Nicknamed sea cows, manatees are hefty, slow-moving creatures and one of Florida’s most famous residents. A truly fascinating sight, these chunky fellows are known to reside in the springs and canals of America’s Sunshine State.
Now that I’ve piqued your interest, you’re probably wondering ‘when can I see manatees in Florida?’ Well, the winter months, particularly between December and February, are prime time, along with being some of the best months to visit Florida full stop.
Manatees flock over in their hundreds during this period. Early risers, to stand the best chance of seeing them, try to be by the water in the early morning, between 6 am and 8.30 am.
A highlight for tourists, you might now want to know where to see manatees in Florida. In this post, I will tell you all you need to know to stand the best chance of seeing these fascinating creatures.
1. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Park Refuge
One of the best places to see manatees in Florida is Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Park Refuge. This popular spring is known to be brimming with these remarkable creatures, particularly during the winter months when it houses hundreds of them as the largest winter refuge for manatees on the gulf coast.
As you might have guessed, Three Sister Springs comprises three idyllic springs. An enchanting setting, you’ll really enjoy sticking to spotting the wildlife from the boardwalk.
However, if you’re wanting to tick off kayaking with manatees in Florida from your bucket list, you can also jump into a transparent kayak and cruise along from there.
Three Sisters Springs is also the only place where you can go swimming with manatees in Florida. Coming face-to-face with these remarkable creatures is a truly unique experience that no one should miss out on when visiting the Sunshine State.
2. Blue Spring State Park, Orange County
Sprawling over 2,600 acres, Blue Springs State Park in Orange County is another prime location to see the manatees in Florida. The area is a manatee refuge where you can see over 600 of them between mid-November and March.
Stroll along the boardwalk beside the Blue Spring Run and get a fascinating insight into the creatures going about their day-to-day routine. You will also find plenty of naturalists and volunteers who will be able to answer your every query and provide spectacular commentary during your visit.
3. Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers Beach
The warm protected waters of Lee County Manatee Park are excellent places for seeing manatees in Florida, as the water temperature tends to be slightly higher here due to the proximity of the Florida Power and Light plant.
This location has its negatives, as the water also tends to be slightly less clear at Lee County Manatee Park than in some of the other areas on the list. Yet, there are a whole load of viewing points from which you’re sure to get a good look at the manatees. Plus, you can visit free of charge!
This is also a fabulous place to go for those dreaming of kayaking with manatees in Florida. Float alongside these gentle giants as you paddle through the warm water. Rental options are available for those who haven’t quite been able to fit the kayak in their suitcase.
4. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville
Perched along the east coast, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see manatees in Florida. Owned by no other than NASA, this out-of-this-world park offers the opportunity to see these chunky fellows.
With chances to see manatees all year round, you can stop kicking yourself if you’ve already planned a visit during the summer months. Informative signs will quickly get you up to speed on plenty of useful facts while you stand on the viewing platforms and observation areas, mesmerised by the manatees.
As if sea cows aren’t exciting enough, the rich wildlife scene in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge includes plenty of other fascinating creatures, including bobcats, alligators and dolphins.
5. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Another fine spot for kayaking with manatees in Florida, Weeki Wachee also offers opportunities for you to catch sight of these spectacular creatures all throughout the year. They cannot resist the variety of food available in the park, meaning that they tend to stay put here even during the atypical months of the year.
Of course, winter is still the best time to see manatees in Florida, as there are simply more of them about during this time. Yet, you still stand a chance during other months. As Weeki Wachee Springs State extends 538 acres, you can kayak under canopies of cypress and oak trees while greeting the manatees.
On top of being in what many say is the best place in Florida to see manatees, you will also be able to catch an underwater mermaid show, which is great for visitors with children!
6. Flamingo Visitor Center, Everglades National Park
Suppose you’re still wondering where to see manatees in Florida. Why not pay a visit to the Flamingo Visitor Center in one of the best national parks in Florida, Everglades National Park? As the name suggests, it’s not just manatees that you’ll be seeing in this marina.
Prepare to see crocodiles, dolphins and lots of different species of birds in a wonderful display of nature’s finest creatures. Of course, the marina is also blessed with a high concentration of manatees.
Commonly seen sunning themselves on the dock, you could easily spend hours watching these fascinating creatures go about their daily life. Known to be social, they might even be plucky enough to say hello.
Now that you’re clued up on where to see manatees in Florida, I’m sure you’re raring to get over to the Sunshine State to get an up-close look at these glorious creatures.
If you’re looking for other things to get up to during your visit, do feel free to check out my Florida Travel Guide where you will find all of my tips and tricks for visiting this gorgeous part of the world.