Travelers from around the globe travel to Florida with a desire to see the Manatees. Viewing and even swimming with these gentle giants is a bucket-list item that’s easy to fill here in Manatee County. Here are our favorite manatee experiences, plus a few fun facts to increase your viewing pleasure. 

View the Manatees

The Manatee Viewing Center is located thirty minutes north in Apollo Beach. Long boardwalks following an artificial jetty hold warm water filtered by the electrical plant across the way. You’ll see manatees lazily relaxing in these waters from December through March while they await warmer temperatures. Manatees can’t survive in water below sixty degrees.  Rather than traveling south, they respite near the local electrical plant which pumps out water close to one hundred degrees. 

Manatees are not the only ones you’ll find taking advantage of the opportunity. We’ve seen schools of BIG jacks, tarpon, Cobia, shark, and even Goliath grouper enjoying this tropical paradise. And the best part is, it’s free! Be sure to wear your walking shoes if you desire to venture the mile-long walk to the viewing tower at the other end of the parking lot. There are bathrooms, picnic tables, a playground for little ones, and a souvenir shop for those interested in remembering the day long after the sun has set. 

Swim with the Manatees

They say manatees inspired mermaid legends.  If you ever desired to harness your inner mermaid, this may be your chance! Under two hours north of here, you can hop in the water and see these gentle sea creatures up close and personal. Crystal River and Homosassa Springs offer swimming ventures where you can snorkel or noodle around with resident manatees for as little as $65.

Manatees are a signature species of a healthy ecosystem and you’ll find them all over our bay in the warmest parts of the year. Seaweed and grasses are their primary food source so they can be found in surprisingly shallow waters. They are strict vegetarians with zero predators, so they are docile and consistently curious. If the size of these 1,000-pound animals makes your heart flutter, don’t worry. They only travel about five miles per hour on average. 

Kayak with the Manatees

If you want to get up close and personal without actually getting IN the water, then this is your venture. Our very own on-site Captain from provides manatee viewings by request. From our resident manatees here in Terra Ceia Bay to nearby waters, Captain Erik and his team are fond of these “sea cows” and are happy to put fishing on hold to share the experience. provides Hobie® pedal-driven tandem kayaks. With a guide on board, you can keep your eyes on the prize and your hands on the camera. These boats are self-bailing, child/senior-friendly, and comfortable, so there’s no need to worry about your kayak experience or strength. If you never thought you’d kayak in the first place, or again, this may check two items off your bucket list! 

Whether you visit us for a day, a week, a month, or an entire year you’re sure to find plenty to do nearby. Check out our posts on dog beachesfishing spotscharterstreasure hunting, and more. We look forward to seeing you and hearing about your adventures soon! 

Photo credits: Loving Nature by Judy Rogero, @TGS, and 


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