Fish, swim, or go for a hike at this northern Florida lake.
Named, unsurprisingly, for its mildly crescent-like shape, this large northern Florida lake is a great place for swimming and fishing, as well as hiking over four miles of walking trails. Primitive group camping and a covered picnic pavilion are available in the adjacent Haw Creek Preserve State Park, while plenty of reservable Hipcamps can also be found on the western side of the lake. Tent and RV sites with hookups are available at Faver-Dykes State Park, about a 40-minute drive from the eastern part of the lake, a portion of which is protected by the Crescent Lake Conservation Area.
Abutting the southern part of Crescent Lake, Haw Creek Preserve State Park surrounds a blackwater creek that attracts paddlers wanting to take in views of the surrounding Florida cypress swamp. It's also a great place for birdwatching, particularly in the winter, when migratory birds flock to the area from the cooler north.
Encompassing over 3,000 acres on the eastern part of Duns Creek, this preserved area is full of wildlife, ranging from frogs and lizards to white-tailed deer and bobcats. Birders bring your binoculars for a chance to spot yellow-crowned night herons, barred owls, and red-shouldered hawks. There are also trails for walking, cycling, and horseback riding, and tent camping is permitted.
Encompassing over 400,000 acres, the Ocala National Forest is a prime spot for fishing, swimming, and paddling, with hundreds of lakes to choose from (not to mention four natural springs). It's also a great place for land-based recreation, with miles of trails, many of which are mountain biker- and equestrian-friendly. Camping options range from developed campgrounds to Civilian Conservation Corps cabins.
Crescent Lake is popular year-round, though you'll find the best temperatures for swimming between late spring and early fall, when the weather is at its warmest. The rainiest months are from June through August, tapering off in September. Come in October for warm-weather camping with a lower risk of tropical storms. If you're coming to fish, your best bet is to come in late spring or early summer during the spawning season.