5 Great Places to See Florida Manatees

By: Kevin Mims


Manatees roam the waters of southeast Florida from April through October -- but when things get a bit chilly, they head to places like freshwater springs, where the temperatures remain constant throughout the year.

It may not seem warm when you jump into a freshwater spring, but the water temperatures remain around 70 degrees, which is perfect for manatees who need that kind of warmth to survive.

See manatees in Citrus County – Carol Grant for VisitCitrus.com

Seeing a large number of manatees in one place is an amazing experience, but just remember these gentle sea cows are there for survival. Whether you're on a solo kayaking trip or a manatee swim tour, always mind your "Manatee Manners" -- look, but don't touch.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has produced several videos on interacting with manatees, whether it's by swimming/snorkeling, boating or kayaking. There's even information that's specifically for photographers and videographers.

The videos are embedded at the bottom of this article, so be sure to take a look at those before heading out on your next manatee excursion.

Meet a manatee – Joe Detrick for VisitCitrus.com

Ready to see some manatees? Here are five places to check out:

Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River - If you haven't been to Three Sisters Springs, you're missing out. It's a year-round favorite of mine and in the winter manatees come in huge numbers. Kayak or take a boat tour to the springs. I've counted more than 100 manatees in the area at one time. With a concentration of manatees like this, you can imagine that there's also a large concentration of people. Remember, be respectful and observe from a distance. 

Blue Spring State Park,  Orange City - Blue Spring State Park gets my vote for the best "no boat needed" manatee viewing location. During manatee season, the spring run is closed -- but there are several overlooks and boardwalks along the way. Make a day of exploring the park and watching the manatees. Bring your camera because there are great pictures to be taken and memories to be made.

Florida has plenty of places to see manatees – VisitCitrus.com

TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center is a designated manatee sanctuary to which manatees in large numbers return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station. Viewing platforms, tidal walkways, and an environmental education center are located at this 50-acre facility.

Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers - Located across from Florida Power and Light and directly on the warm water discharge canal, Manatee Park is another wintertime haven where large concentrations of manatees can be seen. Several viewing areas, a butterfly garden, and picnic shelters are available.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville - The Haulover Canal connects Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River, and on the east side of the bridge is a manatee observation area. Viewing platforms, interpretive signs, a boat ramp, and a polarized viewer are located at the observation area.

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I am not from Florida but I have heard a lot about the beautiful places ther and want to see them once.
I would just like to add from experience with going on manatee tours. I would like to recommend private tours and avoid what I would call cattle boats. Fifteen plus passenger vessels are a little cramped. This is by far the best way of viewing manatees. I would just google search private manatee tours and look through the search results. This will give you a list of operators offering private tours. It is a better experience. That's my own opinion. I went with Nature Coast Manatee Tours houseboat tours.
Manatee season in Florida is from October to April, not April to October. Most times you will still see manatees in the area springs before October and after April but generally, we start seeing them in the wild from October to May. That is an important point since the population is quite diminished from April to October as stated in this article.
Hi Mark,
Thanks for reaching out.
You are totally right that manatee season in the springs is during the colder months—but during the summer, in the warmer months, you’re apt to see them in the waters of southwest Florida. Reread the first paragraph; I think you and it are actually saying the same thing.
Sunny regards,
Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
Where can you see or swim with manatees in SW Florida?
Hi Ted,
Thanks for reaching out.
Here are places that you can see Florida manatees, including what you can expect at each place, from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. http://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/where-to-see/
BTW, the only place you can legally swim with manatees is the Crystal River area.
Sunny regards,
Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
We are coming over from England for a 2 week hoilday to Florida in August (kids school holidays). Will it still be possible to see Manatees during this hot time of year and indeed swim with them?
Hi Erica,
Thanks for reaching out.
The colder it is, the more manatees there will be – and as you know, it won’t be cold in August—but there are some manatees that live in Crystal River year round (where you can swim with them). The Three Sisters area is my personal favorite because the water is so clear and shallow.
You’ll absolutely love it; I’ve been out three times.
Sunny regards,
Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA
I will be coming to oyster bay in mid Florida and would like to know about swimming with the manatee,
Wow Manatee are an awesome sea animal. To bad we don't have them here in liverpool.
Are there many Manatees in Crystal River around mid to end of October?
protect our wildlife!
Hi we will be in the Tampa Bay area the first week of January. My family would love to see the Manatee and I'm wondering which of the locations would be the most enjoyable and the closest to Tampa.


where is the power plant where the Manatee's hang out?
Looking forward to seeing as much as I can of the lovely state of Florida !
I would like to know of family lodges,places to stay and close to beach access and snorkeling,boat rentals and children's activities

Reenielin@ gmail.com
Going to Leesburg Fla,where is closest place to the Manatees
Saw lots of manatees on a kayaking tour out of Lido Key (South Lido County Park) near Sarasota a year ago, in June. One or two of the critters kept ramming my grandsonâs kayak, making his day. I know you should keep your distance, but this was a case of curious critters surfacing below and alongside his kayak. This February I will be in the Fort Myers areas and plan on checking out Manatee Park.
i would like to adopt a manatee i want to help and care for them i know i am only 11 years old put i want to make a difference