Where to See Manatees in Florida

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While manatees may not win an animal kingdom beauty contest, they are remarkably admirable and charming. They live their lives at a slow pace and spend most of their time resting when they are not feeding or traveling. They are easily amused, curious and adorable creatures. When excited, they perform barrel rolls and body surf for entertainment—and there is nothing cuter than seeing manatees enjoying themselves by rolling around in the water. Coupled with their large size, stubbly snout, toenails on flippers, graceful swimming and incredible bond between mother and calf, manatees are a beautiful sight to behold in the water.

So where can you see manatees in Florida?

The best place to see manatees in real life is Crystal Springs, Florida, where the clear water allows you to see more than just their snouts or backs emerging briefly from the water. In the springs, you can see manatees in the waters at any time of the year, though they are much easier to spot from November to March when they gather in large numbers in warmer waters.

If you are interested in seeing manatees first-hand, here are six places in Florida you won’t miss them.

1. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida

Crystal River wraps around Kings Bay, where over 70 natural springs host hundreds of manatees during the winter. The most beautiful spot in Crystal River is Three Sisters Springs —a complex of three springs that form part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The natural warm water that flows through the springs attracts hundreds of manatees throughout the year. You can always be sure to see manatees there whenever you visit, whether by kayak, boat or from land at a boardwalk.

In winter, Three Sisters Springs is closed to protect the animals that flock to the springs for warmth. But in the summer months, you are free to kayak or canoe in the springs with the friendly sea cows, an experience that is much more exciting than just watching them from the boardwalk. If you want to swim with manatees in Three Sisters Springs, you can book your manatee tour with Captain Mike’s, an experienced and reputable outfitter in Crystal River.

2. Blue Spring State Park

Normally closed to swimmers and kayakers from November 15th to March 15th when manatees are present in large numbers, Blue Spring State Park is a great place to see manatees. During the winter, hordes of manatees are present, foraging on sea grass, traveling or sleeping. While you cannot swim or kayak at this location in the winter months, you will definitely see them if you visit the park.

Blue Spring State Park has an extensive walkway around the water, offering many vantage points for viewing manatees. However, if you want to swim and interact closely with them in the water, a summer visit is best since swimmers and boaters are welcome when the park is out of season. So for those who can’t see the manatees in winter, going in summer is still great and the park offers a wild manatee webcam, which is pretty amazing.

3. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Wildlife State Park is one of the best places to view manatees in Florida. A large number of manatees settle in the park in winter to take advantage of the warm waters that flow through the springs. You can also go beneath the waves to view the manatees via a special underwater observation deck. The park is a fabulous place to bring the whole family as there are several interactive exhibits and nature walks and exhibits for learning about indigenous animals, including alligators, wolves, otters, cranes, bears, regional birds, bobcats and even jaguars who flock to the springs during cold winter seasons. There are also programs where rangers provide information about the native animals.

4. Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

If you want to see manatees away from the crowds, then Lovers Key State Park provides that natural, undeveloped and less crowded location for the outing. It is a picturesque area near Fort Myers and the perfect destination for those who want to enjoy an easy stroll through the sand or kayak with manatees. While it does not have as many manatees as the other locations, a good number still frequent the park. You can bring your own kayak or rent one there and ask park rangers to point you toward the herds of manatees.

5. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville

Initially intended to protect migratory birds, this park has evolved into a settlement area for all kinds of endangered species, including manatees. In fact, it is one of the few places in Florida where you’ll have a chance to spot manatees all year round. It has viewing platforms, a boat ramp, interpretive signs and an observation area.

6. TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach

Tampa Electric’s viewing center is a man-made manatee sanctuary. Boasting of large numbers of manatees in the winter due to warm water discharges from the Big Bend Power Station, the location provides a great place to view manatees. It has viewing platforms, tidal walkways and an environmental education center to make the outing memorable and educational.

Seeing large numbers of Florida manatees gathered in one place is an amazing experience. And in Florida, there are several locations known for their sizeable populations of manatees looking for food and warmer waters, particularly in the fall, winter and spring. But when you visit these places to see or swim with the manatees, remember that the animals are in the springs for survival and learn how to interact in a way that preerves their natual habitat. For more information on manatees and manatee tours in Florida, visit the Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees website.

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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