Florida is open for summer! Whether you are planning a trip to boat, scallop, fish, or see manatee, Crystal River is a gorgeous, quaint Florida town where outdoor adventures top the list of fun! You may have kayaked or paddle boarded in the past, but have you pedaled across the crystal clear waters of Crystal River on a water bike? I highly recommend a family-friendly adventure on a water bike with Crystal River Water Bike Rentals.
Where is Crystal River, Florida?
Crystal River, Florida is located on the west coast of Florida. Other cities in the the immediate area include Homosassa Springs, Inverness, and Floral City.
Located right on the crystal clear waterways, Crystal River is most known for outdoor water adventure. The home to thousands of manatee in the winter months or a great location to scallop in the summer, Crystal River Florida hosts a vast number of family-friendly adventures.
Paddles Outdoor Rentals in Crystal River, Florida
Whether you are looking to water bike on the beautiful waters of Crystal River, kayak, or paddle board, Paddles Outdoor Rentals has you covered. Their office is located right off Highway 19. With a quaint gift shop, restroom, and changing room, Paddles Outdoor Rentals and Crystal River Water Bike Rentals provides you with customer service from the moment you walk into the shop.
Book a tour ahead via their website but be sure to check their Facebook pages for summer specials. When you arrive for your tour, you are required to sign waivers if you have not done so online prior to your arrival. Hop aboard a lime green 6 person golf cart for the 5 minute drive from the office to Pete’s Pier Marina for a safety briefing and information on the best places to see manatee, where to view Hunter Springs, Three Sisters Springs, and Kings Bay Park before pedaling into the sunshine on your water bike adventure.
What tours are offered?
In addition to water bikes, the following tours are also offered by Paddles Outdoor Rentals:
- Kayaks: Single sit on top kayaks, tandem kayaks, and triple kayaks are available
- Swim with Manatee: Manatee Season runs from November 15th through March 31st each year. It is customary to wear a wetsuit, snorkel, and mask when swimming with the manatees.
- Paddle Boards: 11 foot and 12 foot paddle boards are available.
- Party Board: the only Party Board in Crystal River, this paddle board can hold up to 8 people as well as dogs for a total weight of 1500 pounds.
What is a water bike?
A hydrocycle is a bicycle-like watercraft. The version offered by Crystal River Water Bike Rentals is a pontoon type. You only need to pedal hard enough to move a small prop located less than one foot into the water. The small prop allows you to pedal slowly and still move the pontoon bike across the water. In comparison, other water bikes with large wheels that keep the bike afloat on the water, require you to pedal to move large wheels instead of a small prop. This proves to be extremely tiring.
Is a water bike difficult to ride?
It was not difficult for myself, my husband, or my son to pedal the water bike. After a three hour tour, we were tired but not completely wiped out. There is no brake to stop, just start pedaling backwards to slow down and reduce your forward movement. Turn the handlebars to maneuver the bike.
I can attest pedaling the water bike much easier than kayaking or paddle boarding. First, instead of upper body strength, you use your legs. I do not know about you, but I am much stronger in my lower body than my upper body. Next, it is very easy to navigate by simply moving the handlebars. Lastly, you do not need to balance as the large undercarriage of the pontoon-like bike makes it very sturdy. You can easily move about the bike as well as jump off the bike into the water without the fear of it tipping. The only issue was getting back onto the bike after swimming. This took some upper body strength.
There is a water-tight compartment at the front of the bike for your belongings. We brought backpacks which we wore for part of the tour and then hung them from the handlebars for the latter part of the tour. Make sure to bring waters as you will work up a sweat. There is a cup holder on the bike.
Is a water bike safe?
“From its stability to its high visibility on the water, the Hydrobike is engineered for a safe, reliable ride.” The water bike was easy to pedal, uncomplicated to navigate, and was extremely sturdy. You can stand, move about the bike, and even hang off the side of the bike without fear of it overturning.
A life jacket is provided on each water bike should you need it. We did not wear them.
What will I see on a water bike tour?
A detailed map attached to your water bike highlights several key spots to see wildlife, crystal clear waters, places to stop for a dip, as well as beautiful scenery,
Crystal River National Refuge
Comprised of 70 springs pumping out 600 million gallons of freshwater per day from the Florida aquifer, the major springs in the Crystal River National Refuge include King Spring, Tarpon Spring, Three Sisters Springs, Idiots Delight, Hunter Spring, Jurassic Spring & House Spring.
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge consists of 20 islands in and around Kings Bay. Maintained by the United State Fish and Wildlife service, the 80-acre refuge (only accessible by boat or paddle craft) was established in 1983, to protect the West Indian Manatee. In 2012, Kings Bay was designated a Manatee Protection Area called the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge.
Our first stop was Hunter Springs. We were told by the tour guides this would be the place we would surely see manatee as there was grass in this area the manatee would feed on. Sure enough, we saw two mom manatee and two baby manatee. As you can see from the below picture, the height of the water bike allows you to see everything much better than if you were in a kayak. The crystal clear waters allow you to see fish, cormorants swimming along side of you, as well as the docile sea cow.
Three Sisters Springs
You will need to tie up the water bikes outside of Three Sisters Springs as they will not fit through the entrance. You can then swim into the Springs.
Our next stop was Three Sisters Springs. In December we visited Three Sisters Springs on land via a city trolley as the actual spring water was closed to swimmers and paddle craft from November 14-April 1st because of the manatee visiting the area to keep warm in the winter months. This visit in June, however, we were able to access Three Sisters Springs as a swimmer.
There were no manatee in the Springs as there is little to no grass for them to feed on. The water bikes do not fit in between pilings to enter the Spring. There is a location where you can tie your water bike and then swim into the Spring.
We brought our own snorkel gear and I highly recommend you do the same. The water is crystal clear and you can see fish and rocks. Kayaks and paddle boards can access Three Sisters Springs. Be careful as you swim. You will need to stand to the side of the springs at times to avoid being hit by paddle craft.
The water is extremely cool but man was it refreshing after pedaling to get here. There are several spots too deep to stand. It would have been helpful to have a pool noodle to float as the swim is quite a distance from where you tie up your paddle craft to the entrance of the Spring.
We brought our own snorkeling gear with us.
When is the best time to see manatee in Crystal River?
Because Crystal River is one of the largest aquifers in Florida, it is home to more than 400 West Indian manatees that migrate each year to the warmth of the springs. We have visited Crystal River in December and June and saw manatee both times of the year.
Crystal River is the home to the manatee no matter the time of year. You will have a better change to see manatee in the Winter months as they come for warm water and can be seen in large numbers huddled together.
Guidelines to swim with manatee in Crystal River, Florida
“Protected by state and federal law, is It is imperative you do not harass or disturb the normal actions of the manatee. “The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which makes it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. The manatee is also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states: “It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”
The following are guidelines for swimming with manatee in Crystal River dictated by the Florida Wildlife Commission:
- Look but do not touch manatee.
- Do not feed manatee, pursue or chase a manatee, poke, prod, or stab a manatee with your feet, hands, or any object.
- Give the manatee space to move.
- Do not ride a manatee.
- Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears nearby.
- Use snorkel gear and float at the surface of the water to passively observe manatees.
Do not enter any area designated by signage that says, “NO ENTRY-MANATEE REFUGE”:
Are you looking for a unique, one of a kind, famil- friendly adventure in Crystal River, Florida? I highly recommend a water bike tour with Crystal River Water Bike Rentals/Paddles Outdoor Rentals. We took a three hour tour and it was the perfect amount of time to see everything, pedal quite a distance to Three Sisters Spring, swim, and return to the pier. I would recommend doing the three hour tour so you have time to see everything.
Have you done a water tour in Crystal River? What did you do? Drop me a comment. I would love to hear about your experience.
In exchange for this review, we received three 3-hour water bike tours from Crystal River Water Bike Rentals.
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