There’s a ton to unpack along the nearly two hundred mile stretch of Florida shoreline known as the Nature Coast. Starting on the Western edge of the sprawling Big Bend and ending just north of Tampa Bay, the Nature Coast is probably the largest, least populated of Florida’s coastal regions.
The aptly named Nature Coast is replete with fish and game, breath-taking scenery, and unique geological features. From scalloping in the bays to hunting in the dense pine forests, this slice of Floridian paradise offers something for every outdoorsman. And when you aren’t on the water or in the woods, there are tons of places to visit, from “old-florida” downtowns to crystal clear springs. And if you enjoy watching wildlife as much as pursuing it, the Nature Coast is perfect for you.
After you take a look at what this unique enclave has to offer, book a trip down and get ready for a laid back vacation where life moves at just a little slower place.
Something Unique: Scalloping
If you are looking for an entertaining way to spend your time and come home with a delicious meal, try chasing some Nature Coast Bay Scallops. While slightly (well, noticeably) smaller than the Diver Scallops you may be used to getting at a restaurant, chasing these mollusks around is as fun as it is rewarding.
Bay Scallops are an interesting little bivalve. They have the unique (for mollusks) ability to swim, and they spend all of their lives in three to thirty feet of water. You can target them swimming around eelgrass beds and can employ a variety of methods for catching them, although we prefer a simple snorkel and bag.
Once you’ve caught your fill, you’ll want to shuck them quickly with a scalloping knife (or oyster or butter knife). Just pry off the top of the shell, cut around the abductor muscle, and scoop out the scallop.
If you don’t have a boat or your boat isn’t set up to handle a day of scalloping, most of the towns along the Nature Coast rent small skiffs that are perfect scalloping boats.
The Nature Coast has some of the best fishing in the country. Hands down. Inshore fishing throughout these reaches produce some behemoth (and plentiful) seatrout, with occasional specimens over 30 inches! If you’re headed down during the late spring or summer, be sure to make at least one run for Tarpon, as these sporty gamefish roll through the area. Redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and flounder can also be targeted along the Nature Coast as well, and although not the prime Florida locale, Snook can be caught in the southern stretch of the Nature Coast, starting a bit North of Crystal River.
Nearshore and offshore fishing is also great in this part of the world. Limits of snapper and grouper are routine, and many other species can be targeted from Cobia and Amberjack to Mahi-Mahi and Wahoo.
Species: Redfish, Seatrout, Flounder, Black Drum, Tarpon, Tripletail, Snapper, Grouper, Pelagics, Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, Billfish, King Mackerel.
Hunting can be productive along the Nature Coast, but we only rate it as three stars. Wild Boar are plentiful in this area and can be targeted on many public lands, as can White Tail Deer. Waterfowl hunting can also be very productive with many species of divers wintering in the shallow bays, from Redheads to Bluebills, and with large swaths of freshwaters near the coast, puddle ducks like teal, mottled duck and gadwall can be taken with a little scouting.
The Nature Coast also represents the transitional zone from Eastern to Osceola Turkeys, with both species (and many hybrids) in this range. The Osceola will tend to be on the Eastern Half of the Big Bend, and with large populations the Southern Parts of the Nature Coast and its adjacent woodlands. If you haven’t had the chance to take an Osceola, this wily bird should certainly be on your list.
Species: Whitetail Deer, Eastern Wild Turkey, Osceola Turkey, Wild Boar, Waterfowl, Redhead, Bufflehead, Bluebill, Canvasback, Pintail, Gadwall.
Virtually no development on over half of the Nature Coast makes this area prime for a kayaking adventure no matter which part you are visiting. While every town has plenty of obvious spots to toss in a boat and start paddling, if you need a little inspiration, check out the Florida Paddling Trails Map!
Wherever there aren’t many people, it’s usually a good bet that there is some good stargazing! Virtually all of the Nature Coast (Homosassa North, especially) is prime for watching the skies at night. If you want to really have a good vantage, you should consider checking out the “Road to Nowhere,” located just outside of Steinhatchee and having nefarious roots. You can also Scout for spots using the International Light Pollution Map.
Hiking, Biking & Nature Trails ★★★★
While the Nature Coast is predictably flat, there are plenty of opportunities to get out in nature on foot or bicycle. The Nature Coast State Trail is one attraction we try to hit up every time we are nearby.
Along with the waterfowl that overwinter along the Nature Coast are a plethora of other migratory and resident species that can be seen. With numerous protected lands and hundreds of miles of rural roads through prime bird habitat, birding along the Nature Coast is second to none. From buntings to Blue Herons, the Nature Coast is worth a visit.
Hunting and Fishing License Information: