Manatees are the official marine mammal of Florida! Seeing one of these creatures in the wild is truly spectacular. I vividly remember seeing three in a little cove by the beach one Spring Break with my dad. We stood there in awe as they floated by, coming up for air only once. Living in the sunshine state affords us the opportunity for some unique wildlife, like manatees and alligators. So whether you’ve been here for years, or if you are visiting our state on vacation, I’ve rounded up a list of about 50 places to see manatees within driving through Central Florida.

Lesly Derksen via Unsplash image of manatees in water from above
Lesly Derksen via Unsplash

If you are headed to any of the wild locations, please note the time of the year that manatees are best seen in these places as it will differ from place to place. Also, remember that you are never guaranteed to see one in the wild. Wear polarizing sunglasses to help you see into the water as they can make a huge difference in understanding what lays below the water surface.

Safety measures to keep in mind

Please follow Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission guidelines if you do see a manatee in the wild. Manatees are protected animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill these majestic animals. Also remember, these are wild, unpredictable animals that will defend themselves and their young if they feel threatened. The highlights of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s guidelines are as follows:
  • Do NOT touch a wild manatee with hands, paddles, oars, sticks etc.
  • Avoid excessive noise or movement if you are in the waterway with them (kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling or swimming)
  • Do NOT chase or follow them
  • If you are in the water with them, give them plenty of space to move. If your actions begin to isolate one member from a larger group, you’re putting yourself at risk as the manatees may view your behavior as aggressive.
    • Never attempt to separate a baby manatee from it’s mama!

In the wild

Three Sisters Springs

πŸ“ 917 Three Sisters Springs Trail, Crystal River, FL

πŸ’΅ $7.50 – 20 per person

Best chance to see manatees in Three Sisters Springs is in the cold months! Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Volunteers offer guided tours of the springs and visitors can also experience a plethora of wildlife, biking and hiking in the area. Take a walk on the boardwalk for a good view of the manatees.

Blue Spring State Park

πŸ“ 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, FL

πŸ’΅ $6 per vehicle

Blue Spring State Park is one of the largest gathering sites in winter months for the Florida manatee. Over 700 were spotted in the spring in 2023. The boardwalk provides a safe space for visitors to observe the manatees without disturbing them.

Hunter Springs Park

πŸ“ 18 NE 2nd St., Crystal River, FL

πŸ’΅ pay to park only

The park’s small beach area has swimming area, kayak and canoe launch, and boardwalk for guests to enjoy. Manatees are known to be spotted off the boardwalk and swimming by, especially in the colder months.

Weeki Wachee Springs

πŸ“ 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL

πŸ’΅ $13 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 12

The best way to see manatees here is to rent a kayak and explore the stream. Visitors can see Weeki Wachee River manatees from Rogers Park. Visit Weeki Wachee Springs for paddle boarding and kayaking. You can also see the mermaids of Weeki Wachee perform!

Canaveral National Seashore

πŸ“ Along Florida’s East coast in both Volusia & Brevard counties

** To access Apollo Beach – take I-95 to exit 249, then go east until it turns into A1A. Follow A1A south to the park entrance. To access Playalinda Beach – take I-95 to exit 220. Go east through Titusville on Garden Street, continue east and follow the signs. **

πŸ’΅ $20 per vehicle – good for 7 days

πŸ’΅ $10 per person walk in/bike – good for 7 days

Manatees can be found on the west side of Mosquito Lagoon, along the intercostal Waterway. Manatees typically leave the lagoon in colder months. Look for them at the Apollo District Visitor Center dock and the Haulover Canal manatee overlook along State Road 3 in warmer months (March – November).

TECO Manatee Viewing Center β€” Tampa

πŸ“ 6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach, FL

πŸ’΅ Free parking and admission

The Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach provides consistent warm warm that attracts the manatees in cold months. From you home you can access Webcam East and WebcamΒ West to see what the manatees are up to.

Manatee Springs State Park

πŸ“ 11650 NW 115th St, Chiefland, FL

πŸ’΅ $6 per vehicle

This state park has an 800 foot boardwalk perfect for manatee viewing – however, as of January 8, 2024 the boardwalk is closed for maintenance. Please check their website before going!

Silver Springs State Park

πŸ“ 1425 N.E. 58th Ave., Ocala, FL

πŸ’΅ $8 per vehicle

Go exploring in glass bottom boat or rent a kayak, canoe or paddle board for the day to enjoy the crystal clear water of this spring.

Silver Glen Springs

πŸ“ 5271 N Highway 19, Fort McCoy, FL

πŸ’΅ $12 per person daily

Swimming with the manatees is a popular activity at Silver Glen because of the clear water and popularity of the springs with manatees. Please keep in mind safety measures and NEVER touch a wild manatee.

Salt Springs

πŸ“ 13851 N Highway 19, Salt Springs, FL

πŸ’΅ $10 per vehicle

A popular place inside Ocala National Forest to spot migrating manatees November through February. Sign up for a kayak manatee tour that is available to the whole family and a great way to spot a manatee in the wild! Group Tour Cost is $65/person and kids 5 – 15 must be in a tandem kayak with an adult.

Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park

πŸ“ 6656 S Atlantic Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL

πŸ’΅ Free

The river that runs around the park is a great spot to see a manatee or two in the wild! They’re most popularly seen in the cove across from the oceanfront park. There is a spot to rent kayaks (859 Pompano Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL) not far from the park with easy access. The park is about 20 minutes from downtown New Smyrna Beach and an easy day trip for a Central Florida family.

Chassahowitzka River

πŸ“ 1502 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, FL

This site is great for kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, or scuba diving to swim with the manatees. Winter months are best for spotting manatees here.

Parks off the Indian River

Indian River Lagoon Scenic Byway

Many Florida manatees live in the byway year round and is home to about 1/3 of the US population of manatees.

Indian River Lagoon

πŸ“ Off U.S. Highway A1A, Indian River, FL

πŸ’΅ Free

This site is still open, however it is going through extensive restoration to remove invasive species and to reintroduce wildlife. Please consult the site’s webpage before heading out! Scientists are cautiously optimistic that their efforts to improve conditions at the lagoon as working.

Bairs Cove

πŸ“ End of Bairs Cove Rd, Mims, FL

A great place to see manatees year round. This is a cove off of Haulover Canal.

Ballard Park

πŸ“924 Thomas Barbour Dr, Melbourne, FL

Another large park with plenty of shoreline for great manatee and dolphin viewing.

Banana River Park

πŸ“901 Puerto Del Rio Dr, Cape Canaveral, FL

A large park with a place for a kayak launch! Be on the lookout for manatees in the water!

Castaway Point Park

πŸ“ 2990 Bay Blvd NE, Palm Bay, FL

Manatees frequent the waters of the park on their way to Turkey Creek.

Crane Creek Promenade

πŸ“990 E Melbourne Ave, Melbourne, FL

Right in the middle of the main Downtown of Melbourne, check out the boardwalk as it is a popular place to spot a manatee.

Desoto Field

πŸ“499 Desoto Pkwy, Satellite Beach, FL

The small canals of Satellite Beach give shelter for manatees in cool Florida months. A great spot for viewing manatees in those cold, winter months!

Douglas Park

πŸ“100 Riverside Pl S, Indialantic, FL

The bridge at this park is a great spot for manatee viewing. Dolphins are also known to frequent the area. Also, here you can visit oyster reef restoration and native plant garden.

Goode Park

πŸ“1300 Bianca Dr NE, Palm Bay, FL

Another park with a pier great for viewing sea life year round.

IRL Preserve Trailhead

πŸ“500 Old Florida Trail, Melbourne Beach, FL

The shallow waters here may have manatees in warm months. A great spot to go hiking through the mangroves on the way to a beautiful lagoon.

KARS Park

πŸ“Audobon Rd, Merritt Island, FL

This small boat ramp cove is another great spot to look for a manatee. Because of the ‘No Motor Zone’ in the area it’s a great place for paddle craft for fishing or wildlife viewing.

Kelly Park

πŸ“2455 N Banana River Dr, Merritt Island, FL

A public park with plenty of shoreline to watch for wildlife, specifically the boat ramp cove.

Kennedy Point Park

πŸ“4749 S Washington Ave, Titusville, FL

Head to the protected boat ramp cove to see manatees. This is a great spot to watch rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center too!

Kiwanis Island Park

πŸ“951 Kiwanis Island Park Rd, Merritt Island, FL

Be on the look out for manatees and dolphins here swimming in Sykes Creek.

Kiwanis Park at Geiger Point

πŸ“1313 Melbourne Causeway, Melbourne, FL

There is a great overlook here of the Indian River Lagoon that makes for good, year round viewing possibilities.

Long Point Park

πŸ“700 Long Point Rd, Melbourne Beach, FL

Access to Indian River Lagoon here. Head to Scout Island Bridge to watch for manatees or watch the water while hiking. The park is also a campground, so you could rent a site and stay for a night or two.

Manatee Cove Park

πŸ“4905 N Tropical Trail, Merritt Island, FL

Access roads at the park’s entrance will lead you to a little lagoon that is often a great spot for seeing manatees. Other amenities at the park include natural trail, playground, benches, picnic tables, grill and equestrian facility.

Manatee Sanctuary Park

πŸ“701 Thurm Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL

In warmer months, manatees are less likely to be here because of the water temperature, so plan on visiting February – November at this location.

Manatee Observation Deck at Haulover Canal in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

πŸ“ Courtenay Pkwy N, Mims, FL

Haulover canal connects Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon and the observation deck here is a great place to observe manatees in the water.

Melbourne Beach Pier/Ryckman Park

πŸ“509 Ocean Ave, Melbourne Beach, FL

The shallow water here has been known to be a migration place for manatees in warmer months. This park is also a great place for some fishing.

Oars and Paddles Park

πŸ“1329 Banana River Dr, Indian Harbour Beach, FL

Manatees have been spotted here year round. This park is full of amenities like a floating launch dock, picnic tables, restrooms, parking, and playground.

Osteen Park

πŸ“425 S Tropical Trail, Merritt Island, FL

This riverfront park has a paved walkway, sheltered fishing pier and gorgeous views of the Indian River.

Parrish Park

πŸ“1 A. Max Brewer Memorial Pkwy, Titusville, FL

The park provides access to the Indian River Lagoon and has pavilions as well as kayaks for rent. Again, please check the website for more information because of the ongoing restoration efforts at Indian River Lagoon.

Pollak Park

πŸ“141 Main St NE, Palm Bay, FL

Another spot along Turkey Creek that manatees are known to visit.

Ramp Road Park

πŸ“401 Ramp Rd, Cocoa Beach, FL

A great spot to launch a kayak and head into the mangroves in search of a manatee.

Sebastian Inlet State Park Tidepool

πŸ“9700 S Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach, FL

Manatees come to the Sebastian tide pool to escape strong currents in other waters. Plenty of wildlife and sea life to see if there are no manatees around too!

Sebastian River North Prong Observation Area

πŸ“1000 Buffer Preserve Dr, Fellsmere, FL

Here water from C-54 Canal mixes with water from Sebastian River and provides some great viewing locations for manatees.

Shoreside Park

πŸ“5010 N Harbor City Blvd, Palm Shores, FL

Head out onto the pier for a chance to see a manatee in the shallow water here spring through fall.

Turkey Creek Sanctuary

πŸ“1518 Port Malabar Blvd NE, Palm Bay, FL

The sanctuary has plenty of overlook locations of Turkey Creek that offer great chances of seeing a variety of sea life.

Watts Park

πŸ“695 Needle Blvd, Merritt Island, FL

Another place great for manatee viewing in the colder months!

**Florida manatees come up to breathe about every four minutes when resting and as little as every 30 seconds when very active – so if you do not see one, be patient!**

Rehabilitation/Rescue Facilities

Crystal River National Wildlife Rescue

πŸ“ 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL

It is the only national wildlife refuge in the United States specifically for the Florida manatee. Visit the visitor’s center (located on Kings Bay) to have staff answer any of your questions or explore the area to enjoy boating/paddling, fishing, tours and wildlife viewing. Three Sisters Springs is a part of CRNWR.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park – Rehabilitation Center

πŸ“ 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL

πŸ’΅ Adults (age 13+), $13; children ages 6-12, $5; children 5 and under admittedΒ free.

Theme Park Locations

EPCOT

πŸ“ World Nature, The Seas with Nemo and Friends

SeaBase is home to injured manatees that cannot survive in the wild, but the goal of their stay with Disney is always to release they back. Visitors can see manatees from the surface while they swim or from the observation glass below that allows for views underwater of these amazing creatures. Cast members will host presentations about manatees and educate about how our actions impact their habitats.

SeaWorld Rescue Orlando

πŸ“ Rescue Center, SeaWorld Orlando

Guests can see into the rehabilitation efforts of SeaWorld on various wild animals, manatees included as part of their park entrance fee or participate in a guided, behind the scenes tour.

 

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