Swim with Manatees at one of 4 Noteworthy Locations in Florida

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swim with manatees at crystal river

4 Best Places to Swim with Manatees 

If you’re visiting Florida, you cannot miss the incredible opportunity to go and  swim with manatees! Florida is one of the only places in the world where you can see and swim with manatees. To get to swim with manatees is a unique experience that not everyone who visits Florida may know about. 

young manatee calf coming up for oxygen

There are many different places where you can try to swim with manatees in Florida. But why not go to the best places? If you are interested in swimming with manatees and are looking for the best places to go for your swim, look no further. Here are the four best places to swim with manatees in Florida

Before we dive into the water, here are a couple of things you should know to help you figure out the best places to swim with manatees. Manatees love being in warm water.  In order for them to keep their internal body temperature, they have to live in water that is at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, manatees tend to migrate throughout the year. The cool thing about manatees is that they can live in both saltwater and freshwater. This gives them a lot of options when it comes to needing to migrate to warm waters. 

mother manatee and calf swimming

Where to Swim with Manatees in the Summer 

In the summer months in Florida, you can actually find manatees swimming in the ocean. In the summer, it’s most common to find manatees living in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea. Some manatees can make it as far up north as the Carolinas, so if you find yourself visiting the east coast of Florida, you might be able to swim with manatees. 

There are tons of manatees that like to live in the Gulf of Mexico. Manatees are like giant sea cows. They are large and docile creatures that float around shallow waters. Their main source of food is seagrass, so they look like cows grazing on the grass while they’re eating. They tend to live closer to the coasts so they can have enough grass to eat. It can be easy to hop into the water on the beach and swim alongside these massive creatures. Don’t worry, e ven though manatees can get up to 3,000 pounds, they’re extremely calm and docile. 

Where to Swim with Manatees in the Winter 

While jumping into the ocean and swimming alongside manatees sounds like fun, the best time to swim with manatees in Florida is actually in the winter. When the waters of the Gulf of Mexico get too cold, manatees swarm to the rivers, natural springs, and inlets of Florida. Going to these spots in the winter almost guarantees that you can swim with a manatee. There are tons of gorgeous freshwater springs all around Florida that manatees like to call home in the winter.

Rather than trying to find them in the ocean during the summer, the cold water during the winter brings hundreds of manatees to the rivers and springs of Florida. So if you want to swim with manatees, winter is the best time to do it. Now that you know more about what times of year are good to swim with manatees, you might be wondering where you should go swimming with manatees. If you’re planning your visit to Florida and want to swim with manatees, here are the four best places to swim with manatees.

crystal river springs manatee swimming

1. Crystal River 

Located on the west coast of Florida, Crystal River is one of the best places to swim with manatees in all of Florida. Crystal River wraps around King’s Bay and gets water from over 70 warm springs. Because of this, the water in Crystal River always hovers at about 72 degrees. This makes it the perfect temperature for manatees looking to get away from the cold. 

There are a few manatees that actually live in Crystal River year-round which is another reason that this is such a great location to swim with manatees. During the winter months, you can see over 400 manatees at one time in the river. Crystal River manatees swim around different parts of the area and have a lot of space to roam and feed while they live there.

mother manatee and calf swimming

With its warm water, and extensive amount of places to swim, and beautiful crystal clear water, Crystal River is an incredible place to swim with manatees. One of the best parts of going to swim with manatees in Crystal River is that you don’t have to go alone. While some people stay nearby in places such as Plantation on Crystal River, where you are so close, it’s easy to just hop into the water to swim alongside these large creatures on your own can be a little intimidating. You will also need some gear to make sure you have a great swim. 

This is why it is such a great idea to take a manatee tour while you’re in Crystal River. Many different manatee tours last different amounts of time, so you can fit one into your busy vacation schedule. Be sure to check out the 3-hour magnificent manatee tour while visiting Crystal River. 

This tour comes with everything you’ll need to swim with the most beautiful manatees. Your guide will take you out to spots where manatees were spotted the day before, so you’re almost guaranteed to find places to swim with manatees. Your guide will also provide you with all of the gear you need. The gear you’ll get with the tour includes a wetsuit, goggles, and a snorkeling mask. Most people don’t have wetsuits lying around which is another reason hopping on a tour is a great idea if you want to swim with manatees. This equipment will also help you stay underwater a little longer and enjoy swimming alongside the manatees. 

sea cow enjoying a plunge in crystal river

You can also take your own boat out while you’re exploring a Crystal River manatee swim. We suggest trying a kayak rental when you’re looking to swim with manatees. You can take a kayak tour or search for boat rentals near you to find one that works for you. Once you get on a boat you can explore much more of Crystal River and its many springs. You may even find a spot all to yourself to swim with manatees from your boat. Sometimes, manatees will even swim right up to your boat and say hi. This is a great way to have a unique experience when you go to swim with manatees. Let yourself get truly close to nature and enjoy the adventure with your boat or kayak rental. 

      2. Three Sisters 

The next best place to swim with manatees in Florida is the Three Sisters Springs. The Three Sisters Springs are actually connected to Crystal River. It’s a complex of three springs that you can most easily visit by boat since there’s no parking near the springs. 

There are some boardwalks that you can visit at the Three Sisters Springs and can easily take a trolley there. The boardwalks are a great place to take members of your group that want to see manatees but don’t love swimming. If you are looking to visit Three Sisters Springs via water, there are many different ways to get there around King’s Bay. 

family of manatees packed together

Three Sisters Spring is such a great place to swim with manatees because of its unique natural beauty. This freshwater spring hasn’t been developed into a park or swimming hole. It has crystal clear turquoise-colored water that makes it truly gorgeous. Since it’s connected to the crystal river tons of manatees can be spotted and you can easily swim with them in Three Sisters Spring. Try taking out a boat rental so you can really explore all of the beauty that the Three Sisters Spring has to offer. 

     3. King’s Bay 

The heart and soul of Crystal River, King’s Bay is an incredible spot to jump in and swim with manatees in Florida. King’s Bay is in a great location in Homosassa, Florida. If you’re looking for a place to stay and swim with manatees, you have to check out Plantation on Crystal River. When you stay at the hotel, you can book your tours to swim with manatees in King’s Bay. 

sea cow looking for lunch in water

If you want to go out on your own adventure, King’s Bay is the perfect place to do it. You can access all of the great parts of Crystal River from this hub including Three Sisters Springs. If you decide to try to swim with manatees in King’s Bay, be sure to add an airboat ride to your day. There is so much incredible wildlife to see while on an airboat ride including manatees. Be on the lookout for birds, tons of different fish, and even dolphins from time to time. King’s Bay is a great place to be able to swim with manatees in Florida and be close by to tons of other activities. There are plenty of shops and restaurants around King’s Bay that you can explore. This lets everyone in your group have an incredible time whether you’re on or in the water. 

     4. Silver Springs State Park 

Located near Ocala, Florida, Silver Springs State Park is another wonderful place to get a chance to swim with manatees. The Silver Glens Spring in the park allows visitors to take a swim, giving you a chance to swim with manatees. This state park is a little off the beaten path, so it won’t always be as busy of a spot if you want to swim with manatees in Florida. Make sure to bring your own mask and snorkel. 

Swimming with manatees at Silver Springs State Park isn’t as guaranteed as Crystal River. But the spot is still gorgeous and features its own sparkling clear water. Some fun activities in Silver Springs State Park include boat rides with glass bottoms and renting your own pontoon boat. Renting a pontoon boat is a great way to enjoy everything the water has to offer.

You can even find a spot of manatees that maybe not everyone else can see. Make sure to hop in the water so you can enjoy a swim with manatees in this beautiful spring. Ocala is just about an hour away from Orlando, making it a great location to go out on a day trip while visiting Florida. Getting in a swim with manatees is something you really can’t miss when you’re visiting Florida, and Silver Springs State Park is a great location to try it. 

Places to See Manatees in Florida

There aren’t many places where you can actually swim with manatees, but the four listed above are by far some of the best to check out. If you already got to swim with manatees but just can’t get enough, here are some great places to view manatees while you’re in Florida. 

manatee swimming in water

Manatee Springs State Park 

Manatee Springs State Park is an incredible place to view manatees in Florida. The park has a boardwalk that is just over 800 ft long. The boardwalk runs through the park and under all of the gorgeous Cyprus trees. 

When manatees migrate, they can be spotted in the winter months throughout Manatee Springs State Park. You can take a stroll along the boardwalk and look down at all of the glorious manatees that make this spring their home in the winter months. 

Blue Spring State Park 

You can actually swim in Blue Spring State Park when there isn’t a huge influx of manatees. But once the manatees migrate to Blue Spring in the winter months, the park closes access to swimming to not disturb the hundreds of manatees that make it their home. Even though you can’t swim with manatees in Blue Spring State Park, there are tons of walkways around the water. 

From the walkways, you can look into the spring and see all of them hanging out and enjoying some seagrass. Blue Spring State Park is a very popular spot to see manatees, so make sure you get out there early. The park will close when it hits capacity which can happen pretty quickly in the winter months. When it gets warmer you can enjoy the waters of Blue Spring State Park. 

large manatee floating in water

Whether you want to jump in to cool down from the warm Florida sun or take a boat rental around the water. Blue Spring State Park is only about a 45-minute drive from Orlando, making it an easy place to stop if you’re looking to get your fill of manatees. You may not have time to swim with manatees in Florida, but viewing them is still a great activity for the whole family.

Manatee Park Fort Myers 

There are also many places to see manatees that aren’t natural springs. Although the water in springs is very clear, you can still see tons of manatees in the wild. Manatee Park in Fort Myers almost always has dozens of manatees to see. Another popular spot for manatees to hang around in the winter is the warm water near power plants. Manatee Park in Fort Myers has the warm water of the Florida Power and Light plant. This keeps the water at 68 degrees year-round, so you can almost always spot a manatee no matter what time of year you visit. 

Riviera Beach 

Don’t let the name deceive you. Riviera Beach is actually another Florida Power and light plant. This one however has been built up as a dedicated manatee viewing sight. The center of the area is called Manatee Lagoon and it has two levels of observation areas. Sometimes when it gets really cold there have been around 800 manatees at Riviera Beach. This is a great location if you want to ensure you will get some great viewing of manatees.  

air breathing manatee

Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center 

The Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center or TECO is a designated manatee sanctuary. You can go here to learn more about manatees and view them in a safe environment. Every year tons of manatees come back to TECO for the warm waters. TECO has tons of viewing platforms and walkways that you can explore to see the manatees roam around the waters. 

Tips for Swimming with Manatees in Florida 

Swimming with manatees in Florida is a fun and unique activity. But there are a couple of things you should keep in mind before jumping in the water. 

1. Treat Manatees How You Want to be Treated 

Some people get concerned and wonder are manatees dangerous. In fact, despite their large intimidating size, they’re not. So, when you swim with manatees in Florida you are swimming in their natural habitat. You have to make sure that you are respectful to the manatees and their home. Make sure you keep a good distance from the manatees and don’t try to disrupt them. They are generally curious and sweet creatures and may swim up to you if you are calm and collected in the water. 

      2. Look Don’t Touch 

While you’re in the water you mustn’t touch the manatees. Manatees were just recently taken off of the endangered species list. But this doesn’t mean that you should go up and touch the manatees in the water. Unlike dolphins, you can’t hold onto manatees and swim with them either. You could irritate or injure them without meaning to. Just make sure that you follow the look don’t touch rule and you’ll have a great time on your swim with manatees in Florida. 

      3. Don’t Feed the Manatees 

Manatees will be happy grazing on seagrass while they swim around their habitat. Manatees can’t process human food and you can do a lot of harm to them if you try to feed them. Just like if you were visiting animals in a zoo, you shouldn’t feed them. 

        4. Be Calm 

Manatees are naturally calm and gentle creatures. The best equipment to use when swimming with manatees is a snorkeling mask instead of scuba gear. Even though scuba diving is a fun activity, the noise can disturb manatees. The more noise you make, the more likely it is that the manatees will swim away from you. Being calm and cool and making minimal splashes and noise will help the manatees feel welcome around you. They may even get curious and swim up to you if you have an inviting presence. 

           5. Have Fun! 

The best part about swimming with manatees is having fun in the water. There are so many incredible activities to try in Florida, but going on a swim with manatees is one of the most unique that you can try.

As long as you stay safe and follow these tips, you are in for a fun time when you swim with manatees in Florida. 

Conclusion 

Swimming with manatees in Florida is one of the best activities to try especially if you are visiting Florida in the winter months. Manatees will swarm the warm waters of the rivers, natural springs, and electrical plants all around Florida when the waters in the ocean get too cold. 

In the summer months, you can have a great time getting out in the Gulf of Mexico and finding manatees swimming in the wild. Overall the best places to swim with manatees in Florida are Crystal River, Three Sisters Springs, King’s Bay, and Silver Springs. All of these places allow visitors to hop in the water and swim alongside the manatees. Also if you’re interested, you should check out this article we created from user feedback about 5 common questions before you swim with the manatees.

These are also great places to get on a manatee tour to ensure that you have the right gear. And your guide will give you all of the tips and tricks you need to have a fun and safe swim with the manatees. It can be intimidating to get up close to wildlife sometimes. But manatees are very calm creatures that even swim up to people and boats in the water when they’re comfortable. 

So what are you waiting for? All you need to do is pick one of these spots, sign up for a tour and get swimming. Enjoy an incredible swim with manatees this winter at the best spots in Florida. And if you need more information on tours or boat rentals, be sure to reach out to us so we can help find you an experience near you. We have everything you need to have an incredible time in the beautiful waters of Florida. 

Swim with Manatees near Me

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