Want to See Manatees? Here Are 5 Places in Florida for Incredible Views.

Three Sisters Springs. Photo courtesy of threesistersspingsvisitor.org

By Cynthia De Saint

August 26, 2022

These lovable sea cows can be seen grazing along Florida’s grass flats and aquatic meadows at any time of the year. Here are a few places to find them.

Did you know that Florida’s state marine mammal is an aquatic relative of the elephant and can tip the scales at a whopping 1,000-3,500 pounds?

Known as “sea cows,” these playful, gentle giants are the only vegetarian marine mammals. They can be seen grazing along Florida’s grass flats and aquatic meadows at any time of the year, but are more commonly spotted in the winter months. That’s because they are sensitive to cold temperatures and migrate in the winter and early spring to roam the Sunshine State’s warmer waters.

But if you have kids who love manatees, you probably know all this by heart!

What you may want to know is the best places in Florida to spot the fascinating creatures that even inspired tales of mermaids among sailors of yore.

Here are 5 spectacular options for manatee family fun!

Three Sisters Springs

This is not just one of the most famous manatee hot spots in Florida, but in the entire world! And for good reason. With its crystalline blue waters, Three Sisters Springs is the largest winter refuge for manatees on the Gulf Coast.

That’s why the area becomes a designated sanctuary during the winter months, when the manatees can only be seen from the boardwalk circling the one-acre springs complex. But the views are incredible!

During the summer, from April to November, visitors might spot up to 30 manatees. And while there are strict rules on how to interact with the gentle creatures, guests can swim, kayak, and canoe with the manatees on a scheduled tour.

The 57-acre site also features restored wetlands that attract birds and other wildlife.

601 Three Sisters Springs Trail

Crystal River, FL 34429

Blue Spring State Park

Want to See Manatees? Here Are 5 Places in Florida for Incredible Views.
Photo via Kellyv /Flickr

Located north of Orlando in Orange City, and covering more than 2,600 acres, the park becomes a designated manatee refuge during the winter months. From November to March, visitors can see the popular West Indian Manatees at the spring’s overlooks.

While swimming in the water is not allowed during manatee season, guests can walk along the half-mile boardwalk that runs along the Blue Spring Run and watch these playful animals in their element. Children are sure to enjoy the interpretive displays that provide fascinating facts about the wildlife and ecological wonders of the area.

Take note, however, that Blue Spring State Park frequently reaches capacity during the week and on the weekends, during both the winter and summer months. To avoid waiting, you are advised to visit the park early.

2100 W. French Ave.

Orange City, FL 32763

Manatee Springs State Park

Want to See Manatees? Here Are 5 Places in Florida for Incredible Views.
Photo via floridastateparks.org

An hour drive from Gainesville in the city of Chiefland, visitors have been enjoying the cool waters of Manatee Springs for more than 10,000 years! Today, the park’s 800-foot boardwalk runs through a majestic cypress forest overlooking one of Florida’s breathtaking first-magnitude springs.

In the winter, the place is a warm water refuge for manatees, when they travel up the Suwannee River to the springs. Offering a connected run that leads the manatees to these areas, from November to April visitors can find them roaming the zone. Birds, mammals, and fish can be spotted year round.

The park also offers 8.5 miles of nature trails and a safe connection to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail, so you might want to bring your bicycles! It also offers hiking trails and a children’s playground for a family outdoor adventure.

11650 N.W. 115th St. 

Chiefland, FL 32626

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Want to See Manatees? Here Are 5 Places in Florida for Incredible Views.
Photo courtesy Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Located on Florida’s Adventure Coast, this 538-acre park an hour north of Tampa in Spring Hill is one of Florida’s most legendary and unique family destinations. Here you can see live “mermaids,” take a trip on a river boat cruise, learn about Florida wildlife, and swim in the azure waters at Buccaneer Bay, among other fun adventures.

Under a verdant canopy of cypress and oak trees, visitors can float along the waters of the Weeki Wachee River on a kayak or canoe to Hospital Hole, an extinct spring where the endangered West Indies manatees  congregate.

Weeki Wachee is also famous for its underwater mermaid shows, an Old Florida attraction where you watch a live show in a 400-seat submerged theater. The park is also home to Buccaneer Bay, an exciting, kid-friendly flume ride water park.

6131 Commercial Way

Spring Hill, FL 34606

Lee County Manatee Park

Want to See Manatees? Here Are 5 Places in Florida for Incredible Views.
Photo courtesy of Lee County Manatee Park

This protected sanctuary with an observation platform and landscaped park, is an 17-acre oasis for a day of pure outdoor fun. With its clear shallow waters, visitors have plenty of opportunities to observe the animals that from November to March make their way to the park.

Located in Fort Myers, the non-captive natural environment offers a range of guided walks and educational activities that are fun for visitors of all ages, while a beautiful butterfly garden and picnic facilities make this destination ideal for a day trip with the whole family.

10901 Palm Beach Blvd. 

Fort Myers, FL 33905

Here’s How You Can Help Save the Manatee 

Did you know that like other grazing animals, Florida manatees play an important role in influencing plant growth in the shallow rivers, bays, estuaries, canals, and coastal waters they call home?

Sadly, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, manatees have never recovered due to human threats such as boats.

But there are many things you can do to protect them, including symbolically adopting a real manatee! Visit the Save the Manatee Club, founded in 1981 by Bob Graham, former Florida governor and US senator, and singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett, to find out how you can help save these lovable creatures.





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