I grew up in Florida and I was always mesmerized by manatees. You grew up learning about them and how to protect them but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I got to see manatees in the wild! I was so mesmerized! So I wanted to share my list of the 11 best places to view manatees in Florida!
11 of the Absolute Best Places to View Manatees in Florida
Growing up my grandparents were very big on traveling with me. They took me to Sea World quite a bit and they had a huge exhibit about manatees. These were manatees that had been injured, mostly by boat propellers, and were at the park for treatment. You could walk and view them underwater, and being fed, then there was a great educational video on them.
Every time we went this is where I wanted to spend my money, I bought manatee books ( my favorite book being Mary Manatee ), a manatee plush toy, and even a manatee necklace once I was a bit older. So to say I was obsessed would be a fair statement.
I learned everything I could so let me share a few tidbits with you!
The best time to view manatees in Florida in the wild at the places listed below is from November to March.
They are nicknamed Sea Cows.
They can weight up to 1,500 pounds, be up to 13 feet long, and swim up to 15MPH.
Manatees only live in 3 areas of the world. Here in the states, mostly in Florida, they also live in the Amazon River, and in the rivers of western Africa.
A Manatee Cow (the female) is pregnant for 12 months. The time between generations (the time it takes a baby cow to have her own kids) is 20 years. This is why it’s been so hard for them to move from being endangered animals.
In 2017 their status was downgraded from endangered to threatened. (While they still need our help that is REALLY good news!)
They are a threatened animal, the more you know the more we can save them! Follow all boat speeds, don’t leave trash on or near the beach, and help limit waterfront building.
Related: 25 Free Things To Do in Orlando Fl
With all that said, in many of the places mentioned below you can see 100+ manatees all in one spot to stay warm. Some places have been noted to have 800-1,000 manatees there for the winter. You can also get a chance to swim and kayak with them!
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge – This refuge was designed to protect the manatees. One of the most popular parts of this refuge is the Three Sisters Spring. The water is crystal clear and you can see hundreds of manatees! Many times there are over 100 manatees in one central area! Also if you are a kayaker you can kayak with manatees! #LifeGoal
Seeing the manatees at Three Sisters Springs is probably one of the most popular places to view manatees in Florida.
Blue Spring State Park – Located on the St. Johns River and established in 1972 this is the destination for those looking to swim with manatees. The water stays a constant 72 degrees and it is just beautiful!
Apollo Beach Manatee Viewing Center – I might be partial but this one is one of my favorites! Located next to an electric power plant that uses steam and produces lots of very clean warm water, it has created a safe haven for manatees in the area. They have embraced this offer, a boardwalk to view them, lots of info and the best part? It’s free! This is the best place for manatee watching in Tampa.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Located near Cap Canaveral on this 140,000-acre refuge you can find a high concentrate of manatees. There is also quite a bit of history here dating back to the Native Americans.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park – There is so much to see and do here from the glass bottom boat rides down the river to the amazing views of the manatees!
Fanning Springs State Park – Crystal clean waters, a boardwalk, a swimming area and more. Plus manatees love it here too!
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park – Home of the mermaids AND manatees! If you time it right you can see both! Make sure to take in the mermaid how it is breathtaking! The Weeki Wachee Manatees are some of the most fun to watch! Since the mermaids to their show right in the springs, the manatees have been known to want to join right on in! It makes for a truly memorable show!
Manatee Springs State Park – Ok Manatee is in the name of the state park! This park is located on the Suwannee River that leads right to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers – This is another one like the Apollo Beach one. It is located near a power plant that warms the water. This one also has a butterfly garden and picnic area.
Manatee Lagoon, An FPL Eco-Discovery Center – Another power plant warming the waters in Florida. Some 800 manatees have been counted here at one time!
Manatee Observation and Educational Center – The Indian River Lagoon is a home for manatees, a great boardwalk, and an observation deck. There is an exhibit hall to learn more about manatees, views aquariums and more.
If interested you can read more about manatees here
Do you know of any other places to view manatees in Florida I missed? Let me know int he comments below!