Kayak around Kings Bay 03

The city of Crystal River was praised by MSN for its beauty and nature.

Locals already know about the alluring beauty of Crystal River’s waterways, scalloping and manatee-viewing.

Now, the whole world knows about it.

The internet portal MSN ranked the 30 most beautiful cities and towns in Florida and Crystal River came in at No. 25.

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Here’s what MSN said:

“In cooler months, manatees flock to the balmy natural springs around Crystal River, a small city that’s roughly a 90-minute drive north of Tampa on Florida’s west coast. 

“Aside from swimming with these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat — at the only place in the U.S. where it’s legal to do so — tourists can swim in the crystal-clear waters of the springs, or enjoy paddle boarding or kayaking.”

Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek said he’s not surprised at the recognition.

“Crystal River continues to make the grade,” he said. “Folks are seeing what a special city and community Crystal River is and the many blessings that we have. It’s so fortunate to have a world-class destination in regards to the springs, manatees and the environmental aspects.”

Meek said the city is committed to enhancing its beauty.

There’s the new downtown town square with a splash pad, the Riverwalk project, Hunter Springs and King’s Bay Park and others, and a National Wildlife Refuge.

This isn't the first nationwide accolade for Crystal River. The city made the cover of National Geographic in 2015.

“You're seeing folks looking for the exact kind of community we have,” Meek said. “They want to enjoy the environment, the waterways and the lifestyle. But we also have easy ability to get to more urban areas and international airports.”

 

Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said the accolades continue to pile up for Crystal River.

"The hard work of city leaders and investment by the business community is paying huge dividends," Wooten said. "It's nice to see that others are taking notice. While we only have two incorporated cities in our county, they are real gems to be proud of." 

 

The town of Seaside, in Walton County, got top honors for its “stunning beaches” and coastal shops.

“America’s southernmost state might be best known for bustling resorts like Miami and Orlando, but beyond the bright lights and big cities there are plenty of smaller places worth exploring too,” MSN said in its ranking methodology.

“What they lack in size, they more than make up for in beauty,” said MSN, citing their “sun-kissed coastal charmers to quaint historic towns.”

Other cities identified by MSN as “most beautiful” were:

* Mount Dora, Lake County: “Situated in central Florida around a 45-minute drive from downtown Orlando, the quaint city is an enticing combination of antique stores – which draw in enthusiasts from all over the world – outdoor cafés, galleries and historic gems.”

* Dunedin, Pinellas County: With its colorful buildings and kitsch Jolley Trolley trams that cruise the streets, Dunedin has postcard-perfect good looks. Bringing a touch of Scottish charm to the Gulf Coast, the town was settled by the Scots in 1852 and takes its name from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann.”

* Anna Maria Island, Manatee County: “There are its jaw-dropping beaches, ranging from the wide expanse of central Holmes Beach to the rugged, secluded Coquina Beach on the south side.”

*- Chipley, Washington County: “The quaint city of Chipley is tucked away in the Panhandle between Tallahassee and Pensacola. Despite being a small community of just 3,600, it has a vibrant cultural life and plenty of natural beauty.”

* Stuart, Martin County: “Known as the 'Sailfish Capital of the World,' the waters around Stuart are swarming with these blue-and-silver finned fish. The town in Martin County, southern Florida is said to have gained its moniker in 1938, after a team of journalists came to visit and caught more than 1,000 sailfish in under a week.”

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.