Three Sisters Springs is one of my favorite places to paddleboard. During manatee season, when the springs are literally full of manatees trying to stay warm, the springs themselves are closed but you can still paddle the area and see manatees outside of the springs.  From within the springs there are boardwalks that I’ve seen people on, but I’d never actually been in that area until recently. There is no land/water access in the springs or immediately near the springs so you have a choice of visiting on foot or by water, but not both.

There’s parking at the three Sisters Springs Center on Hwy 19 but we drove to the front gate.  To be honest I didn’t know about the center until after I got home, so that’ll be something to explore on another day. There is no parking at the front gate, except for handicap parking. However, there are several areas nearby that you can park and walk to the entrance.  We parked in the far end of the Harbor Freight parking lot which is across the street from the park. If you park there be sure not to park up by the stores so that their customers can use those spaces.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

You can pay to get into the by car before you park or you can just walk up and pay. If you are going to see the manatees I recommend you drive to the front gate first, they will be able to let you know if it’s a good day to see them or not. You can see the current pricing here, when we went (Feburary 2021) it was $20 per adult so if your goal is to see manatees for sure ask about them first. Also, ask about discounts, they have them for military, seniors and Citrus County residents, and Federal Pass holders.

It just so happens that February is a great time to see the manatees, there were 100 of them there the day I stopped in. Sound unbelievable? Take a look. This is just one place the manatees hang out in the area.

Manatees at Three Sister's Springs

I’ve swum with manatees and sat on my board with manatees really close, but there is something about the boardwalk that is special. You don’t get as close to the manatees, but there were just so many of them, and the view from above like that can’t be beaten. If I lived in Citrus County I would absolutely get a yearly pass. 

In addition to the boardwalk and manatees, there’s quite a lot of walking paths you can explore. We walked around for at least two hours, I figured I’d take full advantage of admission and try and walk every path on the map. Success! 

If you happen to be a birdwatcher this place is pretty amazing. We walked the wetlands trail, across from the boardwalk and I could not believe how many birds I could hear. Even Snow White would be impressed.

On the opposite side of the boardwalk you’ll pass bluebird nesting boxes; I did see birds that had blue on them, but I don’t know if they were actually bluebirds. A little further on there’s even a bat house. To get to it you have to walk on the wide grass paths, it isn’t immediately obvious.

All in all, I’d say this is a place everyone should add to their tourist to-do list if you’re living in or visiting Florida. Since it isn’t covered by my state park pass it’s a bit pricey for me to frequently visit but I will be taking visitors here for certain.

Here’s what you need to know to play tourist:

123 NW HWY 19
Crystal River, FL 34428

(352) 586-1170

Three Sisters Springs Center