8 Best Things to Do in Inverness, Florida

If you ever find yourself in Citrus County, Florida, chances are the small town of Inverness has never popped up on your radar. We stumbled upon it by chance last year on a detour after swimming with the manatees in Crystal River

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Inverness, FL turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and we found its charming community well worth the stop.

Located about 30 minutes inland from Crystal River, Inverness is a charming trail town bordered by beautiful forests and lakes. Not quite the Florida vacation people have in mind, but a great place to enjoy nature away from the hustle and bustle. 

At the heart of Inverness is the scenic 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail that’s walkable and bicycle-friendly. It was here that we spent our short but sweet visit on a recent visit to Central Florida.

Read on to find out what we got up to in Inverness and why you should include this spot on your next visit to Central Florida. 

How to Get to Inverness, FL

To get to Inverness, FL via plane, you’ll need arrive into one of the nearby airports. There are domestic and international flights available at Tampa, Orlando and Gainesville. 

  • Tampa International Airport is closest to Crystal River. They are served by 20+ major carriers that have 93 nonstop flights every day. It’s also the hub for Southwest Airlines.
  • Orlando International Airport is another popular hub for both domestic and international airlines.
  • Gainesville Regional Airport services regional flights from American Eagle and Delta Airlines.

If travelling by car, Inverness is easy to get to from all corners of Florida. 

  • Ocala is about 45 minutes away or 51 km (32 mi).
  • Orlando is just over  1 hr away or 111km (69 mi).
  • Tampa is about 1 hr 25 mins away or 119 km (74 mi).

Best Time to Visit Inverness 

Inverness has a lot of events throughout the year, so the best time to go mainly depends on the experience you’re after.

If you want to swim with the manatees, you can actually spot them in the water in any season, but they increase in number throughout November until April. Manatee season officially runs from December until February, with the big Florida Manatee Festival taking place in January.

In the spring, foodies gather around for the Taste of Inverness festival. There’s also a great fireworks display on the 4th of July, and the annual Pine Street Jam Parrothead Party turns downtown Inverness into a one-night Margaritaville in August.

Meanwhile, Scalloping Season starts in July and lasts until September. Then, at the end of October, there’s the Great American Cooter Festival, followed by the Inverness Prix and the Inverness Festival of the Arts in November. There are lots of holiday festivities around town, too.

As for the weather, winter temperatures hover around 20-22°C (70-78°F) during the day and about 6-8°C (43-48°F) in the evenings. These months are pleasant but chilly and see the least rain.

In the summer, daytime highs can reach 32°C (91°F). Ironically, it’s known to be the rainiest season. Humidity and intermittent showers are to be expected during the summer months.

Florida is also highly affected by the 6-month Atlantic Hurricane Season, from June until November. Peak hurricane season is between mid-August to late October, with Florida’s coastlines at risk of intense storms. 

Cooter Lake, Inverness
Cooter Lake, Inverness in the summer

Things to Do in Inverness, FL

Explore Downtown Inverness

The town of Inverness is small but that’s a part of the charm. If you’re looking for Inverness’ entertainment district, go from Florida Ave. to Main St to find small-town shops, restaurants, pubs, and a classic theatre. 

Everything in Inverness is centred around the historic Courthouse Square, built by the Citrus County Board of Commissioners in 1912. The structure is so iconic that it was once the filming location of an Elvis Presley film! Though it’s no longer a functioning courthouse today, visitors are welcome to stop by the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum for a quick history lesson. 

Bike the Withlacoochee State Trail

Now, this was the real reason why we found ourselves on this side of Florida. Today, the Withlacoochee State Trail spans 46 miles (but it’s growing rapidly), making it the longest paved recreational trail in Florida. It’s part of a much larger system called the Heart of Florida Loop Trail, which includes several major central Florida trails, several state parks, and freshwater springs.

The Withlacoochee trailhead is conveniently located downtown, so it’s easy to get to. If you want to bike through the trail, which was what we did, Trek Bikes Inverness along N. Pine Ave. offers bike and e-bike rentals.

The trail passes by the waterfront on Lake Henderson and Cooter Pond. If you head south, you’ll find yourself on the road to Floral City, known by locals as “Old Florida.” You’ll know when you get there once you pass a moss-draped tree canopy known as the Avenue of Oaks. Head further south, and you’ll reach Withlacoochee State Forest, the third largest state forest in Florida, with many more outdoor activities on offer.

On the Withlacoochee State Trail in Inverness, things to do in inverness fl
On the Withlacoochee State Trail in Inverness
Withlacoochee State Trail, Inverness, Florida
Withlacoochee State Trail, Inverness, Florida

Visit Fort Cooper State Park

The state park offers 700 acres of outdoor recreation, including fishing and canoeing at Lake Holathlikaha, birdwatching, picnicking, and hiking multiple trails. The park can be accessed right off the Withlacoochee Trail and offers a great spot to spend a few hours. 

Fort Cooper is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, with 5 miles of self-guided trails and a natural sanctuary for local wildlife. It also connects to the Withlacoochee State Trail, and has four interpretive kiosks along the Seminole Heritage Trail.

Cooper State Park
Fort Cooper State Park

USA Florida Inverness Fort Cooper State Park 6704903

Go on an Airboat Ride on the Withlacoochee River

If you’re looking for fun and excitement in Citrus County, go for an airboat ride along Florida’s backwaters. Glide through land and water in search of the famous Florida alligator, and spot lots of other wildlife on the sawgrass swamps. 

We recommend booking with All American Airboat Tours. They are based at The Cover Resort and Pub and offer 1-hour rides starting at USD $240 for 4 passengers. We hopped on one of their afternoon boat rides, and while we enjoyed the thrill of the experience, we didn’t get to see much wildlife. If you want to spot more, we recommend booking an early trip, starting shortly after sunrise!

Boat tour at Inverness, things to do in inverness fl
Airboat tour at Inverness
On an airboat ride in Inverness
On an airboat ride in Inverness

Kayak through Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes

Paddle through the largest freshwater system in Citrus County for a peaceful and calm wildlife-viewing experience. There are over 350 species of birds found in the area, plus alligators, otters and even an occasional bobcat! 

Take a Scenic Flight Around Town

One of the most unique things to do in Inverness is an aerial glider tour with Right Rudder Aviation! The discovery flight lasts an hour, costs just USD $150 and offers a unique opportunity to admire the beauty of the Citrus County as you fly above the rivers, bays, and city landscapes. 

The flight takes place on a 2-seater glider plane – a fun and exhilarating experience!

Aerial flight discovery flight, Crystal River
The views on our aerial flight

Go Swimming with Manatees in Crystal River 

The Manatee Capital of the World is located just half an hour away from Inverness. You can find manatees along the Florida coast throughout the year, but they show up in hundreds during the winter. You can admire them from a distance on land in places like Seven Sister Springs or even while kayaking or SUPing. Alternatively, you can join a tour to get a chance to swim with the gentle giants. 

For an equally unique aquatic encounter, you can also drive over to Spring Hill and visit “the only city with live mermaids.”

Things to do in Crystal River: manatee spotting
Manatee in Crystal River
Swimming with Manatee, Crystal River
Swimming with Manatees in Crystal River

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Go Scalloping

Scalloping season in Crystal River runs from July to late September, and it’s another popular activity along the coast. Join a scallop charter, where you’ll suit up in snorkelling gear and forage for scallops yourself. You get to keep what you find of course, but the best experience is to have your catch cooked at a local restaurant. 

It’s worth noting that scallop charters fill up quickly, so be sure to book ahead!

Scallops in Crystal River
Scallops in Crystal River

Where to Stay in Inverness

During our time in Inverness, we stayed at The Cove Hotel & Pub, a favourite among locals! Nestled between cypress trees and right along the chain of lakes, The Cover offers the best of Inverness’ wildlife right in your backyard. 

The Cove was once an old Florida fish camp but has since been turned into a small resort with 4 cabins, 10 RV campsites, and a popular restaurant.

The Cove Point House is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath home with a deck and outdoor shower, and a private boat dock. The house is perfect for a family visiting the area for fishing and wildlife watching as it’s right in the middle of Florida’s Nature Coast. 

The Swampwater Farm is a private, open-concept home surrounded by bamboo and ferns. Sleeping up to 11, it’s ideal for big families and groups of friends. It’s equipped with a full stove, microwave, dishwasher, and washer and dryer, making it a great home away from home.

The Love Shack and Tin Roof Cabin are 2 adorable little 1-bedroom units, ideal for couples. Both have recently been carefully restored and decorated with vintage furniture, granite countertops, and live edge oak shelving. 

We stayed in the Tin Roof Cabin, which came fully equipped with a kitchenette, queen bed, and ensuite bathroom with shower. 

There are also 10 Premium RV Campsites with extensive amenities. These include electricity, water, plumbing, and septic, plus free Wi-Fi, free use of kayaks, and direct water access to Lake Henderson. Golf carts are provided for easy access to the restaurant, and there’s a general store located at the entry point.

where to stay in Inverness florida
Room at Tin Roof Cabin Inverness

Where to Eat: Best Restaurants in Inverness

There are a couple of great restaurants in Inverness, with lots more found in the nearby Crystal River. 

Cattle Dog is a local coffeehouse with multiple locations around town. Stop by for fresh roasted coffee, and try out their pastries and sandwiches.

Robin’s Country Kitchen along South Pine Ave. is known for its home-style cooking. It’s nothing fancy, but the homemade meals are warm, comforting, and a favourite among locals.

Oscar Penn’s is a popular steak house known for excellent steak, seafood, and sushi. The USDA Prime Black Angus Beef stands out, along with the Salmon stuffed with Dungeness crab cake. 

Cove Pub and Grub is the only waterfront restaurant in town. It’s a great spot for hot wings, big burgers, and ice-cold craft beers from local breweries.

Kawa Sushi House is great for reasonably priced sushi. If you’re craving Japanese food, their extensive menu includes bento boxes, sushi rolls, tempura, chicken katsu, and more!

The Bottom Line

They say Inverness is a “Small Town Done Right,” and we definitely agree! It’s peaceful yet offers easy access to plenty of things to in Citrus County and beyond. 

We’ll go as far as to say that if you are visiting the area to swim with manataees, consider staying in Inverness instead of Crystal River. This gem of a stop might just surprise you with its beautiful trails and small-town charm.

Inverness Lake, Florida
Inverness Lake, Florida

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Disclaimer: Our visit to Inverness was provided courtesy of Discover Crystal River and Visit Florida. As always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own, no matter who is footing the bill. 

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