30 Best Places in Florida to Spot Manatees: A Friendly Guide for Nature Lovers

Planning a trip to Florida and eager to meet some gentle giants? Lucky for you, our article highlights the 30 Best Places in Florida to spot the majestic manatees.

From natural springs to serene sanctuaries, our carefully curated list ensures you’ll have the most enchanting encounters with Florida’s adored sea cows.

So, grab your camera and prepare to make wonderful memories in these manatee havens!

1. Blue Spring State Park

At Blue Spring State Park, you’ll find one of Florida’s most magnificent manatee gatherings during winter.

Blue Spring State Park
Madison Blue Spring State Park (Madison County)” by systemslibrarian is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The park hosts a first-magnitude spring, where manatees flock to bask in the constant 72-degree water.

The park is located near Orlando, making it conveniently accessible if you’re in the area. With a possibility of over 500 manatees some winter days, it’s truly a sight to behold. While admission fees may apply, it’s a small price to pay for an unforgettable experience.

When planning your visit, note that manatee viewing largely depends on the weather. Cold St. Johns River waters draw more manatees into the spring, so keep an eye on temperatures. Happy manatee spotting!

2. Three Sisters Springs

Located in Crystal River, Three Sisters Springs is a prime spot for manatee sightings in Florida, thanks to its crystal-clear waters.

Three Sisters Springs
Three Sisters Springs” by Hotel Kaesong is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The springs are part of the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge, the only national wildlife refuge created specifically for manatees.

Engaging in some water-based activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, or swimming increases your chances of a close encounter with these magnificent creatures. Swimming with manatees is legal and organized at Three Sisters Springs, making it a unique experience.

One visitor on TripAdvisor mentioned their experience, saying

What an absolute thrill to see so many manatees right beneath me in the spring pools as we walked above on the boardwalk. The volunteer guides there are wonderful too. Full of information and happy to share it with you.

Entrance fees vary by the season and range from $7.50 to $20 per person. The refuge has hiking trails, bike trails, wildlife viewing spots, and an overlook boardwalk for a relaxing and enjoyable outdoor adventure.

3. Everglades National Park

In the southern reaches of Everglades National Park, you’ll find the perfect spot to mingle with the gentle giants known as manatees. The Flamingo Marina is where your adventure begins and manatees can be spotted frequently.

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park” by US Department of State is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

According to Florida Rambler, the marina at Flamingo is one of the best places to see not just manatees, but other wildlife too. The park is open year-round, allowing you and your family to dive into the world of manatees anytime.

One TripAdvisor user raved about their “amazing manatee encounter” at Flamingo Marina. The unique experience is undoubtedly a highlight of any visit to Everglades National Park.

4. Miami-Dade’s Manatee Spots

Nestled within Miami’s captivating landscape, you’ll find serene spots to observe manatees in their natural habitat.

At Virginia Key, an 863-acre island in Biscayne Bay, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard. Glide through the water and witness manatees close-up!

Alternatively, Oleta River State Park offers the chance to view these gentle giants from ashore. With several trails for hiking and biking, you’re bound to have a memorable experience.

For a more adventurous option, head to Everglades National Park. Exploring by airboat or kayak, you’ll uncover mesmerizing sights and have the opportunity to spot a manatee in a breathtaking open space.

Enjoy your manatee adventures!

5. Tampa Bay Area Sanctuaries

A visit to Tampa Bay offers you some fantastic opportunities to observe manatees in their natural habitat. One popular spot is the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, where you can witness these gentle giants for free.

Tampa Bay Area Sanctuaries

If you’re exploring the area, make a stop at Three Sisters Springs, a unit of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Here, you can either rent a kayak or stroll along the boardwalk to marvel at the manatees in their natural environment.

In the mood for adventure? You may want to visit Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, located about an hour north of Tampa. This park offers fantastic manatee sightings as well as exciting activities for the whole family.

Finally, don’t forget to visit ZooTampa to learn more about manatees and their conservation efforts in a fun and educational atmosphere.

6. Crystal River Refuge

Another idyllic manatee haven that you should not miss is the Crystal River, located in the heart of Florida.

Crystal River Refuge
Endangered Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus), Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Florida” by USFWS Endangered Species is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The area is famous for its manatee snorkeling opportunities, allowing you to interact with these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

It is the only place in Florida where you can legally swim with manatees, making it a truly unique experience for visitors.

As a visitor, you’ll appreciate the wealth of knowledge and conservation efforts at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park nearby. Here, you can gain insights into Florida’s wildlife and see manatees all year round.

7. Apalachicola River

The Apalachicola River is known for its rich biodiversity and impressive scenery, where you can enjoy both river and coastal ecosystems.

Apalachicola River
Apalachicola River, Bristol, FL” by Doug_McGrady is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Manatees are more likely to be seen during the colder months as they seek warmer waters in the river and nearby springs. Your best bet for a memorable sighting is visiting from November through March.

No admission fees are required to enjoy the beauty of the Apalachicola River. A TripAdvisor user highly recommends taking a boat tour to truly appreciate the manatees and serene atmosphere of the area.

Make sure to bring your camera as the river is surrounded by lush vegetation and diverse wildlife.

8. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, located near the town of St. Marks, Florida, the refuge stretches over 70,000 acres of protected land, making it an ideal spot for observing these gentle giants.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge” by USFWS/Southeast is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

When visiting, don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera; you’ll also encounter an abundance of other wildlife, including alligators and various bird species.

Admission to the refuge is only $5, providing a cost-effective and unforgettable experience for manatee enthusiasts.

One TripAdvisor user stated,

Visiting the St. Marks Refuge was a perfect day trip for my family. Not only did we see manatees, but we also enjoyed exploring the beautiful nature trails.

9. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Next to our list is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which is a delightful spot to gaze at manatees and is open 365 days a year, welcoming visitors from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Citrus County, FL)” by systemslibrarian is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

As you wander through the park, keep an eye out for the gentle manatees gliding through crystal-clear waters.

In addition to manatees, you’ll also encounter other enchanting wildlife, such as endangered Florida panthers, red wolves, and whooping cranes.

Several TripAdvisor reviewers have praised this park for its manatee encounters, as well as its commitment to wildlife rehabilitation.

With ample opportunities to spot these captivating creatures, be sure you don’t miss out on this magical manatee experience.

10. Tarpon Springs

In the quaint town of Tarpon Springs, you’ll find several spots to observe manatees.

One lesser-known location is the Crystal River Preserve State Park, about 90 minutes north of Tarpon Springs. This preserve offers clear water, making it easier to spot these gentle giants.

While Tarpon Springs might not be the most populous area for manatees, it’s worth a visit during their peak season.

If you’re looking for a more guaranteed sighting, consider a day trip to Blue Spring State Park, about 40 minutes north of Orlando.

Not only will you enjoy the sight of manatees, but Tarpon Springs also embraces its Greek heritage, offering you a chance to explore sponge docks and delicious food.

11. Manatee Springs State Park

At Manatee Springs State Park, you’ll find one of the largest freshwater springs in Florida, releasing around 100 gallons of water daily.

The park is located in Chiefland, Florida, and is a prime spot for observing manatees in their natural habitat, especially during winter months.

While meandering through the park, you may even catch a glimpse of other Florida wildlife, adding to the overall experience.

Admission to the park gives you access to not only manatee viewing, but picturesque walking trails, picnic areas, and even paddling opportunities. You can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy a day of relaxation and manatee sightings.

Visitors to Manatee Springs State Park often praise the friendly staff, well-maintained facilities, and unspoiled beauty of this manatee hotspot.

12. Manatee Lagoon

Located in West Palm Beach, Manatee Lagoon is an eco-discovery center. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm, this center offers free admission, making it a great choice for families and nature enthusiasts alike.

Here, you can immerse yourself in the interactive exhibits and learn about the importance of preserving these wonderful creatures.

One TripAdvisor reviewer mentioned how the lagoon offers a peaceful and educational experience while observing the manatees. Keep in mind that the best time for spotting manatees is during the winter months.

Offering a combination of education, fun, and nature, Manatee Lagoon also features a two-level observation deck that allows you to watch manatees frolicking in close proximity.

13. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, you’ll find an enchanting spot to see manatees. This beautiful park is located at 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL 34606.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
File:Manatees in Weeki Wachee River.JPG” by Fredlyfish4 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, the admission fees are $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12, while kids 5 and under enter for free.

This magical place offers clear kayak ecotours during the manatee season (November 14th to March 31st), allowing you to have an up-close encounter with these gentle sea cows.

The crystal-clear waters offer exceptional visibility, enhancing your experience for marvelous manatee sightings.

Aside from manatee encounters, Weeki Wachee Springs is also known for its enchanting mermaid shows and other natural attractions. One TripAdvisor user described their visit as a “magical experience” and said they “enjoyed every minute” of it.

14. Silver Springs State Park, Ocala

Located in Ocala, Silver Springs State Park is a magical destination invites you to immerse yourself in nature’s allure.

Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park, Ocala Florida (49633591881)” by Calmuziclover is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The park is open year-round, with an admission fee of $2 per person. Manatee sighting is a popular activity, as Silver Springs offers a unique blend of natural settings and ease of access to these gentle giants.

One TripAdvisor user shares their experience

Can’t beat this location for kayaking to see the most wildlife and scenery. Everything from manatees, alligators, monkeys, turtles, fish and almost every bird native to Florida. The wildflowers are a bonus.

In addition to manatee sightings, Silver Springs State Park also boasts Glass Bottom Boat rides for a more immersive experience.

15. Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach

Located in Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key State Park offers a serene environment where you can enjoy kayaking, beachcombing, and encounters with playful manatees.

It’s open every day with tram services running 8 a.m. to sunset, allowing you to witness these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

A popular activity to get up close and personal with manatees is a guided eco tour in the park’s mangrove estuary. Paddling equipment, beach chairs, and umbrellas are available for rent, ensuring your day is both comfortable and adventurous.

Besides that you can also see a diverse array of wildlife, including dolphins, bald eagles, and various bird species.

Don’t miss the Discovery Center, open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., to learn more about the park’s incredible ecosystem.

16. Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Fort White

Next time you’re in Florida, make a point to visit Ichetucknee Springs State Park, located in Fort White, Florida just north of Gainesville for spotting manatees.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Ichetucknee Springs” by Matthew J Harris is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including tubing, swimming, and snorkeling among the crystal-clear waters of the Ichetucknee Springs.

Admission is only $6 per vehicle, making it an affordable and delightful destination to visit. The lush canopy and the spring-fed rivers provide an enchanting backdrop for your manatee-watching adventures.

The inviting blue-green waters of Ichetucknee River also make for an incredible sight to see these gentle mammals in their natural habitat.

A visitor’s review on TripAdvisor shared that they saw a manatee swimming close to the surface and were mesmerized by its grace and beauty.

17. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville

Are you looking to spot manatees in Florida? Consider visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island Marsh” by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The refuge is home to more than just manatees. With seven distinct habitats, over 500 species of wildlife, and more than 1,000 plant species, it’s a haven for nature enthusiasts. Get ready to be awed by the breathtaking beauty all around you.

Plus, the Manatee Observation Deck allows you to get an up-close view of these remarkable creatures in their tranquil surroundings.

There’s no admission fee to enjoy the beauty of the refuge! It’s open from 12:00 AM till 11:59 PM, so you have ample time to explore and observe.

Some visitors have shared their amazing experiences spotting manatees, birds, and other wildlife.

18. Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers

Whether you’re visiting with your family or simply seeking an enchanting encounter with the mesmerizing manatees, Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers is a destination that won’t disappoint.

Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset, this park allows you to observe manatees in their natural habitat, mainly from the viewing areas and guided kayak tours.

One TripAdvisor user highly recommends it as an ideal spot for manatee watching,

We saw tons of manatees! The park is lovely and rentals were easy. We just rented kayaks on our own. The manatees were right there at the boat launch.

In addition to manatees, there’s plenty to do and see within the park, such as picnicking, bird-watching, and exploring the butterfly garden.

19. Round Island Riverside Park

Next on our must-visit places for manatees spotting is Round Island Riverside Park, located in Vero Beach.

With easy access to both the Indian Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean, this popular destination is open daily from 7:00 am to sunset.

Manatee enthusiasts love visiting this park due to its 400-foot observation boardwalk. Jump on a kayak or canoe and glide through the pristine waters to see these gentle giants up close.

One TripAdvisor user even called it “the BEST place in Vero Beach to see the manatees.” Best of all, there’s no admission fee, making it a budget-friendly option for your manatee adventure.

20. Chassahowitzka River, Homosassa

The Chassahowitzka River, affectionately known as “The Chaz,” is located near Orlando and Tampa, and is remarkable spot to observe manatees for both locals and tourists.

While visiting The Chaz, you can explore the area by kayak or canoe, which increases your chances of spotting these gentle marine mammals. The Chassahowitzka River Campground offers kayak rentals and access to the boat ramp.

Here are tips for the best manatee-spotting at Chassahowitzka River:

  • Aim for an early morning visit, as manatees are most active then.
  • The ideal time to see them is between November and March, when they flock to warm waters.
  • Patience is crucial to spot these slow-moving, gentle giants.

One TripAdvisor user mentioned they had a fantastic experience with manatee sightings and even spotted some playful otters.

21. Mullett Lake Park, Geneva

At Mullett Lake Park in Geneva, you’ll find a cozy spot to spot manatees while enjoying the outdoors.

Open daily from 8:00 AM to dusk, this park offers you the opportunity to experience nature at its finest for free.

In addition to manatee viewing, you can indulge in other activities like fishing and boating, making it an ideal destination for a day of relaxation.

Manatees visit Mullett Lake Park because of its quiet and peaceful environment, allowing you to observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat up close.

22. TECO Manatee Viewing Center

Located in Apollo Beach, TECO Manatee Viewing Center is a unique spot to witness Florida’s beloved manatees in their natural habitat.

The warm waters released by the Tampa Electric power station attract numerous manatees during the winter months, making it an ideal viewing location.

Admission is free, and the center is open from November 1st through April 15th, perfect for planning a winter visit. With various viewing vantage points, you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures as they gather to stay warm.

Why not experience this one-of-a-kind location for yourself? Numerous travelers highly recommend the TECO Manatee Viewing Center as a must-visit destination.

23. Wakulla River Park

Wakulla River Park, located in the heart of Tallahassee, offers a truly mesmerizing experience for manatee enthusiasts. The exceptional Wakulla Springs State Park nearby is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including the beloved manatees.

Wakulla River Park
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (Wakulla, FL)” by systemslibrarian is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

At the park, you’ll be delighted to find crystal clear waters, making it perfect for spotting the gentle sea cows.

Thanks to the unique ecosystem at the park, manatees can be easily seen throughout the year, especially during the summer months.

Visitors love this park, as seen in TripAdvisor reviews, commending its accessibility and serene atmosphere.

24. Fort Myers’ Manatee Park, Fort Myers

With affordable admission fees and easy accessibility, Fort Myers’ Manatee Park is definitely a must-visit destination for anyone looking to have an up-close and personal encounter with these unique creatures.

Fort Myers' Manatee Park
Manatee Park” by runarut is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Located in Fort Myers, Manatee Park is is a non-captive environment that offers a nice array of amenities such as viewing areas, picnic shelters, native plant and butterfly gardens, and kayak/canoe rentals.

You’ll have the chance to paddle through the tranquil waters of the Orange River alongside the manatees. Don’t miss out on their live webcam for a peek at these incredible creatures.

A TripAdvisor reviewer highly recommends visiting between December and February, when the manatees usually make their way to the park.

25. Fanning Springs State Park, Fanning Springs

Another perfect spot for manatee sightings is Fanning Springs State Park, located near Gainesville. Open every day from 8 a.m. until sundown, the park charges an admission fee of $6 per vehicle.

Fanning Springs State Park
Fanning Springs State Park (Levy County, FL)” by systemslibrarian is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

The crystal-clear waters of Fanning Springs are home to an abundance of manatees and offer a serene setting to appreciate these gentle creatures. A TripAdvisor user praises the park as a “peaceful place to stay.”

While you’re at the park, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the beautiful boardwalks and nature trails surrounding the spring.

As a bonus, Fanning Springs is just 13 miles north of another manatee hotspot, Manatee Springs State Park.

Whether you’re an avid manatee fan or simply looking for a tranquil escape, Fanning Springs State Park is a must-visit destination in Florida.

26. Little Manatee River State Park, Wimauma

With its diverse range of ecosystems, including the namesake river, Little Manatee River State Park is a prime location for nature lovers. The park opens from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and the admission fee is $5 per vehicle.

Little Manatee River State Park
Little Manatee River SP river01” by Ebyabe is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Take a leisurely stroll along the 2.9-mile loop trail that gently hugs the river, keeping your eyes peeled for manatees swimming or resting in the water. The calm atmosphere of the park and well-maintained trails make it an enjoyable experience for you and your family.

With amenities such as kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, Little Manatee River State Park provides more than just the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants.

It’s also perfect for spending a day immersed in nature’s beauty. As one TripAdvisor user mentioned, the park has “lots of walking/hiking trails.”

27. Lee County Manatee Park

Visiting Lee County Manatee Park for a splendid day of manatee spotting is a must! Nestled in Fort Myers, this park is well-known for its manatee viewing area.

At Lee County Manatee Park, you’ll be delighted by the serene atmosphere and the easy-to-navigate paths. Plus, there’s no entrance fee!

A TripAdvisor user even praises how “it’s one of the best places in Florida to view manatees up close.”

Visitors can enjoy guided walks, kayak rentals, and educational exhibits, making it a fun experience for everyone. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera for capturing unforgettable memories with these gentle giants.

So, plan your trip to Lee County Manatee Park and immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Florida manatees!

28. De Leon Springs State Park, De Leon Springs

At De Leon Springs State Park, you’ll find a fantastic spot to observe manatees.

De Leon Springs State Park
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park” by systemslibrarian is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo may have been modified, resized, or cropped from original.

Located in De Leon Springs, Florida, this park offers swimming, paddling, and a boat tour for a fun family day trip. Open daily from 8 AM to sunset, the park charges $4-$6 per vehicle as an entrance fee.

The park’s clear waters provide an excellent opportunity to view manatees up close.

One TripAdvisor user states,

We walked the trails, saw manatees, enjoyed the dip in the spring water and the price was just right for us limited budget retired people! Amazing to read the history & facts about this spring.

Don’t forget to explore the nature trails that surround the park – you might just spot other fascinating wildlife!

29. St. Johns River, various locations

St. Johns River, a north-flowing river, offers a fantastic opportunity for you to spot manatees at various locations.

St. Johns River

Cruising along its 310-mile length, you’ll immerse yourself in the beauty of Florida’s nature and wildlife.

Mornings and evenings are ideal for manatee watching, as these gentle giants come to the surface.

One of the best spots is Blue Spring State Park, where a TripAdvisor user praises the up-close encounters. The park offers a boat tour for an unforgettable experience.

Manatees also frequent Castaways on the River, where renting a boat is a breeze for your personal viewing adventure. Remember, while enjoying these curious creatures, always be respectful and maintain a safe distance.

30. Riviera Beach, near West Palm Beach

Riviera Beach is your go-to location for manatee adventures near West Palm Beach.

One of the top locations near West Palm Beach is the Manatee Lagoon where you can learn about these amazing creatures and observe them in their natural habitat.

The Manatee Lagoon offers FREE admission and parking, making it an affordable and accessible destination for folks who want to spot manatees.

Your chances of encountering these sea cows are even higher during manatee season, which runs from November 15th to March 31st.

Not far from Manatee Lagoon lies Phil Foster Park, a well-known spot for snorkeling and swimming with marine life. Don’t forget to check out the Blue Heron Bridge, as many visitors have reported spotting manatees in this area too.

Manatee-Safe Boating and Viewing Tips

When planning your adventure to see manatees in Florida, it’s important to follow some guidelines to ensure a safe and respectful experience for both you and the manatees.

One thing to keep in mind is to use passive observation techniques, allowing the manatees to approach you instead of chasing them.

For a great manatee viewing, remember to boat slowly in manatee zones and keep noise down, and always give manatees at least 50 feet of space without touching or feeding them.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy a memorable and responsible manatee viewing experience.

30 Best Places in Florida to Spot Manatees: A Recap

Florida is a paradise for manatee lovers, offering numerous spots where you can observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

From the crystal-clear waters of Blue Spring State Park to the serene bayous of Tarpon Springs, you’re sure to find a spot that captivates you.

You’ll discover that these magnificent animals inspire curiosity and admiration..

As you plan your excursions, remember to respect the manatees’ natural environment and observe from a safe distance.

While it might be tempting to get close or even touch these incredible creatures, remember that they are protected under the law and any interaction could cause harm.

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