We have been to some of Florida’s fun and funky shopping areas in the past. For us, Crystal River’s Heritage Village is as good as any. As we pointed out, our lodging at the Crystal Manatee was a great place to start. It is close to King’s Bay and the Three Sisters Springs as well as the downtown shopping area.

We were able to stroll up Citrus Avenue easily and have a look at all the fun little restaurants and shops.

A new mural was being painted on the side of the Explorida Adventure Center the day we were there.

Citrus Avenue

Our first stop was Amy’s On the Avenue. It’ s a combination bakery and gift shop. On the one side we found wonderful little gift shop. There were fashions, accessories and home decor. The other side was a nice little restaurant with baked goods and wine. They also offered a sophisticated menu ranging from Sushi to Grilled Shrimp Martini.

Amy’s had a few bottles of wine and some delicious hand-made baked goods.

Next door was the Explorida Adventure Center. For just under $60 they could suit us up and we could swim with the Manatee. We thought the sea cows only came in during the winter. However, the folks at Explorida informed us there is a year ’round population in Crystal River. And they are just waiting for us to visit.

Adventure awaits behind the blue doors.

Additionally, we learned they had scallop tours, a sunset snorkel and a saltwater dolphin quest for the adventurous.

Across the street we found The Military Outlet, Fishhook Outfitters and St. John’s Tavern – among others. Sadly, the Military Outlet was closed. We had hoped that the Fishhook Outfitters might have some camping supplies. However, we found it to be a place where we could become the best dressed fishermen on the lake.

There were some great fashion selections and home decor in Fishook Outfitters.

St John’s Tavern had a welcoming look and an interesting menu. We put it on our list for our next trip up to Crystal River.

St John’s appears to be the home of beer and comfort food.

Heritage Village

Across US 19 (aka Suncoast Blvd) there were more shops and the entrance to Heritage Village. From the corner we could see Willows Creek Secret Garden. This is advertised as a specialty gift shop and for good reason. We found some of the most unique pieces we’ve seen to date.

From cards, to art, to whirlygigs each of the rooms inside the Secret Garden was packed with all manner of treasures.

Just up the street we passed Hammer & Stain – Crystal River’s “Premier Wood, Paint and Sip Studio.” It’s a place we could create our own hand-stenciled signs. As much as we wanted to go inside and take a look, BubbaQue’s was calling our name.

We had seen the ads for BubbaQues previously and were looking forward to try this place. I’ll do a more thorough review here soon. Suffice it to say, the food was good, the service was fast and it was an interesting dining experience.

Our BubbaQues Pulled Pork came plain. This gave us an opportunity to try each of more than half dozen sauces.

After catching dinner, we headed up to Heritage Village. We first passed The General Store. This is an ice cream shoppe and old fashioned candy store. To be honest, we were stuffed. However, we put it on our list for our next visit.

We then ambled up to the Heritage House. This apparently is both the Village Welcome Center and a gift shop. Like many of the other stores, it was packed with interesting pieces.

As we understand it, The two story building was built in the late 1800s. It now holds several shops and serves as the hub of the Heritage Village.

Time was a-wasting, but we did have the opportunity to go through the Heritage House. But there were so many places we did not have an opportunity to visit. This made us vow to make at least another trip so we could spend some quality time there.

Places We Missed

We walked by the mysterious little Karma Cottage which looked fun with it’s herbs and crystals. Next door, my wife spotted the Tea House 650 – this is her kind of place. There are 70 different kinds of loose leaf teas from which we could choose. For us, this will be a must stop the next time.

Also on the list are All About Nature, The Glasswerx Studio, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters, The Coastal Art Gallery and The Cotton Club. We did duck into the Salty Girls shop for a moment. I wanted to see if I could get a nice Crystal River T-shirt. Sadly, they did not have one in my style (with a pocket).

In Conclusion

This was a true surprise for us. We had a great time browsing the stores, dining and finding new places. Moreover, we noted on the map there are plenty of other shops we could easily walk to and discover.

I especially want to stop by the Coastal Heritage Museum.

Although we are not outdoorsy types, Crystal River has given us some great ideas as to our next foray into exploring the Nature Coast.