Where is the best place in Florida to see manatees?

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Manatees are easier to spot in Florida in the winter months and early spring. During these bitterly cold months, the manatees congregate in big herds in the warmer freshwater springs of Florida, which usually maintain a constant 72-degree temperature even in winter. The springs are ideal for the warm-blooded manatees because the animals cannot stand temperatures below 68 degrees. Florida manatees can be found in the bubbly springs of marine and state water parks and in the warm water outflows near power plants, where they congregate to keep their bodies warm. Winter is the time to search for these Florida giants because they are easier to spot as they flock the clear waters. They are harder to find in the summer because they migrate to different areas.

So which are the best places to find manatees in Florida?

There are many sites where you can find these endearing Florida natives. Some sites have well-designed platforms where manatees are observed from strategic lookout decks while many parks have boardwalks adjacent to the waterways to enable visitors to see herds of manatees. Captain Mike’s specializes in Crystal River manatee tours, via kayaks or canoes, enabling adventurers to get closer to these gentle animals, have a personal interaction and even swim with them. With our knowledgeable and experienced guides helping visitors to spot the animals and providing accurate information on observing and protecting manatees, we guarantee that adventurers will interact with the manatees without breaching the rules.

Here are the best manatee sites:

1. Blue Springs

Blue Springs State ParkBlue Springs is a state park set aside as a manatee refuge. Found north of Orlando, Orange City, Blue Springs has refreshing, crystal-clear 72-degree water that manatees love, making it an ideal viewing site for these mammals. It has a run bordered by a half-mile boardwalk that serves as the primary manatee viewing area. When you are on the boardwalk, St. John’s River is on one end while the translucent spring is on the other end. Several interpretive displays have been erected along the boardwalk to help you know the history, various wildlife and the ecological jewels of the area.

2. Crystal River

Crystal River, FloridaLocated West of Orlando, North of Tampa and along the Gulf Coast, Crystal River boasts several fresh water springs that typically host the largest number of manatees. Crystal River in Citrus County is one of the locations in the United States where you can swim and snorkel with manatees. One of the most popular areas in Crystal River where you can see and swim with manatees is the Three Sisters Springs, a collection of three fresh water springs draining into Kings Bay. Three Sisters Springs is a stunning spectacle defined by translucent blue hues, lush overhanging greenery, glittering crystal-clear water and beautiful sandy bottoms. Visitors also can use its boardwalk and viewing platforms to observe the manatees.

3. Homosassa River

Homosassa RiverHomosassa River, also in Citrus County, is a wildlife state park that provides a wonderful opportunity for seeing manatees. Visitors launch their kayaks at the public ramp in Old Homosassa and paddle toward the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This is an easy and delightful one-hour ride that ends in the “Blue Water,” an area outside the park where several manatees usually congregate before entering the warmer springs. The “Blue Water” is a prime destination for seeing manatees and a favorite destination for kayakers (paddlers are not allowed into the park from the river).

4. Chassahowitzka River

Chassahowitzka RiverTo the south of Homosassa Springs, Citrus County, is the scenic Chassahowitzka River. It is a wonderful destination for seeing manatees, but you need to go with a guide who knows the area well if you are to see more wildlife and spot the manatees. Or if you just want to walk instead of swimming with manatees, you can try Hunter Springs, a local city park with a walkway that is ideal for viewing manatees. Hunter Springs has a kayak launch area, a beach area and expanded parking.

5. Weeki Wachee River

Weeki Wachi RiverFound on Adventure Coast, Hernando County, the Weeki Wachee River is a popular spot where manatees move up and down as they travel to the Weeki Wachee Springs. You can take the slow, easy, 5-mile, 3-hour kayak paddle down the stream, take your kayak down the shallow, translucent waterway or just begin your tour at the Weeki Wachee Springs. You are likely to see manatees and enjoy a wonderful outing.

6. Merritt Island

Merritt Island National Wildlife RefugeThis Natural Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is the place where the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon are connected by the Haulover Canal. There are many manatees here but you should call and inform the NWR before you visit because the sightings are unpredictable. You also can spot manatees at the Bairs Cove boat ramp just across the street, but you should consider kayaking if you are to access the best manatee spots.

7. Manatee Springs

Manatee Springs, ChieflandDuring the cooler months, from November to April, manatees travel to Florida springs through the Suwannee River. The Manatee Springs in Chiefland is a state park with a run leading manatees to the spring area. You can find manatees here in winter but you should call before you visit.

8. Lovers Key, Fort Myers

Lovers Key, Fort MyersManatees in the canal areas commonly congregate at the Lovers Key, Fort Myers Beach. The state park has several manatees but you should speak with the park ranger so you are directed to the best places. Kayak and boat rentals are available.

9. TECO Viewing Center

Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo BeachTECO Viewing Center in Apollo Beach was created by Tampa Electric after several manatees started to congregate around the discharge canal of the Big Bend Power Station. It includes a manatee educational center and is a designated manatee sanctuary.

10. Manatee Park, Lee County, Fort Myers

Manatee Park, Fort MyersFound on the discharge canal of the Power & Light Company, Florida, Manatee Park is a fantastic place to see manatees. The park has boardwalks that allow visitors to walk around and see manatees. There are guided manatee tours in the park offered by the Calusa Blueway Outfitters, a Florida Naturalist group.

11. Wakulla Springs and Wakulla River

Wakulla SpringsThe Wakulla, south of Tallahassee, is one of the deepest and clearest freshwater springs in Florida. The state park is a glorious manatee haven offering wonderful boat tours and plenty of wildlife. The best time to visit the park is March to September. As manatees travel to Wakulla Springs, they can be viewed at St. Mark’s River and Wakulla River.

12. Ft. Pierce Power Authority’s Manatee Observation Center

Perched on Florida’s east coast and overlooking Moore’s Creek (running from Indian River Lagoon), the Manatee Educational and Observation Center is an ideal resting place for manatees. Managed by Fort Pierce Power Authority, the center has strategic observation decks and a boardwalk that provide great viewing opportunities. Kayaking allows visitors to get a closer observation of the manatees in this Center.

Want to visit Crystal River for a glorious manatee tour? Find more information on the “Captain Mike’s Swimming With The Manatees” site.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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