7 Florida Springs To See Manatees During Peak Season & A Secret Spot To Swim With Them
Manatee season starts November-April.
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 season for observing these "gentle giants" has officially begun starting in November and going until April. This means they migrate to freshwater areas that stay at a constant temperature as warmth is needed for a manatee's survival.
They head toward larger Florida waters around April-October because of the warmer ocean water temperatures in the hotter months.
So, since it's peak timing for you to spot them, we found the top sighting areas you can travel to.*
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.
*This article has been updated since it was originally published on April 6, 2022.
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