Panorama of Henderson Lake from Wallace Brooks Park boat dock - Inverness, Florida, USA
A map of Inverness' location

One of the great things about Citrus County is the many havens of small waterfront communities dotting its landscape – tranquil and loaded with Old Florida beauty. Those of us who have lived in large metropolitan areas for a long time can completely understand the lure of the quieter, slower pace of life in a small town. There’s just something about it that has characterized American culture since our beginnings – and it probably even has some of its roots in the history of little European hamlets and town criers, where all the neighbors knew each other and gathered for barn dances to socialize.

Inverness – the ‘small town done right’ – doesn’t have barn dances that we know of, but if you haven’t been there, you’re in for a treat. This is a big little city bursting with character and history. Perched on the edge of a vast and thriving inland lake system and wildlife preserve, with a bustling community of avid outdoor lovers, it’s fairly small. There are only about 7000 residents, but despite its diminutive size, it’s been an active part of Florida life for hundreds of years.

Advertisement for Inverness Highlands in Inverness, Florida, ca. 1960
Advertisement for Inverness Highlands in Inverness, Florida, ca. 1960 (
Originally, the new town that sprouted up after the Seminole Wars was called “Tompkinville”, establishing itself with the largest sawmill in the area and becoming a big draw for the major logging industry of the 1800s. That, in turn, provided more job opportunities, and people started coming to live and work in the fledgling community. The then-enormous boundary of Hernando County was redrawn into five sections, creating Citrus County in 1887.  After a fierce competition with Mannfield that same year, Tompkinville emerged the victor to become the county seat.

If the name “Inverness” brings to mind images of Scottish lochs and highlands, you’re not the only one. The story goes that a gentleman from the Old Country who worked for the company that eventually purchased the town saw the sparkling lakes lying to the East, surrounded by lush green grasslands, and they reminded him of his hometown. No one really knows if that story is true or not, but within a few years Tompkinville was renamed for the far-north city in Scotland.

Shopping and Dining

home decorations in the interior of a letter with an inscription home on a wooden background in the interior of the bedroom
For a small town, Inverness has no shortage of delightful little boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and open-air markets. You can find everything you need for retail and epicurean therapy without having to move around too much, and you’ll probably leave with bags bulging.

The Market at the Depot is a good place to start; you can find almost anything at the vendor tables and get an idea of what’s locally available. At the Twisted Moon Boutique, you can check out whimsical country-chic-bohemian styles of women’s clothing and accessories, men’s hats and apparel, and eclectic jewelry, while Southern Sudds & Unique Vintiques is full of handmade gifts, clothing, housewares, and personal care goodies to cozy up the home.

When you’ve worked up an appetite and need a little nosh, we recommend trying one of the seafood places in town, because you won’t find crab, scallops, clams and mussels much fresher than here. There are also options for Thai, Cuban, Italian, Mexican, Southern BBQ, and pub fare. Check out the Discover Crystal River Dining Page for a look at the different places that are within easy access of where you plan to be.


An illustration of Chief Asceola (Oseola)
If you’re a history buff, then you have some exciting options to look forward to seeing. Sitting majestically in the center of Inverness is the Historic Citrus County Courthouse, home of the Heritage Museum. Artifacts from Citrus County’s 2013 Chassahowitzka Springs Restoration Project are on permanent display in “Changing People, Changing Springs”, chronicling the importance of the freshwater springs and rivers which gave life and prosperity to the region. From the early days of the Paleoindians 10,000 years ago to the settlers who came by steamship and locomotive, the exhibit covers an impressive archaeological record of the people who came to live and work at the Springs.

“A Long Way Home” explores the connections and stories from the earliest residents who built Inverness and Citrus County to the innovators, builders, and businesses that created what is now a thriving industry and tourism hub.  Even Elvis came for a visit to shoot “Follow That Dream” – a seismic event that is still talked about today by locals who were there and got to meet him.

Right next door in Courthouse Square, in stately Art Deco splendor is the Valerie Theatre Cultural Center. It’s been a staple of Inverness since 1927, and for the past near-century it’s been witness to changing times, changing fashions, and ever-evolving entertainment. Recently renovated to its former glory, it seats up to 148 people from orchestra to balcony.  The Valerie has been the place to go for comedy, drama, music and concerts almost since Inverness began, so when you walk these halls, you’re in the footsteps of history.

Fort Cooper State Park is a 710-acre historic site marking the US Army Outpost that served as a detachment for sick and wounded soldiers and where several sieges and skirmishes took place between the Army and the Seminole Nation.

Long before Europeans came to settle along the coastal Gulf region, the Seminole called it home for generations. The great leader Osceola made his war camp here during the Second Seminole War, laying siege to Fort Cooper and nearly starving the garrison of soldiers out. Fortunately for the soldiers, reinforcements arrived with supplies and enough manpower to drive the Seminole back. It wasn’t the first skirmish with the First Nations of the region, and it wouldn’t be the last in the 8-year conflict that ended in 1842. By then, there was only a sparse remnant of the Seminole still in the region left.

Today a palisade marks the site of the old fort, where reenactments of the Seminole Wars are held in March of each year.  There are five miles of forest trails to explore, with a diverse variety of ecosystems and a thriving bird population. It’s a great place to go and learn about Inverness and Citrus County’s past, as well as understand the influence of the Seminole, which is still a huge part of the region’s identity. You can also camp, swim, go fishing, or rent a boat from the nearby shops.

Outdoors and Ecotourism

A baby sandhill crane with parents
The days of the sawmill are long gone, but a thriving fishing and tourism industry has grown in its place. Inverness made a name for itself as a ‘bicycle friendly’ community; on any given day, you’ll see people whizzing by on their Schwinns and mountain bikes. Some head for the Withlacoochee State Trail – the longest multi-use trail in Florida – while others take a hike or horseback ride.

Henderson Lake lies in a vast and thriving wetland of smaller lakes, estuaries, and rivers, spread out like a patchwork quilt on the landscape. Everything seems to be green and blue as far as the eye can see; it’s not difficult to understand why an expat Scotsman might have felt like he was back in his native fields and lochs. The Potts and Flying Eagle Wildlife Management areas are to the North and South respectively, bisected by Highway 44 and surrounded by more than half a dozen other protected management zones along the Florida Nature Coast.

Managed in cooperation with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, both are part of the Withlacoochee River watershed lake chain near Inverness. If you want to get out in nature, this is a great place to do it. At Potts, the most popular recreational activities include hunting and fishing, as well as birdwatching and wildlife views; it’s a paradise for the avid photographer. Biking is available on the roads, and there are 30 miles of paths and loop trails to hike.

Flying Eagle has 13 miles of trails and separate areas for equestrian, group, and individual camping; each site features picnic tables and a fire ring or grill. Nine miles of trails are specifically dedicated to horseback riding – with proper safety equipment and health testing. If you have a permit, you can launch your boat for a cruise along creeks and marshes and perhaps spot a wild hog, gopher tortoise, or the legendary American Alligator.

We did a blog recently about the opportunities for camping and ecotourism in this area with more information. You may find several things you want to see and do; there’s a lot to choose from, with plenty of options.

Events and Festivals

musicians playing bluegrass music

Inverness is an active community with a packed calendar of events during the year, and it’s within a short driving distance from Gainesville, Ocala, and Orlando. That makes it perfect for a weekend getaway to unwind and have some fun.

For the history buffs and military enthusiasts, Fort Cooper is a hub of activity in March with Fort Cooper Days, a popular reenactment of battles from the Second Seminole War, and the Fort Cooper Bluegrass Festival brings thousands with their lawn chairs and picnic coolers for live music under the oak trees.

Those who are looking for a gastronomic experience will discover a number of food festivals throughout the year, including the Ozello Craft Show and Chili Cookoff, the Taste of Inverness competition, where local chefs go head-to-head creating delicious dishes for people to sample and enjoy, and the Stone Crab Jam – a huge big deal in this crab-loving county.

They also love a good festival or three, and there are plenty to choose from if you’re planning a vacation.  You don’t want to miss October’s Cooter Festival, which is arguably the main event of the year – live music, food, games, and carnival rides on the shores of gorgeous Lake Henderson, and it goes on for three days, so you’ll want to pace yourself. Artists and lovers of art are in for a treat with the Inverness Festival of the Arts, held each November over two days when over 100 vendors display and sell artwork, crafts, food, and jewelry.

Athletes aren’t left out of this mix, either; we said earlier that this is a bicycle-friendly community, which might be a bit of an understatement. They love bicycling in Inverness and have the events to prove it – such as the annual Clean Air Ride for the Key Training Center and the Withlacoochee Annual Ride in October, when cyclists ride 46 miles of the State Trail. For sports enthusiasts more drawn to water and fishing – fear not, there’s something for you, too.  The Inverness Big Bass Classic happens every March as fishermen converge and compete for cash prizes for the biggest one caught. And if your sport leans more towards the time-honored pub crawl, St. Paddy’s Day on Citrus Avenue is not to be missed, and you can come back for the Pine Street Jam and Parrothead party in August and search for Jimmy Buffet’s last shaker of salt.

Whether you’re an epicurean, eco-enthusiast, athlete or historian, you’ll find something in Inverness that draws you in and calls you back. With its gorgeous environment and energetic, gregarious community it’s a perfect day-trip destination to relax and enjoy, or a quiet place to live outside of the more metropolitan cities.  If you’d like to know more about Inverness, visit the official City page and find out for yourself what makes it the “Small Town Done Right”.

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