Where to find manatees or Florida Places Manatees Hang Out
As the winter chill creeps into the Florida air, West Indian manatees, also called Sea Cows, head inland from the Gulf of Mexico to find warmer places to hang out with their friends. Like me, they hate being cold and avoid wintry weather at all costs! Sure you can spot the odd gentle giant in the summer, but it is during the winter months (November to February) when they converge together- hundreds of them, at the warm springs around the state. Now is the time to go manatee spotting (hunting them IS illegal), and you are sure to find more than just one enjoying the Florida’s 72F spring waters. And so with that in mind, we offer you the top 5 places to find a manatee. Be sure to bring a camera!
TOP 5 PLACES TO FIND MANATEES
- Crystal River has just wrapped up its’ annual Manatee Arts Festival, and the sleepy Nature Coast town welcomes a mass of manatees each year. Every year when the temperature dips, the manatees head to the warm water pools of the Three Sisters Spring. Visitors can access the boardwalks of the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge around the Three Sisters via trolley from the Crystal River Visitor Center. 915 N Suncoast Blvd. Crystal River, FL 34429 Adults 13+ $15, Children 6-13 $5, 5 and under free. Senior discount available.
Crystal River, Florida 34429.
- Blue Springs State Park in Orange City touts the largest spring on the St. John’s River. They receive a huge amount of manatees (according to the Save the Manatee Club, over 350 a few days ago!) Nov-March. Now is a good time to go. Weekend numbers of visitors swell due to other manatee-spotters, so try for early morning or on a weekday. Oh yeah, they have a Manatee Cam! How cool is that? Blue Springs State Park can be found at 2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, Florida 32763. $6 per vehicle
- Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa. Tampa Electric Company decided to give back to the local residents and visitors alike by constructing a park, boardwalks and observation tower to view the manatees that flock into the warmer waters of the Tampa Electric’s discharge canal in the winter season. The MVP is located at 6990 Dickman Rd, Apollo Beach, Florida 33572 . Free!.
- Manatee Park in Fort Myers. This 17-acre park in Lee County is a winter refuge for manatees and access point for the 190 mile Great Calusa Blueway paddle trail. You can find Manatee Park at 10901 State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.) Fort Myers, Florida 33905. $5 per day.
- Homosassa Springs State Park in Homosassa. I have to add this to the list, even though technically it is more of a zoo. This is a guaranteed manatee sighting- they have feedings daily and you can view it from the underwater viewing center without having to get wet! Great park for kids too and makes for a nice day out. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located on Hwy 19 at: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. (US 19), Homosassa, Florida 34446. Adults 13+ $13, Children 6-12 $5, 5 and under free.
- Please don’t think that you always have to pay to see these gentle giants. There are plenty of free places, parks like MVP, and waterways where you may spot manatees. Kings Bay in Crystal River is a good place to start, as are the canals and bridges around Crystal River. Manatees are free to come and go as they please. Try the waterways around Weeki Wachee out towards Pine Island (Weeki Wachee River) as well. Remember to respect the manatee, they are a protected species. Do not touch or feed them, also never separate a calf (baby) from its’ mother.
Want to Learn More?
Check out the Save the Manatee Club website here.
You can read about the Adventures of Mom Manatee adventure here.