the Gulf temperatures drop, the manatees come to the springs, where the temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. I highly highly recommend SeaDaddys – https://www.seadaddysdivecenter.com/ – don’t worry, you get a wet suit so you won’t freeze!