Alligators, panthers, and bears, oh my! Florida is filled with wildlife, but the state's gentlest creatures are West Indian manatees. Elusive and endangered, manatees can be spotted from November through March when they flock to warm waters near inland springs and outlets. In this post, we're highlighting six places where you can see Florida manatees.
A word of wisdom before we begin though. Manatees are protected by law and it is illegal to touch or disturb manatees in any way. Please leave these gentle giants be as you observe with care.
Crystal River, FL Often cited as the best place to see Florida manatees, Three Sisters Spring is a must-visit destination. Indeed, there are often dozens, if not hundreds of manatees gathered by the spring in peak season. You can view the manatees from a boardwalk or rent a kayak and put in at Hunter Springs Park or King's Bay Park.
Full of more than Florida manatees, the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a haven for wild animals. Here, you'll find alligators, bears, flamingos, panthers, and more. Something of a safari experience, this park is the best place to see Florida wildlife in captive environments resembling their native habitats.
Fort Myers, FL
Nestled near a power plant, Manatee Park in Fort Myers, Florida draws many manatees to the warm outflow waters. Visitors can walk trails along the water or rent kayaks from an on-site rental service. There's also a playground, butterfly garden, and picnic area at Manatee Park.
Nestled on Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge frequently draws manatees. This massive preserve features hiking, fishing, and birdwatching, along with a manatee observation area. You'll find the observation area on the east side of the Haulover Canal bridge.
About 50 miles west of Gainesville is Manatee Springs State Park. When you visit, you'll find an 800-foot boardwalk running between a bright blue spring and a lush cypress forest. In addition to viewing Florida manatees from the boardwalk, there are 8.5 miles of nature trails and a connection to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail. Bicyclists won't want to miss this park!
Orange City, FL
Wrapping up our list of places to see Florida manatees is Blue Spring State Park. Close to the St. John's River, Blue Spring is one of the best places to see Florida manatees. Some winters see nearly 500 manatees gathered here! You can observe them from boardwalks or rent a kayak or canoe at the park to paddle nearby.
Whether you're on the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Coast, there are many spots to see Florida manatees. During your next winter trip to one of our Florida resorts, head to one of these spots to see the "sea cows" for yourself. And don't forget to invite your fellow nature-lover. Share this post with them too so they can join the adventure!