As we drove up Florida Turnpike towards small town Florida and away from our crazy South Florida lives, I began to relax. My tiki bar mix boomed out Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville from the stereo. I donned my vacation hairstyle. That means I ran my fingers through my hair when I woke up and left it to itself. When we turned onto the dirt road at our final destination, I knew whatever we did this weekend would be relaxing.
We stayed two nights at an Airbnb in the town of Inverness, which is definitely small town Florida. The owners Leigh and Bo welcomed us into their home. They explained they wanted to build a house where they could enjoy nature and have a place to dock their boat. As a result, they created numerous outdoor areas emanating tranquility.
Our Guest Space in Small Town Florida
Leigh showed us to our guest space which consisted of 3 rooms. Our bedroom had beautiful wood floors with a queen size bed and plenty of pillows. Two bathrobes hung in the closet for us to use to go to the hot tub. In addition we had a private bathroom with a shower large enough for 2. Further we had a sitting room with a large screen TV. However, we never turned it on. Instead we spent bits of lazy afternoons and evenings browsing neglected magazines and Rick Steves travel books.
Small Town Florida, Evening at the Dock
Our first night we watched the sunset from lounge chairs on the dock. We watched some weird prehistoric looking grasshoppers and listened to bull frogs croaking nearby. Then we soaked in the hot tub located in a screened pool house at the dock. Later we sipped wine on the screened patio and spent some time getting to know our hosts.
Rainbow Springs State Park
The next morning after complimentary coffee and English muffins on the patio, we headed to Rainbow Springs State Park. Located in Dunnellon, the park hosts a myriad of outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, kayaking, and tubing. We chose to go tubing. Florida is a very flat state so tubing here is nothing like white water rafting out west. Instead, we enjoyed a 2 hour float down a lazy river gazing at vacation houses lining the shore.
After that we went for a hike to see the falls. Again, Florida is flat so don’t expect Niagara. However, the park contains a cluster of manmade falls that are a nice sight at the start of the wooded trail. There are two separate entrances to the park. The tubing entrance is at a different location that the main entrance. But don’t worry, if you end up at the wrong one, you can get directions to the other.
Grilling Steaks for Dinner
On the way back from the park, we stopped at the local Walmart to pick up some steaks for dinner. Our hosts had a beautiful covered grilling area available for our use. Dan grilled the steaks while I mixed up a bag of Asian Salad mix. We enjoyed our dinner on the sturdy wooden picnic table. Maybe it was the relaxing atmosphere or the Infrared grill, but those were the best steaks we have ever eaten in our lives.
After dinner, we spent the evening socializing with our hosts. Bo and Dan bonded over their love of guitars while Leigh and I chatted about decorating.
All too soon it was time to leave. The next morning as we rolled our cooler into the kitchen to retrieve our food Leigh exclaimed, ” I hate that noise. It means our guests are leaving.”
Whispering Oaks Winery
On our way home we stopped by a local winery. They still were suspending tours due to Covid-19, but we were able to order a flight for tasting the wines. The winery creates delicious wines from blueberries. The also have live entertainment and a menu of tapas. We ordered fruits and cheeses to go with our sampling. Our favorite was a chocolate dessert wine. While we have tried chocolate wines before that were creamy, this was a regular wine with a hint of chocolate taste. We picked several bottles to take home, but added more after we found out there was a 10% discount when buying a case.
The winery makes all of their wines from locally grown blueberries which are full of antioxidants. According to a study done by University of Florida, blueberry wines provide more health compounds than red or white wines. In addition they serve a steak dinner Fridays and Saturdays outdoors near their wood grill. This winery, located at 10934 N. County Road in Oxford, is a must visit.
Small Town Florida: Recommended Places to Eat
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to taste any of these culinary delights since we grilled our own steaks instead. However we included these recommendations from our hosts guidebook for those who would rather check out local cuisine.
- Sauced Hogs- Great place for wings and BBQ. Located at 2408 N. Fatima Ave, Hernando, FL 34442
- Stumpknockers- Try gator bites, oysters, and fried catfish. Located at 110 W. Main Street, Inverness 34450
- Fisherman’s Cove- Specialties are seafood and steaks. Located at 12311 East Gulf to Lake Highway, Inverness 34450
- The Freezer Tiki Bar- Literally created in an old freezer! Dive bar with fresh seafood. Cash only. 5590 South Boulevard Drive, Homosassa 34448
- The Crab Plant- Fresh seafood. 201 NW 5th Street, Crystal River 34428
- Pine Street Pub- Great place for craft beers. 108 N. Pine Ave, Inverness 34450
- Catfish Johnny’s Restaurant- Florida home cooking. 2396 North County Road 470, Lake Panasoffkee 33538
- Crump’s Landing- Outdoor seating on the water only. Live music and tiki bar. Homosassa 34448
More Things to do in Small Town Florida
- Fun 2 Dive-Swim with Manatees, kayak, snorkel, scallop tours. 135 NE 3rd Street, Crystal River 34429
- Fort Island Beach– Gulf beach with boardwalk. 14060 W. Fort Island trail, Crystal River 34429
- Crystal River Archaeological Park– Mound trails, burial sites, view of Crystal River. 3400 North Museum Point, Crystal River 34428
- Three Sisters Spring- Swim with the manatees. 939 Crystal River 34429
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