A Boater’s Paradise: Homosassa, Florida and Tarpon Key Lodge

Homosassa River

As the morning sun breaks through the darkness of night we realize that we have discovered a boating paradise. This is the kind of place you dream about: great restaurants with fresh seafood, dockside bars with live music, a freshwater spring where you can raft up, outstanding fishing and scalloping, not to mention a beautiful house on a private island that overlooks both the Gulf of Mexico and the Homosassa River.

The first weekend in May we trailered our boat down to the small town of Homosassa, a destination that has been on our bucket list since we created Florida By Water. We had two main objectives: to experience the local flair and beauty of this Nature Coast community, and to stay at Tarpon Key Lodge.

Tarpon Key Lodge

Tarpon Key Lodge is a beautiful three bedroom, two bath private home located on Shell Island; a 30 minute boat ride from the Riverhaven Marina. What makes this home unique is that it’s the only house on an eight-acre island, located where the Homosassa River and the Gulf of Mexico meet. The accommodations sleep eight, and include amenities such as kayaks, a fish freezer, commercial icemaker, modern kitchen, Internet and cable, and amazing sunsets viewable from the massive deck that wraps around the entire house. The home, which is only accessible by boat, has a private dock equipped with a shelter and a fish cleaning station. The entire property is beautifully landscaped and you will see wildlife everywhere. Panoramic views provide an incredible reminder of the uniqueness of this destination. During regular season, the island can be yours for only $300 per night with a three-night minimum stay. Costs go up during scallop season.

The Shed
The Shed

If you’re into dockside dining, Homosassa is filled with outstanding restaurants that range from the local dive to the upscale. Our first night we made the five-mile journey up the scenic waterway to the Sea Grass Waterfront Restaurant. Docking was easy and plentiful, and the food was excellent. We also enjoyed the feel of the outdoor bar where locals gathered. On the evening trip back to the lodge, the setting sun delivered a spectrum of colors that reflected off of the glass-like water. ‘Magnificent’ is really an understatement on how to describe this paradise. During the day, one local hotspot is an outdoor bar that goes by the name of “The Shed.” On the weekends, this place is hopping with boaters, bikers, vacationers, and seemingly just about everyone in else in this small town. Live music and laughter fill the air, along with smell of (really good!) wings and beer. While you’re there, you can also pick up any additional items you need at MacRae’s Marina. If you’re in more of a sit down lunch or dinner kind of mood, be sure and check out the Riverside Crab House located next door at Riverside Resort. They have the best blue crab in the area.

On any boating adventure, you look for places to spend the day on the boat. The local raft up can be found at Homosassa Springs. The springs are known for their manatees and crystal clear water. It is a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, or just people watching. The springs are located at the mouth of the Homosassa River and are about an hour’s boat ride from the Lodge. We would also suggest taking a sunset cruise. Just a short outing from the Lodge will provide you with more pictures and memories than you can

Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs

imagine. While we cannot really call ourselves fishermen, fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the area. Guides and local knowledge will ensure you have fresh fish for supper. But, if you’re like us, and the only way you can catch a fish is if one jumps into your boat, there is always Shelly’s Seafood, a local fish market located right on the water.

The town of Homosassa dates back to 1851 and began as an established sugar plantation, producing sugar, syrup and molasses that were used in rum production. Today the community has a population of about 2,300 residents. We think you will find this destination to be one of your favorites for boating opportunities. It is rare to find so many great boating options nestled in the middle of paradise, complete with your own private island.

The Euphoric Chronicles: The Tale Of Tonii the Mermaid

   Most fairy tales begin with “Once Upon a Time” but this is not your standard fairy tale. This is a story that has been born by pure chance, that rare occurrence when everything in the universe seems to be in some sort of cosmic harmony and then comes crashing to the ground with the speed of a meteor and years later when the stardust has settled the landscape has been forever changed.

   So our story begins not in a land far, far away but on an island in the Florida Keys only they weren’t the Florida Keys just yet. They were known by another name, the Lollashire Islands. The Lollashires were actually a chain of islands that stretched from what it is now the southernmost part of Florida to Cancun. The Gulf of Mexico was called Loch- Loch Whoostheer and was a veritable watery Garden of Eden. It was known worldwide to be one the three Majestics of Euphoria, natural wonders so grand they defied all possible descriptions although there had been many a bard and poetess that had tried. The magic that permeated all living things within the Lollashires and Loch-Loch Whoostheer was so strong that it voided the vocabulary of the people that tried to describe its beauty.

   The Lollashires were ruled in a just and fair fashion by Keeves. The Keeves were more protectors than true royals and the head of the family was more a high sheriff than a king. Over generations they had come to see it as their duty to ensure the safety and livelihoods of those that lived in the ‘shires. They were also the guardians of the Loch and all the creatures that inhabited the waters within the chain of the Lollashire Islands.

    At the time of this tale the head of the Keeves was Seejay Keeves. Seejay had been the protector and guardian for far longer than most people could remember. He was the older of two brothers and his younger brother was called Gregee. Where Seejay was kind and respected by all those in the ‘shires, Gregee was the complete opposite and was known to be vain and unnecessarily cruel. Where Seejay had skin that had been bronzed by the sun and stood tall among his fellow man, Gregee was hunched, his body twisted in ways that no mortal man could ever possibly endure and his skin had an unnatural translucence to it. It was whispered among many that if the sun was directly behind him you could see the inner workings of his body. People often wondered but never spoke aloud of how these two brothers could have ever been born within the same family. It was long rumored that Gregee was a changeling, switched for a human baby soon after birth by the Taverneer, a sea troll said to inhabit the waters outside the protection of the Lollashire Islands and who coveted the abundance of exotic sea-life within the Loch.

    Now in most romantic fairy tales there is a girl, a princess or some damsel in distress and we are not too far removed from that scenario with exception that the female in question was not a young girl, a princess, or a damsel in distress. She was the daughter of a simple fisherman of the Loch. She had grown up surrounded by the amazing, seemingly depthless crystal clear waters of Lollashire and to be sure it turned out that her first love was that of the water. To be in it, on it, or near it is what she lived for. It was said that she could swim before she crawled and could dive five meters beneath the clear waters before she could walk. When she turned ten years of age she started to go out upon the waters in her father’s boat, a fishing craft known as a Holt. The Holt was 32 feet long and 12 feet wide and boasted two sails that enabled it to make its way out onto the Loch and set its fishing nets out to catch its allotted share of fish.

    By the time she was 12 she could handle the Holt almost as well as her father, who had been working boats of its size since he was a boy of nine. His father had fished these waters as his father’s father had and so on for many generations. She was the only daughter of the fisherman and in fact was his only child. Her mother had died shortly after her birth and it had been left to her father to raise her on his own. He never sought to remarry such was the sadness at the loss of his wife but the joy and happiness of his daughter dulled the ever constant ache of lost love. He thought to name her after her mother but knew in his heart that it might be too much of a reminder of his loss. He went out in the Holt one night with his newborn daughter and sailed out onto the Loch. The wind was calm but there was enough of a breeze to fill the sails and the night sky was clear with a mass of stars staring down on him and his daughter. This is where he liked to come, out on the water, to think and contemplate what he perceived as life’s mysteries.          

    He came to a spot he knew by his heart, so much so there was no need for one of his tattered Loch charts. He dropped the sails and let them fall gently onto the worn deck. They fluttered down, falling and folding upon themselves as if they had a mind of their own. He looked down at his sleeping daughter, her breaths pushing through her slightly open mouth. He looked up and out onto what seemed like an endless expanse of water. It seemed to go on forever and although he was but a simple fisherman he was by no means simple in his thinking. He had a learned knowledge of his place in this world. He could read and write, add and subtract numbers. All useful things for someone who made his living on the water but they were by no means necessary. He knew plenty of his fellow tradesmen that could do neither but they knew the water, they knew how to fish and as far as they were concerned that was all they needed. He made himself available and taught those who wished to be taught and helped those who did not want to be bothered with such worldly concepts. It was because of his nature, his being of who he was, that he met the woman who would eventually become his wife and the mother to their daughter if but only for a few hours.

   He reached down and picked up his daughter and held her tightly in his arms. The gentle rocking motion of the boat providing something he hoped that he would be able to provide to her, comfort and peace. He looked up and was searching the patterns and shapes that the twinkling lights made. He knew the names of most of the shapes and there were some people who held those shapes responsible for their fate. He was not one of those people but he repeated the names silently to himself as his eyes swept the sky; Mantoo, Ashki, Farnk, Bolof, Eber, Crasstil, Jezeri, Bodipal, and there was one more but he could not yet see it. He lowered his gaze to the barely discernible horizon and started sweeping his eyes back and forth all while moving his head up. He was looking straight towards where the winds came during the cold time and he found the brightest spot in the sky. Now he started to look down and to the right, searching and there it was, right where it always had been and as far as he knew where it always would be. It sparkled brighter than the other points of light except for one other. It was one of two stars that were the eyes within the shape. Its twin was just to its left and it shone and sparked in the night sky just as brightly. This was Tonii, known to be to those who believed, the protector of the seas. It was at that moment he knew that this is what he would name his daughter. He pulled the blanket down from her small pink face and whispered to her “Tonii, I will protect you and and honor the memory of your mother for it is because of my love for you and your mother that I live”

   The baby girl opened her eyes, a startling iridescent blue, and looked up at her father and cooed softly. She closed her eyes, once, twice, and then was asleep once more. Her father laid her down in the bunchu, a type of bassinet, and covered her with another blanket. Once he was sure she was secure in her sleep he raised his sails and started to work the Holt back to the village. He became aware of how long he had been out on the Loch when he saw the thin sliver of light breaking across the horizon.

To Be Continued……………………