Getting Up Close and Personal at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

The sun is shining yet the morning cool air is still hanging on when we arrive at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Now that’s a mouth full!

Is it a wildlife park or is it a state park? Come with us as we discover it’s a little bit of both.

We hear it is a local favorite in Citrus County and following an afternoon of nature boardwalks, beautiful springs, manatees, and North America’s oldest hippopotamus, it’s one of ours now too!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Florida’s state park you’ve probably never heard of!

After purchasing our tickets from the Visitors Center, we hop on a pontoon boat along Pepper Creek.

The tour kicks off with an alligator sighting right out the gate. Although a common fixture of the creek, for us and the other passengers it is an exciting sight to see.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Boat ride at Homosassa Springs State Park

Florida wildlife welcomes us to the park the entire ride; we spot osprey nests, wood ducks, and turtles along the way.

As we slowly motor down the creek, we learn that the forested wetland before us looks similar to when the Native Indians called this land home.

Homosassa Wildlife Park Coupons: AAA and AARP discounts available or look for a 20% coupon in local flyers and Crystal River visitor guides.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Boat ride on Pepper Creek at Homosassa State Park

The 15-minute voyage ends as we arrive at the main entrance. It’s time to find out more about this unique state park.

Meet Lovable Lu, Homosassa Wildlife Park Hippo

A paved nature trail takes us to our first up-close wildlife encounter of the day with the only non-native animal in the park, a hippopotamus.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Nice walking path at Homosassa State Park

The 6,000-pound lovable beast is the oldest hippo in North America. Lu – short for Lucifer – is his name and food is his game.

The park has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900s and was privately owned. When the state of Florida took it over for protection, all the exotic animals were transferred out. Every one except good ol’ Lu.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Dental check-up for Lu!

He had become a mascot of sorts to the locals and no one wanted to see him leave – and the public outcry ensued. The Governor listened to his people and made Lu an honorary Florida citizen allowing him to live out the rest of his days at Homosassa Wildlife State Park.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Don’t make the mistake of getting too close!

Do not miss the wildlife encounter that takes place every day at 12:30 pm. It was one of the highlights of our visit; I’ve never seen a hippo so close! You’ll learn a great deal about the history of the park and its most famous character.

Continue below to see other unique things to do in Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Do I have something in my teeth?

Guaranteed to See a Manatee

The park has a unique setting nestled on the banks of Homosassa Springs, a second magnitude spring that provides a home for West Indian manatees and many saltwater and freshwater fish year-round.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
The clear waters of Homosassa Springs

With a few resident manatees and the warm water of the springs, you are guaranteed a manatee sighting. From the park’s boardwalks, you can stroll along overlooking the pristine water looking for the wild adorable animals or you can find the rehabilitated manatees in the enclosed part of the spring.

Tip: Although there’s always at least a few manatees, the best time of year is from November 15th – March 31st when they are escaping the cold water of the ocean.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
It’s easy to spot the manatees in the clear water at Homosassa Springs

Ever since we swam with manatees in Crystal River, we are big fans of the gentle giants.

Unfortunately, humans – unintentionally – are their biggest predator. You’ll rarely see a manatee without a scar on its back. Frequent injuries occur from boat propellers, but they receive expert care at the park through its manatee program.

Recently taken off the endangered list thanks to places like the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, manatees are making a come back.
If you have an affinity for manatees too, check out Save the Manatee Club

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
View of Homosassa Springs from the boardwalk

Let’s Go Under Water – I’m in a Giant Fish Bowl

A roadside attraction since the 1960s, the underwater fishbowl observatory is another great place to spot manatees at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

As we walk down the steps, it’s rather unnerving knowing it’s just a piece of glass between us and a 50-foot deep spring that has 6 million gallons of water gushing from it. As I see a school of fish swim by, I forget all about my qualms.

Explore Florida’s other roadside attraction turned state park: Silver Springs

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
The fishbowl underwater observatory is very cool.

Rescued and Rehabilitated Florida Wildlife

We continue on our way to see more of Florida’s native animals: a black bear, bobcats, alligators, red wolves, deer, eagles, flamingos, and many more.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Did you know the pink color of flamingo feathers comes from what they eat?

Homosassa State Park not only provides a refuge for injured animals but also has a rehabilitation program. In some cases, the animals are cared for and once healed are released back into the wild.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
It’s been a rough day.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Otter playing around at Homosassa Springs State Park

As we step into the enclosed aviary, two birds fly right over my head; they are so close I can feel my hair move.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Colorful Roseate Spoonbill in the aviary

It’s a great opportunity for a few close-up photographs.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Isn’t she dressed to impress?

Showcasing many of the snakes you can find in Florida, the reptile house has me second-guessing why I am so eager to get hiking!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
No. Just no.

At least many of them are nonpoisonous or so the interpretive boards tell me. It is amazing to see animals out in the wild, but I would rather not run into any of these slithering friends out on the trails.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located in Citrus County and is known fondly as Florida's nature coast. Here you are guaranteed to see manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, and other native wild animals such as black bears and bobcats in their natural habitat.
Not a big fan of snakes but I guess I don’t mind them if we are not hiking.

Located 70 miles north of Tampa and 90 miles northwest of Orlando, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a jewel in central Florida. It is a great stop for nature and wildlife lovers; encouraging visitors to learn about the local habitat while enjoying a lovely landscape.

Other Things to Do in Homosassa Springs

Don’t stop there, the small area of Homosassa Springs has a few other unique experiences. On the Homosassa River, you’ll find Monkey Island, a small plot of land that houses a few wild spider monkeys. You can see them for free from the Homosassa Waterfront Restaurant or take a Backwater Boat Tour from Homosassa Riverside Resort.

Unique things to do in Central Florida: Homosassa's Monkey Island
Monkey Island

All this sightseeing has probably made you ravenous. Search for The Freezer, an unassuming tiki hideaway that serves fresh seafood to die for. The steamed shrimp is our favorite.

Places to Stay near Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Plan your Visit

Where: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Address: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. (US 19), Homosassa, FL 34446

Hours: 9am to 5:30pm, open daily

Directions to Homosassa State Park: Get Directions Here

Fees: $13 adults, $5 children 5-12, under 5 free

Alligator and Hippopotamus Talk: 12:30 pm

Manatee Program: 11:30 pm, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. From April 1st – November 15th, the programs are held at the main spring bleachers by the Fish Bowl underwater observatory. From November 15th – March 31st, the programs are held near the in-ground manatee pool.

Wildlife Encounters: 10:30 am and 2:30 pm at the Wildlife Encounters pavilion.

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Have you ever been to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park? Or do you know about any other hidden gems in Florida? Tell us in the comments below!

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Up close and personal with Lu the hippo at Homosassa Springs State Park. A jewel found on Florida's nature coast.

16 Responses

  1. Danik

    This looks like a great place I would take my baby girl to and educate her about wildlife and teaching her. Looks very popular with the families. Fantastic post and to be honest, I would rather go here than Dis-nee if I ever get to Florida ­čśŤ

  2. Tif

    This looks like a great place! For kids or adults!! I love all kinds of animal!!

  3. Dominic Gramatte

    The park looks great. I would love to check out the manatees – they look so docile and majestic. Loved the splatter zone sign – too funny.

  4. Chris travels

    What a great and detailed report of your time spent at Homosassa Springs! I may never get to any of the wildlife nature preserves in Africa, but I can certainly add this fantastic spot in Florida to my bucket list.

  5. Corinne

    I’d love to meet Lucy Lu…love me a good hippo, and I think the female ones are always the most curious…I love the governor made her an honorary citizen.

  6. Punita Malhotra

    This is the second time I’m reading about a state park in Florida. And I had never associated the place with parks, for some weird reason. So much wildlife here! Kids can have a blast.

  7. Lara Dunning

    I’m not into zoos, but I do appreciate wildlife parks and how they help animals, and in this case, also rehabilitate them as well so they can return to the wild, so I think I’d enjoy visiting the park. I haven’t been to that part of Florida and would love to check it out.

  8. Lance

    Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park looks like our kind of place. We would love to see the manatees and Lu, the hippo. I appreciate places like Homosassa Springs, which help rehabilitate animals that would not have a chance of survival int he wild. It sounds like a lot of fun to begin your journey with a ride in a pontoon boat.

  9. Chris Behrsin

    I’ve never actually seen a photo of a manatee from above the water before, that’s a fantastic shot. Plus, I never realised hippos mouths were so big, great to hear he became a citizen although I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence :). Homosassa looks an interesting place to visit, anyway and I’m sure it’s also great for kids.

  10. Sandy N Vyjay

    Always been enamoured with the National Parks of the US. The parks authorities are rendering yeoman service by helping preserve the natural environment and wildlife. I must confess though that I was not aware of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. But it looks lovely and the hippos seem to be a treat to watch. I like the look of the walking path, would be great to take a stroll down this path.

  11. Merrilee Keshiro

    I have lived here in Homosassa, Fl for over 40 years. I live across from the boat ramps to take you to the animals. I love to watch the boats come and go. This is a wonderful little town with plenty of southern charm and believe me when I say it is extremely affordable. This is the only place you can actually touch a manatee legally all around. There is so much to do in this cozy little town from kayaking, snorkeling, scalloping, camping and all around family fun. The springs here are 72 degrees year round. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall here is the place you can have a ball.

  12. Yukti

    National Parks of US are very interesting and full of nature. I haven’t visited any of them but would love to visit one day. Lovable Lu looks very cute. Kids will enjoy in Homosassa park.

  13. prabhu

    Your pictures show that you enjoyed your florida tour, we are going to the same place next week. Everything booked and planned when we will reach to florida. Your post is very helpful, we will sure go to wildlife park and thanks for sharing with us your trip experience.

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