A couple weeks ago, my family and I took our annual weekend trip to Homosassa. Last year, we went to Homosassa to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday and this year, we went for Carrie and Dave’s (my sister and her hubby’s) 34th and 44th birthday…yes, they share the same birthday, 10 years apart. So, we headed up to stay at the Homosassa Riverside Resort for three nights. This place it nothing fancy like the word “resort” would insinuate; it’s just a fixed-up old Florida motel that typically attracts a biker crowd and crazy families, like mine. That’s part of Homosassa’s charm. No frills. It’s a place to fish, drink margaritas and hopefully spot a manatee or two.
So, my family’s tradition includes renting a pontoon boat from River Safaris. I love this little place. Not only do they rent boats and have a live alligator exhibit, but Alicia Lowe, the co-owner of River Safaris, also makes beautiful stoneware and raku pottery which she sells at the store. Each time we visit, my husband and I have promised that we would buy a piece of her pottery…and maybe we’ll have a complete dining set before we die! This year, my prized purchases include a spoon rest, a bowl decorated with manatees and a fish mug (which is the perfect size for coffee; not too small, not too thick. Love it.) So I digress…let’s get back to the boating adventure.
On my sister and Dave’s birthday, we rented a 25-foot pontoon boat from the lovely River Safaris people. Our typical day usually begins with heading down to the Springs and looking for manatees. Even though the Springs are only 71 degrees, my nephews were raring to jump in. And in they go! They’re on the hunt for those so-ugly-they’re-cute sea cows. And they magically appear! A pair of manatees swim by, right on cue. The boys are thrilled.
On our way out of the springhead, we see something that sparks a big debate on our boat: a shark! Well, there was much discussion – was it a shark or was it a tarpon? It had a black fin and it was swimming by itself around some docks up near the springhead. My dad was positive that by the shape of its head, it was definitely a shark, but my brother-in-law was certain that it was a tarpon. After talking with some locals, we learn that sharks definitely do swim from the Gulf into the spring to find food…no, not the tourists who are swimming with manatees! The mullet and tarpon!
After swimming in the springs, we were ready for our Homosassa lunch tradition…heading over to the Margueritagrill. In years past, we have had many of their famous margaritas (that are the size of your head). We were looking forward to another one of those today. So, we puttered our way over to the restaurant’s area and as we were getting closer, we couldn’t see the actual building…where did it go? We pulled up to the dock and the restaurant was literally GONE. What had happened? This was a wonderful place that was packed every time we had been there. I got out my iPhone and googled to find out that our favorite little Homosassa restaurant had burned down last July. Noooo! How terrible. We all had a little moment of silence to remember this fun place. Homosassa will never be the same.
We decide to take our pontoon boat over to another waterfront restaurant called Sea Grass Pub and Grill and — no kidding — it was under construction. And when I say it was “under construction,” the owners literally decided to bulldoze it and start over again. So, our next potential restaurant destination was the Manatee Pub. It’s located down a canal that’s just off the river. So we turned our boat down the little canal and we were literally swarmed by deer flies. Everyone on the boat starts freaking out and my mom pulls the Deet out of her purse and starts spraying it into the air. We couldn’t turn the boat around fast enough to get out of there! No one got bitten by the flies but we all were coughing up Deet.
So, after a string of disastrous attempts to find a waterfront restaurant in Homosassa, we ended up back at the Monkey Bar at the Riverside Resort. We chowed on some conch fritters and drank some – you guessed it – margaritas, and all was right again. Happy birthday, Carrie and Dave!