May 28, 2020

14.02.12- A Weekend of Astronomy & Fun on the Plantation.

A grand old building! (All photos by Author).

You never know what might be in your own backyard. This past weekend, we journeyed up to Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida for an exciting adventure at the Plantation Resort Hotel and Restaurant, about a pleasant hours’ drive north of the Tampa Bay area.

An “Almost armillary sphere” chandelier.

Enroute, we had a chance to stop in at the remains of an old Yulee Sugar Mill in Homosassa Springs. The foundation of this fascinating structure is still standing, and is open for self-guided exploration. The intriguingly-named Monkey Island (is this a true-to-life Planet of the Apes?) would also provide an interesting diversion.

Kayaks on Crystal River.

The Plantation is a rambling building constructed in 1962 and recently renovated with a bright open appearance that hasn’t lost its old world appeal. The Plantation occupies a commanding presence on the point leading out to the open water, and for the active, croquet, volleyball, shuffleboard and a world-class golf resort are all offered on the grounds, as well as a fine restaurant where you can cool your heels with a Manatee Martini.

The Dive Shop located on The Plantation grounds.

But the highlight of the trip was a chance to journey to the Three Sisters and swim with the Manatees. The tour was first rate and provided by the Dive Shop located on the hotel grounds. The staff was top-notch and expertly guided us towards a safe and eco-friendly “Manatee encounter” with these majestic creatures. Early February was definitely the time to go, as the Manatees were seeking shelter from the colder weather, huddling up in the local hot springs. Soon, they’ll be headed back out into open waters as northern hemisphere spring kicks into high gear. One can only wonder what these fascinating creatures think of us hairless apes visiting their domain.

A Manatee at Lowry Park Zoo…

And hey, we did get in a little astronomy, too! I managed to set up and do a little impromptu solar observing with the Coronado PST shortly after the Manatee encounter for the tour group and the staff of the Dive Shop… and the Sun even cooperated with several fine prominences seen. Weather was less than optimal, but the point area past the pool offers a fine sunset location and skies noticeably darker than the Tampa-Saint Pete metro area, with Chiefland and the dark skies of the Nature Coast just an hour to the north. Although rain interfered with our planned-for star party, we endeavored to persevere and instead made a fine evening of it presenting a simulated night sky to the curious. We discussed all things astronomy related into the evening hours, including what you can see in the Florida Night Sky, astronomy in 2012, what the Sun looks like from Pluto (with simulation) and much more… who knows, an “Astroguyz at the Plantation” just might become a monthly thing…

Set up for solar observing!

Do check out the Plantation, a hidden gem nestled in Citrus County, Florida. This is one of the few places that you can still “swim with the Manatees,” and also features some prime birding real estate as well as accessible dark skies. Be sure to also follow ‘em at @PlantationOnCR, and I hope to see you there again soon under clear skies!



  1. [...] and waterfall exploration with wonder is a true treat. For instance, a vacation to the affordable Plantation resort located on Florida’s Crystal River, can include a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim [...]

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