YANKEETOWN — For more than 40 years, this tiny Gulf Coast community (population 545) has been attracting visitors to their remote village on Florida’s Nature Coast for the annual Yankeetown Seafood Festival.
If you’re looking for “Old Florida,” this could be your destination on the banks of the Lower Withlacoochee River, just three miles from the Gulf.
The festival, which traditionally takes place on the weekend before Thanksgiving, features locally caught Gulf seafood, entertainment, arts and crafts.
Sponsored by the Inglis-Yankeetown Lions Club, net profits support charitable causes: local, state, national and international, in that order.
The town was founded in 1923 by an Indiana politician who liked the hunting. The town got its name, the story goes, because the local mail carrier referred to the place as “that Yankee town” because of this northerner.
Kayaking, hiking, boating and fishing
There is also Gulf access at the Levy County boat ramp on County Rd. 40 as well as a small public beach suitable for canoe and kayak launching.
The Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve in Yankeetown is a 413-acre swatch undeveloped wetlands, consisting of mixed hardwood, pine, and cabbage palm forest, tidal marshes, and several salt ponds.
The Preserve has a 30 foot observation tower, salt pond boardwalk, Gulf accessible canoe/kayak dock, and a 4500 square foot education center.
Local residents visit the beach at Bird Creek Park at the end of Highway 40 west of Yankeetown. It’s a popular place to launch kayaks into the Gulf and is locally famous because Elvis Presley was here! Yankeetown still remembers the day Elvis came to town – he filmed “Follow That Dream” here in summer 1961. Here’s more about Elvis in Yankeetown.
Camping near Yankeetown Seafood Festival
B’s Cypress Marina and Campground, 15 RV sites for overnight visitors with full hookups ($42) (5 tent sites with water and electric); Restrooms, showers, laundry, boat ramp, dock, kayak and pontoon boat rentals; Pets OK. 6621 Riverside Drive, Yankeetown. 352-447-5888
Big Oaks River Resort and Campground. 21 full hookup RV sites ($35 and up); cabins ($55); 5 tent sites with water and electric; Restrooms, showers, laundry, cable TV, pool. Pets OK. 14035 West River Road, Inglis. 352-447-5333
Eleanor Oaks RV Park. 60 wooded RV sites with full hookups ($32); 15 tent sites ($25). Restrooms, showers, laundry, swimming pool, Wi-Fi. 42 Cattail Lane, Yankeetown. 352-447-3050.
Nature Coast Inn., 649 West Highway 40, Inglis. 352-447-7463
Withlacoochee Motel. 66 HWY 19 South, Inglis. 352-447-2211
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Yankeetown is located between two interesting Florida communities — Crystal River, known for its springs and manatees, and Cedar Key, an artsy small town that is a good base for kayakers.
The Chaz: Springs & wildlife make this river a special kayak trail. This is a beautiful spot 25 minutes south of Crystal River. It’s a wild river where you can visit several springs and see a variety of wildlife, including manatees in the winter.
At Homosassa State Park, 15 minutes south of Crystal River, you can see manatees every day via the park’s underwater observatory of its resident manatee population. Visitors start a visit on a pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park, where you also see Florida panthers, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators and a wide variety of birds. In winter, the gates into the first-magnitude spring are opened and wild manatee flock to the warmer waters. On cold days, you may see dozens of wild manatees. The park has many attractions and charges an adult admission of $13. Kids over 5 are $5.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park preserves an ancient Native American ceremonial site located in a beautiful setting overlooking the wide Crystal River.The mounds here are surprisingly impressive, but little is really known about the people who built them starting 2,500 years ago. A small museum has interesting artifacts and the picnic tables along the water are a great place to relax. 3400 N Museum Point, Crystal River, FL 34428. 352-795-3817.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.