Wondering where you can see manatees in Florida? You are not alone. There are many people who want to catch an in-person glimpse of these awesome animals. And luckily, there are numerous places you can see manatees in Florida.
Manatees, by the way, are herbivorous mammals. Florida manatees are native to the state. While they can live to be around 65 years old, about half of them only live into their 20's. This is because many are killed and injured by boaters each year, and some succumb to the cold or other conditions. They are gentle giants who are around 1,200 pounds fully grown.
Manatees like warm weather, so when the winter arrives they start moving into areas where the water is warmer. This means that some places, such as springs, may be opened during the summer time, yet are closed during the winter months. This is because manatees seek refuge in them during the colder months. Florida springs hover around 72 degrees all year long (give or take a few degrees), making them attractive to manatees during the winter months. You can read additional information I have written about manatees here.
Where to find manatees in Florida:
Blue Spring State Park
This is the place closest to where I live and have taken my kids there every year to see the manatees. If you arrive on a cold winter morning you will get a chance to see many of them huddled into the spring area. I've been there when there are 300-400 in a day that are in the spring. Arrive early and the colder the morning the better opportunity you will have. By noon, the park fills to capacity and the manatees start moving out to the river to feed. There is a manatee festival held in Orange City each winter as well. There is a small per car fee for entrance into the park. The park is located at 2100 W. French Rd in Orange City.
Near Fort Myers
This is a county park where you can see a lot of manatees. When it's cold, they tend to huddle into the canal there to keep warm. When we visited this park there were over 100 of them in the water. Manatee Park is located in the Fort Myers area at 10901 State Road 80. There is a small fee for entrance into the park.
Manatee Sanctuary Park
This is a nice park along the river that has a boardwalk you wonder along to check out any manatee that are in the river. We've been to this park numerous times and we have seen manatee there most of the times we have visited. You don't get as good of a view of them at this park as you do at the two places listed above, but you can still see manatees here in their natural habitat. Manatee Sanctuary Park is located at 701 Thurm Blvd in Cape Canaveral. No entrance fee.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Manatee Observation Deck
Located in the National Wildlife Refuge, the Manatee Observation Deck is at SR 3 at Haulover Canal, you can observe manatees that are swimming in the river at this location. We have been here multiple times and we always see a few manatees in the water. While you are at it, be sure to take a hike or drive to see the other wildlife. There is an entrance fee to the wildlife refuge.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge - View manatees from a boardwalk near Three Sisters Spring. Located at 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr. in Crystal River.
Manatee Lagoon - FPL Eco-Discovery Center - View manatees in the canal from an observation deck. Free entrance. Located at 6000 N Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.
Spring Bayou near Craig and Coburn Parks in Tarpon Springs - When the cold weather moves in, the manatees do as well.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park - During colder months the manatees move in to seek refuge. There is an entrance fee. The park is located at 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd in Homosassa.
Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center - Located at 6990 Dickman Rd in Apollo Beach, there are many manatees that seek refuge in the warm discharge water. There is also a boardwalk, visitor center, and educational information.
This is not an exhaustive list of where you can see manatees in Florida, but it is some of the most popular places to see them in their natural habitat. They be seen from time to time at other springs and in rivers. I've been to Manatee Springs, but I've never seen any manatees there (although I hear they do hang out there, too). The best place in my opinion to see a lot of manatee in their natural habitat is Blue Spring State Park in Orange City. I have seen the most there and it's a beautiful park, well worth exploring. You can see a live video cam of Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees, but it only covers one small area (still fun to check out though).
Want to get involved helping to protect and save Florida manatees? Check out the Save the Manatee Club.