09 Best Places in Florida to See Manatees. Florida has more than 1,100 manatees living in its water. A Florida manatee will typically weigh approximately 3,500 pounds, and their furry bodies reflect the winter season where they migrate to warmer waters.
From marveling at them from a platform viewing deck to having the opportunity to go swimming, snorkeling or kayaking near these fascinating underwater mammals, read on to discover the best places in Florida to see manatees.
Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River
Manatees can be found in Florida year-round, but they often spend their winters closer to shore where there are less dangers. You’ll have an even better chance to spot them at Three Sisters Springs in Kings Bay though, which is a designated sanctuary for them. There’s a limited number of visitors who can swim with the manatees on scheduled tours and kayak or canoe near them, but the clear blue waters make up for it.
Blue Spring State Park, Orange City
Blue Springs State Park is a popular destination in Orange City, Florida, where visitors can come see the growing population of West Indian Manatees. You can also watch them roaming the area and learn about their history and ecological wonders through interpretive displays. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the water as well though, swimming isn’t allowed during manatee season because you don’t want to potentially scare them away!
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville
With 140,000 acres of undisturbed wildlife habitat connecting the Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River, the Haulover Canal between the river and lagoon has been in existence since at least the mid-19th century. Manatees seem to find this area of refuge appealing, which is why there’s always a good turnout for these gentle creatures at this key visitor spot.
Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland
A short drive from Gainesville in the city of Chiefland, Manatee Springs State Park is home to warm water habitats for manatees. These warmer months, manatees journey up the Suwannee River and make a beeline to Florida’s springs. Manatees live here all year long, so come get your hands on them and explore their natural habitats during November to April. One spring produces 100 million gallons of clear water daily and is also one of the most popular snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing and kayaking locations throughout the year.
Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers
Manatees leave the northern Gulf Coast in winter to swim up to Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers. This is because the warm waters there are perfect for these animals that live in cold water. With a 17-acre, sheltered space and its observation deck, this Park makes a great place for visitors of all ages.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Spring Hill
Founded on Florida’s Adventure Coast, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a 538-acre state park an hour north of Tampa. Because it’s such an exciting adventure, you’ll want to enjoy it in full on your next kayak or canoeing trip. You can float along the waters of the clear rivers under a natural canopy of cypress and oak trees before finding Hospital Hole – an extinct spring where the endangered West Indies manatees like to congregate – thrilling its visitors since 1947.
Delightful as well is the show downstairs with 400 seats of submerged theater seats that takes place twice daily from 12pm-4pm for their underwater mermaid show. At perfect for kids – Buccaneer Bay & Company offers plenty of fun with a water flume ride and slides. And the paradise beach at Weeki Wachee provides a spectacular white sandy cover to relax on after all those adventures.
Manatee Viewing Center – Tampa Electric, Apollo Beach
One of Tampa’s hidden gems, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center offers a chance to observe manatees in their natural habitat through a variety of educational resources.
Despite being located in Apollo Beach, the attraction is just off the I-275, with plenty of parking and a great 50-foot tower perfect for viewing them up close. The expansive property even has a butterfly exhibit with unmatched service to make your experience one to remember. Stop by the gift shop and visitor center before making your way back home.
Manatee Lagoon, An FPL Eco-Discovery Center, West Palm Beach
Manatee Lagoon, a premier eco-friendly destination in West Palm Beach, has seen up to 800 manatees during significant cold snaps. Here visitors can enjoy two levels of exhibits and observatories designed for close-up viewing of these endangered species.
Different from other Florida attractions, Manatee Lagoon combines hands-on interactive experiences with educational programs that are designed for kids and adults alike.
Watch manatees bask in the warm-water outflows from Florida Power & Light Company’s Riviera Beach location, or join one of their Kid-friendly Manatee Tales talks and festival season events where Manatee Master’s will tell first-hand stories or guide visitors on a walking tour of exhibits at unique Manatee Lagoon Festival events and festivals.
Manatee Observation and Educational Center, Fort Pierce
Manatee Observation Center in Florida’s Fort Pierce is home to many unique plant and animal species. When you come, expect to see the Florida manatee. You can also look for bottlenose dolphins, brown pelicans, and a variety of other animals. To take in the natural habitats completely, visit during winter months when there are less mosquitoes and heat waves are at their lowest point. You’ll find fascinating displays about manatees and other marine creatures on display in the tropical aquarium, too!