The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a marvel of exotic simplicity and a throwback to an earlier Florida.
The lobby just off State Road 19 and minutes from Crystal Springs is filled with displays and the park history, which dates to the mid-1850s. It's open 365 days a year
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a rehab center for injured and orphaned West Indian manatees, which live in the freshwater springs headwaters while regaining health to survive the wild. The freshwater spring provides millions of gallons of fresh water every hour as it pours into Homosassa River.
The pink flamingos cavort in eye-catching fashion.
A short, tree-canopied boat ride down Pepper Creek deposits visitors at the state park where paved trails and boardwalks offer close-ups of manatees, black bears, Florida panthers, cougars, red wolves, bobcats, Key deer, alligators, gray foxes and otters. Birds include wood ducks, roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets and whooping cranes in addition to a number of eagles and owls.
Take the 1.5-mile trail rather than the boat for a relaxing trip back to your car.
It's a gorgeous way to spend a morning. Don't miss the underwater viewing station, which offers somewhat murky views of the plentiful schools of fish and manatee pods.
Directions: Located in Homosassa Springs 75 miles north of Tampa on U.S. 19.