Part of the "Nature Coast" is the laid-back, Old Florida style of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
In Citrus County, the spring-fed water of Crystal River stays 72 degrees year-round, making it a magnet for both manatees and scuba divers. At Sunshine River Tours [1 SW First Place, Crystal River; (352) 628-3450], they offer tours that include all the gear you need to snorkel in a river as clear as a swimming pool and the opportunity to see the 30 to 50 manatees that spend their summers in Kings Bay. A 45-foot deep natural spring is the centerpiece of Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park [4150 S Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa; (352) 628-5343] home to native birds, alligators, bears and local celebrity Lu the hippo.
In Hernando County, don't miss a Florida classic: the world famous mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs [6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill; (352) 592-5656]. Plus, you can cool off in the water slides, with a lazy river and a diving platform.
In Pasco, get out of the heat with Monster Mini Golf [6429 U.S. 19, New Port Richey; (727) 849-4653], an indoor glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course with a scary monster theme (but not too scary).
For restaurants, check out Zen Forrest [4148 Rowan Road, New Port Richey; (727) 372-9545] in New Port Richey, which serves pan-Asian cuisine. In Crystal River, there's Vintage On 5th [114 NE Fifth St., Crystal River; (352) 794-0004] in a rehabbed 1940s church, with fine wine and a fresh Southern menu that includes shrimp and grits (the secret's smoked Gouda and a little bacon).