Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
October 26, 2013
It's easy to remember that Peck's Old Port Cove, an utterly out-of-the-way, old-school fish house on the Gulf of Mexico, is exactly 9.3 miles west of U.S. Highway 19 in Crystal River.
All the menu items offer a reminder, with prices that end in 93 cents. Even without that subtle assistance, the leisurely drive along Ozello Trail from the busy highway to the dead-end at a boat ramp on the Gulf is memorable in the best way.
Tiny two-lane bridges, a series of twisting curves and unforgiving soft shoulders mean that this road isn't designed for anyone in a hurry. All the better to roll down the windows, breathe the fresh air and observe scenery that includes sun-dappled water, tropical foliage, idyllic beach houses and vacation rentals that represent perhaps the ultimate get-away-from-it-all experience.
It's not too often that I wish I were on a motorcycle (where would I keep the junk in my back seat?), but I was envious of the half a dozen riders who pulled into the restaurant parking lot. They settled on one of the wooden picnic benches on the outdoor deck, right next to the four wooden crates marked "Crab Farm." Paddling in the shallow water were potential entrees for future diners.
Because it seemed like I was close to the edge of the planet, I asked my waitress what I would see if I kept heading west on Ozello Trail. "I don't know," she said, "I've never gone that far."
It's not much of a journey: The road ends at the boat ramp, after less than half a mile, with a convenient sign that warns you there's water ahead.
For a nice view of the Crystal River, I'd suggest climbing the 50 steps to the top of the Temple Mound at Crystal River Archaeological State Park (floridastateparks.org), about 15 minutes north on U.S. 19. The 61-acre park preserves six pre-Columbian ceremonial mounds of Native Americans who settled in the area 2,500 years ago.
A 3/4-mile paved trail guides visitors past burial mounds, temple mounds and other artifacts, explained in recorded presentations along the way. There's a small, air-conditioned museum as well as an inviting picnic area on the river. No manatees here, but prime viewing is available at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, a reasonable 30 miles south of Crystal River on U.S. 19.
Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel