Kayaking on Crystal River: Adventure’s just a paddle away!

Crystal River by Haley Jordan
First year Mimi Chenyao laughs in the river.


With turquoise freshwater, abundant and friendly fish, and the famous Florida manatee, the town of Crystal River, and the Three Sisters Spring in particular, is a hidden gem not to be missed, and only two hours away from Sarasota.

The Three Sisters Spring itself is a small 72-degree oasis of groundwater within the larger Crystal River, known for housing up to 200 Florida manatees at one time who choose the spring for its warmth on particularly cold winter days. The spring has three main vents that help feed Kings Bay, which is also host to the manatee, along with bayside restaurants that can be accessed via kayak or canoe.

The Crystal River Kayak Company is only a short two-hour and 10-minute drive north of Sarasota, and is the best way to access the Three Sisters Spring or any other spring in Kings Bay. Located right off the main road, the company is friendly and affordable. One can rent a single, double, or triple kayak, or choose a canoe, and is provided with a map, an informational video, lifejackets and as many jokes as can be spat off before you are out of earshot.

“The Three Sisters Springs were some of the most beautiful natural sites I’ve ever seen,” first-year Mimi Chenyao commented. “I’m so glad I got to have this experience.”

After a 10-minute paddle through a narrow and calm canal, one comes upon the spring, marked off so only kayaks, canoes or snorkelers can access it. For those who would not wish to float or swim, the boardwalk surrounding parts of the spring is open 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., November 15 to March 31, with the option of a tour guide.

“It was so clear I could watch the fish darting around below the kayak,” first-year Ryan Reams said.

Once inside, it is clear why the spring has been named “an environmental jewel.” Filled with mangroves, freshwater fish, crabs and, best of all, the peaceful and friendly “sea cows,” one is tempted to stay indefinitely, if not for the promise of food. A mere 15-minute paddle through Kings Bay in the same direction brings you to Crackers, a bayside restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, portions suited for two, and an array of gourmet seafood.

“The route we took by kayak was beautiful and the food was definitely worth it,” first-year Gabriela Sanchez said.

“Crystal River: aptly named,” Reams concluded.


The Crystal River Kayak Company is located at 1332 SE US Highway 19, Crystal River, FL 34429 and can be contacted at (352)795-2255 or kayak@kayakcrystalriver.com for more information.

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