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The 7 Best Springs To See Cute Manatees In Florida & A Secret Spot To Swim With Them

NOW is the best time to see the "gentle giants" of the ocean.

Florida Associate Editor
A manatee swimming in Florida. Right: A cute manatee in Three Sisters Springs.

A manatee swimming in Florida. Right: A cute manatee in Three Sisters Springs.

Florida is known for its sunny skies and beaches, but it also might be one of the best places in the country to spot oceanic wildlife — more specifically, manatees.

The so-called "gentle giants" of the ocean are most widely seen in the abundance of blue around the months of April to October because of the warmer ocean water temperatures around the state. Outside of their season, they head to freshwater areas where the water stays at a constant temperature, as warmth is needed for a manatee's survival.

Where can we spot these friendly mammals? Well, there's no shortage of waterways, so we found the top sighting areas.

Three Sisters Springs — Crystal River

Price: $7.50 to $20

When: Daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Address: Three Sisters Springs Center, 123 N.W. Hwy. 19 Crystal River, FL

Why You Need To Go: This wildlife sanctuary is home to many manatees from one of Florida's most popular springs. You can even join a kayak tour to get up close.

Website

Homosassa Springs

Price: $5 to $13

When: Daily, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Address: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. Homosassa FL

Why You Need To Go: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to the adorable creatures as well as many other wonderful animals.

Website

Blue Springs

Price: $2 to $6 (depending on type of vehicle)

When: Daily, 8:00 a.m. to sundown

Address: 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, FL

Why You Need To Go: This state park is widely known to have manatee sightings during the season.

Website

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Price: $10 per vehicle, and varying prices for passes

When: Tuesday to Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Address: 1963 Refuge Headquarters Rd., Titusville, FL

Why You Need To Go: You can find manatees here year-round!

Website

Silver Glen Springs

Price: $8 to $11, annual pass also available

When: Daily, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Address: 5301 N. Hwy. 19, Salt Springs, FL

Why You Need To Go: You can swim with the manatees here! It's also a great place to go during the wintertime to see the animals and avoid the crowds of other sighting spots.

Website

Manatee Lagoon

Price: Free

When: Open daily starting November 15 to March 31; closed Mondays during the remainder of the year starting April 1 to November 14

Address: 6000 N. Flagler Dr., West Palm Beach, FL

Why You Need To Go: Manatee Lagoon is a public education center, but you can see a school of manatees over a public viewing area, and it's free.

Website

Wakulla Springs

Price: $6 per vehicle

When: Daily, 8:00 a.m. until sundown

Address: 465 Wakulla Park Dr., Wakulla Springs, FL

Why You Need To Go: It's one of the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs. March through September is the best time for viewing manatees here.

Website

Lover's Key

Price: $8 per vehicle

When: Daily, 8:00 a.m. to sundown

Address: 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL

Why You Need To Go Here: Lover's Key is a romantic destination and manatees love to gather right at the public viewing area by the park entrance.

Website

Manatees at listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. You are also not allowed to touch the manatees if you choose to swim or get close to them under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission guidelines. Be very respectful during your visit to these springs.

Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

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