Top 10 Scenic Spots In Florida For Watching Manatees Up Close

Top 10 Scenic Spots In Florida For Watching Manatees Up Close

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Top Scenic Spots in Florida for Watching Manatees Up Close

Did you know manatees are big, squishy water pillows? Well, not exactly, but they sure look like it! Manatees are gentle giants, often called sea cows. They swim slowly and are very friendly. Florida is a great place to see them in the wild. 

When you watch manatees, it feels like they are welcoming you into their home. These animals are very big, but they are not scary at all. They eat plants from the bottom of rivers and springs where the water is warm. 

People in Florida work hard to make sure manatees are safe and happy. Visiting Florida gives you a chance to see these amazing creatures up close. It’s a special experience you won’t forget. 

Let’s find out where you can see manatees in Florida!

Why is Florida Good for Manatees?

Florida is like a big, warm bathtub for manatees, especially in the winter. The state has lots of rivers and springs with warm water. Manatees love warm water because they get cold easily. This makes Florida perfect for them. They come to places like Crystal River and Blue Spring State Park to stay cozy during the cooler months.

Many people in Florida care a lot about manatees. They work to keep the water clean and safe for them. There are also special rules to make sure boats don’t hurt manatees. These efforts help manatees live longer and stay healthy. Because of this, you can often see manatees swimming happily in Florida’s waters. 

So, if you love big, friendly animals, Florida’s warm waters are the place to be! Let’s look at some of the best spots where you can meet these wonderful sea cows.

Best Places in Florida to See Manatees

Now, let’s talk about where you can see manatees in Florida. There are several special places where these friendly giants like to hang out. Each spot has something unique to offer, from clear viewing areas to fun educational programs. These places are protected so manatees can live safely and happily. 

Get ready to learn about the best places in Florida to meet manatees up close!

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Watching Manatees In Florida

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a special place on Florida’s Space Coast. It started when NASA bought the land. They turned it into a refuge to help many animals, including manatees. This area is full of life. You can see animals like gators, endangered birds, and even dolphins. It’s a year-round home for manatees, giving visitors a unique chance to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Drive through and spot various wildlife.
  • Year-round manatee viewing.
  • Manatee viewing deck on Haulover Canal.

Pro Tip

Visit Bairs Cove Boat Ramp in summer for the best chance to see manatees.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs, just 45 minutes from Tampa, is famous for its sponge fishing industry. But it’s also a cozy winter home for manatees. During the colder months, many manatees gather here, making it a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. Tarpon Springs offers a unique experience as you can paddle alongside these gentle giants in clear kayaks, exploring the natural beauty while observing manatees up close.

What You’ll Find Here

  • A rich history of sponge fishing.
  • A popular winter spot for manatees.
  • Kayak tours during manatee season.

Pro Tip

Book a kayak tour with Get Up and Go Kayaking between November 15th and March 31st to see manatees at their best.

Blue Spring State Park

Watching Manatees In Florida

Blue Spring, nestled in Orange City, FL, becomes a bustling hub for manatees during the colder months. Known for its clear, warm waters, the spring attracts numerous manatees seeking refuge from the chilly ocean temperatures. Visitors can watch these majestic creatures from several boardwalks that offer a clear view of the spring. The park is equipped with a manatee webcam and provides daily counts, making it easier for visitors to know the best time of year to see manatees in Florida.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Multiple boardwalks for viewing.
  • Manatee webcam and daily counts.
  • Best viewing in colder temperatures.

Pro Tip

Check the manatee webcam before your visit to see how many are at the springs. Remember, boardwalk viewing is only available in the winter.

Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs shines as a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, notably at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Known for its diversity of species and clear, inviting waters, the park draws visitors year-round. Alongside manatees, you can spot alligators, bears, and a variety of birds. The park even houses the oldest hippopotamus in captivity. Winter is the best time of year to see manatees in Florida, as manatees flock to the warm waters here to escape the cold ocean.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.
  • Home to diverse wildlife, including manatees.
  • Ideal for winter visits.

Pro Tip

Plan your visit in the winter to see the manatees at their most active in the park’s warm springs.

Silver Springs

Watching Manatees In Florida

Silver Springs is a magical place where manatees glide gracefully through crystal-clear waters. Known for its scenic beauty and rich history, the springs offer a unique kayaking experience with clear kayaks that allow you to see these gentle giants up close. Alongside the manatees, you might even catch a glimpse of wild monkeys swinging from the trees, a unique feature of this location. Your guide will share the intriguing story of how these monkeys came to inhabit this part of Florida, adding an extra layer of wonder to your visit.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Clear kayak tours for up-close manatee viewing.
  • Expert guides with insights into wildlife.
  • Wild monkeys in the surrounding trees.

Pro Tip

Listen closely to your guide’s stories and keep your eyes open—you’ll learn about the springs’ history and might spot monkeys in the trees!

Crystal River

Crystal River

Crystal River holds the title as the number one spot to see manatees in Florida. Famous for its abundant natural springs, including the renowned Three Sisters Springs, this area attracts hundreds of manatees, especially during the winter months. Visitors can explore these springs and their surroundings in 100% clear kayaks, offering an unparalleled view of manatees in their natural habitat. The clear, warm waters make it a year-round home for many manatees, providing spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Home to Three Sisters Springs.
  • Clear kayak tours available.
  • Manatees are visible year-round.

Pro Tip

Winter is the best time to visit for the highest manatee numbers. Book a clear kayak tour to see them up close.

Weeki Wachee

Watching Manatees In Florida

Weeki Wachee is an adventure-filled destination for manatee sightings. Renowned for its clear spring waters, this area provides abundant food and warmth, making it a popular retreat for manatees, especially during the winter. The charming allure of Weeki Wachee is further enhanced by its famous mermaid shows and the chance to explore the waters in clear kayaks. Here, the manatees can be seen frolicking just beneath you, offering a truly intimate wildlife experience.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Manatees present year-round.
  • Best sightings in winter.
  • Clear kayak tours available.

Pro Tip

Visit in winter for the best manatee viewing. Taking a clear kayak tour enhances your chances of seeing manatees up close.

Round Island – Vero Beach

Round Island – Vero Beach

Round Island, located near Vero Beach, is a lesser-known gem where manatees thrive. The area offers abundant food and minimal boat traffic, making it a peaceful sanctuary for these gentle creatures. Visitors can stroll along the boardwalk or take a guided clear kayak tour for a closer look at the manatees. The unique setting of Round Island not only provides safety for manatees but also a wonderful viewing experience for nature lovers.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Quiet area with little boat traffic.
  • Boardwalk and clear kayak tours.
  • Manatees are seen year-round, more in summer.

Pro Tip

Summer brings more manatees to Round Island. Walk the boardwalk or take a kayak tour for close encounters.

The Chaz – Chassahowitzka River

The Chaz – Chassahowitzka River

The Chaz, part of the Chassahowitzka River, is one of the most captivating spots in Florida to encounter manatees. Known for its crystal-clear waters and rich biodiversity, this area offers a breathtaking setting for wildlife viewing. The warm waters flowing from Seven Sisters Springs create an ideal habitat for manatees, particularly during the winter months when they gather here in larger numbers. The Chaz not only provides a sanctuary for manatees but also offers a stunning natural backdrop for visitors.

What You’ll Find Here

  • Clear waters and diverse wildlife.
  • Warm waters from Seven Sisters Springs.
  • Peak manatee sightings in winter.

Pro Tip

Visit during winter for the best chance to see a large number of manatees. Enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of The Chaz.

Best Time of Year to See Manatees in Florida

Winter is the best time to see manatees in Florida. They move to warm waters like springs and rivers when the ocean gets cold. From November to March, you can easily see many manatees. They come close to the surface in warm places like Crystal River and Blue Spring State Park.

  • Best Months: November to March.
  • Where to Go: Warm springs and rivers.
  • Viewing Tips: Manatees are near the surface, easy to spot.

Visit in winter for the best chance to see lots of manatees up close.

Tips for Watching Manatees Safely

Watching manatees is a wonderful experience. Follow these important tips to ensure their safety and yours. Always be respectful and cautious around these gentle creatures to help protect them.

  • Look but Don’t Touch: Keep your distance to avoid stressing the manatees. Touching can harm them and is against the law.
  • Follow Rules: Obey all posted guidelines to protect manatees. These rules are there to ensure the safety of both the animals and the visitors.
  • No Flash Photography: Flash can scare and disturb manatees. Use natural light or non-intrusive photography methods.
  • Stay Quiet: Keep noise levels low to avoid startling them. Manatees are sensitive to loud noises and sudden movements.
  • Use Viewing Areas: Stay in designated spots for safe viewing. These areas are chosen to minimize human impact on manatees.
  • Paddle Slowly: If in a kayak or boat, move slowly to avoid hitting manatees. Fast movements can harm them and damage your boat.
  • Watch for Manatees: Always check below your boat to prevent accidents. Manatees often swim just below the surface and can be hard to spot.

Final Thoughts

Remember, some of the best places to see manatees in Florida are Crystal River, Blue Spring State Park, and Homosassa Springs. The best time to visit is in the winter, from November to March. When you go, visit carefully and enjoy watching these gentle giants in their natural habitat. 

Want to help keep manatees safe? Join groups that work to protect them. You can also donate money or volunteer your time. Every bit helps to ensure manatees continue to thrive in Florida’s waters. Enjoy your visit and help protect these amazing creatures!

Julia
Julia

Greetings from Discover Outdoors, where each step we take is part of a wider journey towards immersive nature exploration and eco-tourism. I'm Julia, and I'm eager to lead you on this sustainable adventure.

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