Homosassa, Florida is on the Gulf Coast about 75 miles north of Tampa.
Winslow Homer was a famous American painter who spent a month in Homosassa back in 1904. During this Florida visit he produced 11 paintings, including the one below. There are still sections along the Homosassa River that haven't changed since Homer's day. This old Florida village of about 2,500 souls rests among the swampy bayous near the mouth of the Homosassa River.
The headwater of the river is Homosassa Springs, one of Florida's First Magnitude springs located just west of US-19. The definition of First Magnitude means that the spring discharges at least 100 cubic feet of water per second, or about 64.6 million gallons per day. All of this fresh water at an average temperature of about 72 degrees is a magnet for manatees. The "sea cow" can't survive in water below about 60 degrees, and are smart enough to seek out the relatively warmer waters of the Homosassa River and other Florida spring fed streams. They concentrate in the winter months, but manatees can be seen year round in this area. A favorite place to see them is the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The visitor center is on US-19 and it's where you can learn all about manatees and take a river tour on a pontoon boat.
The area along US-19 is known as Homosassa Springs and pretty much looks like any other stretch of Florida highway with strip shopping centers and your typical fast food joints. To get to the place where things are the way it used to be you need to drive to "Old Homosassa", about three west of US-19 on West Yulee Drive through some pristine woods. You will drive past the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park and will want to take a look and what remains of a 5,100 acre sugar plantaton owned by David Levy Yulee, who became a U.S. Senator after Florida achieved statehood in 1845. Yulee was a Confederate Senator during the Civil War and his plantation supplied a lot of sugar to the Confederate Army.
Old Homosassa grew up along the south bank of the Homosassa River and in its early days relied on Yulee's plantation, lumber, citrus and commercial fishing. After the sugar mill closed and the cedar forests had been lumbered out, fishing became the most important industry. Commercial fishing is still important but has suffered from decreasing catches, net bans and various environmental regulations.
Commercial fishing has been overtaken in modern times by recreational sport fishing. More tourists and state residents than ever enjoy the waters of the river and Gulf of Mexico and many businesses have grown up to serve their interests. Some local restaurants will even prepare and cook your own fish that you catch in the river or Gulf.
Seafood is a staple in this town and several waterfront restaurants in the area cater to the visitor. Weekends are especially busy in Old Homosassa. The town is crowded during scalloping season in July, August and September. Thousands of hungry visitors come to town to catch the little critters using snorkel gear and buckets. The streets and vacant lots in Old Homosassa are jammed with pickup trucks, SUVs and boat trailers during the season. Parking is hard to find, especially on summer weekends.
Like many old Florida towns, especially those at the end of the road, the laid back ambiance attracts the artistic soul and the relaxed good old boys who don't care much for golf or country club life and would rather go fishing. The average age of full time residents is 54, quite a bit older than the average in the State.
Lots of retired folks make do on very little here in Homosassa, and the variety of houses show it. You will see house trailers elevated on stilts or concrete blocks, weathered old houses that have been here for a hundred years, and newer modern houses on the various bayous, creeks, and canals on both sides of the river.
Many Homosassa neighborhoods experience street flooding during the rainy season, and if a hurricane is headed into the area the town usually falls into the mandatory evacuation category. It would be dangerous to wait too long to escape a storm so it's wise to keep an eye on the weather report and leave when you are told to.
Homosassa is a popular spot for Scalloping in Florida.
Homosassa has several good restaurants including Museum Cafe and the Freezer.