(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

boats cruising on the Crystal River at Crystal River Preserve State Park

Formerly known as the Crystal River Buffer Preserve, the Crystal River Preserve State Park is one of Florida’s most diverse and spectacular state parks.

Set across 27,500 acres, it incorporates a stunning landscape of pine flat woods, coastal scrub, mangrove islands, tidal creeks, hardwood forests and salt marshes. Much of which has changed little since the first Europeans arrived 500 years ago.

About an hour from Ocala, the park is a popular destination for those who enjoy activities like kayaking, canoeing, hiking and bird-watching. It is also an important habitat for a wide range of birds, plants and wildlife.

Within the park, you’ll also find the Crystal River Archaeological State Park. So if you do come here, you’ll have the unique opportunity of visiting two fantastic Florida state parks in one.

Activities

For the visitor, the park offers a myriad of ways to enjoy and immerse themselves in its wonderful scenery.

Here is a small selection of some of the many things you can see and do during your time there.

Paddling at Crystal River Preserve State Park

If you are into paddling the park offers two launches for kayaks and canoes.

One of these is located just off Sailboat Avenue at the Mullet Hole location. The other is situated at the boat basin, which you will find near the visitor center.

These launches give you a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the park’s stunning natural beauty. So don’t be surprised if you spend quite a few hours on the water.

Boat Tours at Crystal River Preserve State Park

There are two boat tours available at the park that come highly recommended.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the ‘Monroe’ can take you on an Eco Heritage Tour of the lower river.

Alternatively, you might choose to enjoy a sunset cruise around the Gulf of Mexico as run by Crystal River Preserve Adventures.

Fishing at Crystal River Preserve State Park

Fishing is a very popular activity at the park, with much of it taking place at the Mullet Hole fishing area.

This fertile spot runs along a canal system which eventually joins the Crystal River. It is a good place to catch species like snook, flounder, redfish and trout.

Whilst at the park you may need to have a license, depending on what style of fishing you do. You will also need to conform to the state rules and regulations. If you are unsure what these are, it is worth contacting the Florida Wildlife Commission.

Hiking at Crystal River Preserve State Park

For those who really want to get to grips with the park there is no better way to do this than by exploring its many hiking trails.

Differing in length and degrees of difficulty, these trails showcase the park’s diverse terrain.

One of the most popular trails is the 2-mile loop that makes up the Eco-walk Trail. This trail starts at a wet prairie and skirts a swamp that frames a hammock.

The Lake Loop Trail is another scenic course to take, as it winds around three man-made lakes. While the Hammock Island Trail takes you from a picturesque coastal scrub to an isolated hammock island via a lush salt marsh.

If you are into bird watching, the Fort Island Trail is incorporated within the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. So you should see plenty of species there.

This includes the likes of shorebirds like Clapper Rails, Spotted Sandpipers, Wilson’s Snipe and Least Bitterns, as well other types like ospreys, red-breasted mergansers and Mississippi kites.

Biking at Crystal River Preserve State Park

As well as hiking, mountain biking is also well practiced at the park.

Within it, there is a 7-mile trail that meanders through most of its natural habitats. It will take you to some very picturesque spots, so make sure you have your camera with you.

Wearing helmets is strongly advised for all riders and mandatory under Florida law for those aged 16 years and under.

Picnicking at Crystal River Preserve State Park

Picnicking is something many visitors engage in during their time at Crystal River Preserve State Park.

Close to the boat basin you will find a couple of picnic pavilions over by the kayak launch.

The picnic facilities there include several tables and grills, all of which are available on a first come first served basis.

Pets at Crystal River Preserve State Park

Dogs of all sizes are welcome to join you at the park at no extra cost.

Whilst there they must be on a leash of no more than 6 feet in length at all times. They must also be cleaned up after and not left on their own for more than 30 minutes.

While dogs are permitted on the trails, they are not allowed to be anywhere near the water on account of the alligators that reside within it.

Camping at Crystal River Preserve State Park

Unfortunately there is no camping accommodation inside Crystal River Preserve State Park. However, you will find a very nice campground about 25 miles away at Rainbow Springs State Park – which you can stay at.

The modern campground there has 54 sites set up for RV, trailers and tent campers. Each of them has individual connections for sewer and water, as well as 20-amp, 30-amp or 50-amp electricity.

They also all come with their own fire ring, grate and picnic table too.

Some of the facilities and amenities you’ll find there include comfort stations that have flush toilets and hot showers, as well as a playground, swimming pool, laundry and dump station.

There is also a recreation hall, amphitheater and campground store that sells firewood and other basic necessities.

Park Location

Crystal River Preserve State Park
3266 N Sailboat Ave,
Crystal River, FL 34428
Phone: 352.228.6028

Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Crystal River Preserve State Park: