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Manatees are well-known in Florida, where they swim into rivers searching for food and warmer waters, particularly in the winter and spring. If you have yet to see and interact with manatees up close, you’re missing out on a truly breathtaking and unforgettable experience. You should visit Florida’s freshwater springs and have your fill of fun and delight with these ancient animals. But where to kayak with manatees in Florida?

So, if you wonder where to kayak with manatees in Florida waters, here are a few of the best places to look for manatees.


Manatees are gentle sea mammals.


What are Manatees

The manatee is a massive sea animal with a smooth tail and an egg-shaped head. The term sea cows refers to manatees. Despite their size and the bulky, stubby snout, many ocean visitors find manatees to be charming and cuddly. These big, slow-moving marine mammals find in coastal areas and waterways. Thus, Florida spring-breakers often see them and might decide it would be a bright idea to join them for a swim.


Why Do You Go Manatee Kayaking?

It’s not just because of their height that they’re worth kayaking. Manatees have exciting characteristics that make seeing them so enjoyable. For example, they have chubby, puppy-like faces, a large body that seems to strain to pass through water. Plus, it’s a privilege to see them. They often move a lot during migration or before the year ends. So fall kayaking is worth it to see these aquatic mammals where they roam.

A manatee’s tail is broad, paddle-shaped, and uniformly rounded, and it swings up and down as the animal swims, making for an exciting sight to see. Furthermore, manatees are more inclined to engage you for contact while you are in their environment.

When Are Manatees Easiest To See?

Florida’s climate cools during the winter months of November to April. The temperatures along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts drop below 70 degrees, causing manatees to search out warm water environments. The manatees stay warm by entering the natural warm-water pools, which remain steady 72 degrees even in the winter. The colder springs offer an ideal environment for large groups of mammals to congregate for food, rest, and mating.

Florida has several aquariums with manatees. Locals and tourists can see Manatees at the Lowry Park Zoo and Miami Seaquarium, among other Florida zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks.

Still, they are available in bioluminescent waters. Their large bodies leave traces of light when they pass regions with blooming algae or planktons at night. So, sometimes, it’s easy to spot these aquatic mammals in a few places when the sun goes down.


Safest Way to Kayak with Manatees

While having many manatees in one location is exciting, it’s essential to keep in mind that the animals are there to live. To prevent disrupting their sleeping or eating patterns, you must engage with them from a distance and on the water surface, whether you are kayaking alone or in a group. Even if you see manatees sleeping, avoid pursuing or upsetting them. Never use your foot or hands to poke, slash, or push a manatee.

Discover essential tips and techniques to ensure your safety while kayaking and enjoy your adventure with confidence—explore our expert-recommended 10 tips on how to stay safe while kayaking today!

Keep Manatees Safe, too! See the FWC guidelines

Top Best Places to Kayak with Manatees

1.  Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs is a series of three springs that feed into Kings Bay and one of Crystal River’s few undeveloped tracts. Its transparent blue hues produce an atmosphere, making it one of Florida’s most breathtaking springs. Three Sisters Springs, the main winter haven for manatees on the Gulf Coast, is one of the most well-known manatee hot spots.

During the summer, from April to November, up to 40 manatees can be found. Although there are specific guidelines for communicating with them, visitors can swim, kayak, or paddle with them on a planned trip. The crystalline blue waters of one of the state’s most visually beautiful springs contribute to the breathtaking feeling of watching manatees glide under the sea. A trolley tour starting from the Three Sisters Springs Center every half-hour provides access to the boardwalk for visitors. The Trolley can also reach Hunter Springs Park.


2.  Blue spring state park

Blue Spring State Park has been designated as a manatee sanctuary, providing outstanding viewing opportunities. Folks can visit this area using various kinds of kayaks. The warm water of Blue Spring, which is 72 degrees, has welcomed warmth from the colder St. Johns River. With the transparent spring on one end and the St. Johns River on the other, the Blue Spring Run, the key manatee viewing area, is surrounded by a half-mile boardwalk.

Make a point of visiting this famous place first thing in the morning. As the day warms, the manatees will venture out into the St. Johns River to drink. The sooner you arrive, the less crowded it will be.

The best time to see manatees at Blue Springs is in January when the weather is consistently cold. You can also watch live manatees via the Save the Manatee organization’s webcam at Blue Spring.

3.  Manatee Springs State Park

Manatees migrate up the Suwannee River in search of Florida’s springs during the colder months. A related run in Manatee Springs State Park leads manatees into the spring area. The months of November through April are the best for kayaking with manatees in a spring state park.


4.  Manatees Visit Lee County Manatee Park

This 17-acre oasis is ideal for a day out with the whole family, thanks to its safe refuge, observation deck, and landscaped garden. Visitors of this non-captive natural habitat will see the species up close and in their entirety, thanks to the shallow waters. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the park’s attractions: guided hikes and educational opportunities, including a spectacular butterfly garden and several picnic facilities.

However, the easiest way to see the manatees is from a canoe or kayak. Manatee Park has many manatees outside of the fenced canal section, and kayakers can float among them. Manatees swam under our kayak and came up next to inspect us. Compared to other places, it gets seasonal visits from these majestic creatures. It’s unlike the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where many manatees move.



5.  Tarpon Springs

If you adore these gentle giants or want to see them in their natural habitat for the first time, these places have you covered. Manatees can see on the warmer “winter” months in Florida. Tarpon Springs, FL is a 45-minute drive from Tampa and is famous for its sponge fishing! During the winter months in Florida, it is also home to manatees. During manatee season, you can swim with the manatees in a transparent kayak on weekends. But also using any durable inflatable or solid kayak will do.


6.  Crystal River

Citrus County’s Crystal River, located north of Tampa and west of Orlando on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is home to a plethora of freshwater springs. It distinguishes being the largest gathering ground for Florida manatees in the United States, thanks to the first magnitude spring system in Kings Bay. It is one of the only places where you can snorkel, dive, and drift with manatees (from a safe distance). In fact, it is often the first choice of where to kayak with manatees in Florida.

During the cooler months, the Crystal River coils around Kings Bay, where more than 70 springs host hundreds of manatees. Several hundred outfits can drive you out on boats and loan you equipment; this is the only spot where you can swim with manatees.


7.  Hunter Springs

Hunter Springs is a great place to see manatees if you want to kayak rather than swim. A walkway has been extended to this nearby community park, offering excellent manatee viewing opportunities. In addition, there is more parking, a kayak launch, and a beach spot. Hunter Springs Kayaks is a lot more than just a name.

It has everything you’ll need to spend your time on the water with manatees and get an authentic taste of Pure Florida. Hunter Springs also has its parking lot with access to the lake. Parking costs just $5 for the whole day. It is also possible to launch your kayak here.



8.  Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs is well-known for viewing manatees while kayaking. The park is now available for visitors. And it hosts to a variety of species such as manatees, alligators, and bears. The river passes through an undeveloped region of mangrove islands and saltwater grass flats, a popular fishing spot with many motorboats.

It is one-hour filled with a fast and enjoyable journey that concludes in the “Blue Water,” a place outside the park. Indeed, here you can find many manatees congregating before accessing the colder springs. The “Blue Water” is a popular kayaking destination and a great place to see manatees.


9.  Weeki Wachee

Weeki Wachee has a long history of being well-known. Manatees frequent the Weeki Wachee Canal, located on Florida’s Adventure Coast in Hernando County. Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park or paddle down the transparent waterway with a shallow sandy bottom in a kayak. You can float down the stream in a long, quick 5-mile, 3-hour kayak trip, or you can start your tour at Weeki Wachee Springs and paddle down the shallow, transparent waterway. You’re sure to see manatees and have a great time.

10.  Chassahowitzka River

The Chassahowitzka River locates at south of Homosassa Springs in Citrus County. It’s a great place to see manatees, so you’ll need to go with a knowledgeable guide if you want to see more animals and spot the manatees. Moreover, it has Hunter Springs, a nearby city park with a walkway suitable for watching manatees. Hunter Springs now has a pool, a kayak launch, and more parking.


Summary of Where to Kayak with Manatees in Florida

Manatees live in Florida all year. These gentle giants can see floating off the coast during the season. When the cold weather hits in the winter, the Florida manatees will migrate to the natural hot springs spread throughout the state. Between November and March, Florida’s springs will continue to flood with manatees seeking shelter from the calmer waters of the ocean and gulf.

So, go to the places mentioned above to have a better experience of kayaking with manatees. If you like this information, do share it with others.


Read More



Are Sit in or Sit on Kayaks Better?


Inflatable Kayaks, Pros and Cons


Kayaking the Florida Everglades


List of Aquariums in Florida


Manatees, National Geographic


FWC Guidelines for Manatee Viewing


Manatee Facts by Live Science


Other Good Reads





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