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Best Places to See Manatees Near Clearwater Florida

Updated: Oct 31


Looking for Manatees Near Clearwater Florida, you've found the right place.


manatee near clearwater
Photo Credit: cmaquarium.org

Seeing a manatee in its natural home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thousands of tourists troop in to see these beautiful sea creatures annually, and they go by many names, influenced mainly by their large size. While some refer to them as sea cows, some prefer to call them gentle giants because of their soft, docile nature.


As Florida's gentle giants, these wrinkled, leathery beasts can weigh between 1,000 and 3,500 pounds. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, adult manatees can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh over 3,000 pounds as adults.


Manatees have two flippers on their forelimbs, which they use for swimming and grasping plants during feeding. They are commonly spotted eating on grass flats and watery meadows in Florida.


As a native animal, the manatee is found in many of the rivers of the state of Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, about 7,520 of these animals are spread across the rivers and lakes in the state.


The Winter months from November through March are the best time of year to see these adorable critters in Florida's waterways. Around this time, Manatees move to Florida because they are sensitive to chilly temperatures and the waters in Florida are warm during these times.

Even though manatees are spread across Florida’s waterways, they are not everywhere. That is why we have written this article to show you the best sites in Florida to see manatees.

These places range from platform viewing decks to the opportunity to go swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking close to these fascinating underwater species. Keep reading to find out.


Clearwater Manatees

Clearwater, Pinellas County, north of St. Petersburg, has several places to watch manatees in their natural habitat. As a result, many people consider this the best place to see manatees in Florida. Sadly, this is not true as there are many better places to see and swim with manatees near Clearwater, Florida.



Clearwater Florida Manatee Swimming
Photo Credit: Orlandoattractions.com/clearwater-aquarium-monitors-manatees/


During winter, you can see up to 100 manatees and their pups from a viewing platform. However, if you are looking for a more exciting trip where you can see and even swim with manatees near clearwater, consider visiting the places below.


Best Places To See Manatees Near Clearwater Florida

The following are some of the best locations near clear water where you can see and swim with manatees near Clearwater, Florida.


1. Homosassa Springs

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Homosassa River is one of the best spots to spot and swim with manatees near Clearwater Florida. The manatees in the park have brought Homosassa Springs a great deal of popularity. To swim with the manatees near the park, "See our Experiences" and boarding times listed below.


Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular year-round activities due to the rivers' consistent 72°F temperature. Even though scuba diving isn't allowed with the manatees, swimming and snorkeling is encouraged. Manatees can be found throughout Florida and the Gulf Coast, Homosassa River that is next door to the park is one of the few places where swimming with manatees near clearwater Florida is legal.


Homosassa Springs is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it is home to a wide variety of creatures. That means asides from manatees, nature lovers can also sight birds, alligators, and bears. The park also has a hippopotamus acclaimed to be the oldest that has been kept in captivity! The swim with manatees tours boarding times start at 9 a.m


Manatees typically seek shelter from the colder ocean temperatures in Homosassa during winter. Therefore, consider visiting Homosassa during the winter months to get the best sight.

The state of Florida has laws in place to safeguard manatees. Therefore, you can swim right up to them, but it is against the law to touch, feed, or harass them. They may approach you, but it is best to avoid any sort of physical contact with them.





2. Blue Springs State Park

One of the most visited parks in Florida is Blue Springs, State Park. This large park spans over 2,600 acres and is known for being home to the state's famous manatees. This park is a certified manatee refuge, and it is located in Orange City, which is to the north of Orlando.


During the winter months, which run from November to March, people can visit the park to observe the rising number of West Indian Manatees at the spring's overlooks. During the manatee season, swimming in the water is not permitted.


However, you can walk along the half-mile boardwalk that runs along the park to take in views of these beautiful animals and watch them roam the area.


In addition to the beautiful sight, there are interpretive displays everywhere that provide history and education about the wildlife and ecological wonders of the area.


3. Crystal River

Crystal River is a popular manatee destination roughly 90 minutes north of Tampa on Florida's west coast.


The water temperature in Kings Bay, the beginning of the Crystal River, is always 72 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, between 500 and 1000 manatees come to the bay every winter to avoid the Gulf of Mexico's frigid waters, and some return year after year to spend the summer there.

Crystal Rivers' manatees, both migratory and permanent, make it an ideal location for up-close encounters with these gentle giants.


Crystal River is also one of the few places in Florida where swimming with manatees near Clearwater Florida, is legal. Swimming through the river is possible, but only after you've been given a thorough lesson in animal etiquette.


Despite their natural curiosity and willingness to establish contact with humans, manatees are strictly guarded by legislation. You can only have the best, and most fulfilling manatee encounters if you know the guidelines and tips for interacting with them.


5. Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs is one of the most well-known places to see manatees near Clearwater, Florida. Three Sisters Spring is located on the Gulf Coast and is home to the largest winter refuge for manatees along that coastline.


As one of the most breathtakingly beautiful springs in the state, the crystal-clear waters of this spring add to the awe-inspiring experience of seeing the manatees glide underneath the water's surface.


Although manatees may be found in Kings Bay throughout the year, the region is designated as a sanctuary during the winter; therefore, the only place to view these gentle giants is from the elevated boardwalk.


Even though there are strict laws about how to engage with the manatees, tourists can swim, kayak, and canoe with the manatees on a guided tour. The number of manatees that can be found throughout the summer months of April through November can reach up to thirty.


4. Weeki Wachee

Weeki Wachee is an excellent location to visit if you are interested in going on an excursion to observe manatees. Because there is a lot of food for them in the Spring Hill area, manatees can be found here throughout the entire year.


Winter is the best season to watch Manatees in this area. Manatees prefer the warmer waters of the springs in the winter; therefore, winter is when you are most likely to see them here. You may also tour in a transparent kayak here, allowing you to watch manatees swimming under your boat.


Kayaking through the spring at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is an excellent way to see manatees and the park's famous "live" mermaids and other wildlife.





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