Discover the best places to see wild manatees on your next trip to Orlando (Real Florida Adventures pictured).

Updated Oct. 24, 2023

Did you know that you can see manatees in the wild when you visit Orlando? Peak manatee viewing season occurs from mid-November through March, when manatees seek the warm waters of Florida’s beautiful natural springs, preserves and estuaries. Discover some of the best places to see manatees in Orlando and beyond, then book your next trip with trusted tour operators who can get you up close and personal with these majestic mammals.

Discover: Natural Springs in Orlando

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Blue Spring State Park

Just one hour north of Orlando, Blue Spring State Park is one of the largest manatee gathering sites in the state. Researchers tracked over 700 manatees in the warm 72-degree springs in 2023 alone. The spring run is closed for water-related activities like swimming, snorkeling and paddling during the winter months, but you can spot plenty of manatees from the elevated boardwalk trail.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Gray Line Orlando sightseeing tours
Gray Line of Orlando Sightseeing Tours

Crystal River is the only place in the USA where you can legally swim and snorkel with manatees, making it well worth the 90-minute drive to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Hop on a guided excursion with Gray Line of Orlando Sightseeing Tours, which includes transportation from our main tourism districts, or check out tour operators like Get Up and Go Kayaking and Real Florida Adventures for your choice of guided snorkel and clear-bottom kayak tours.

Save on discount tickets: Real Florida Adventures

Crystal River Watersports also offers several environmentally responsible tour options in Crystal River. Not only can you swim and snorkel with manatees — you can also take a serene nature cruise, don a mermaid tail and even score some sweet underwater snaps of this unforgettable adventure.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park

Just a few miles south of Crystal River, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a rehabilitation center for injured West Indian manatees. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can see manatees 365 days a year, thanks to a floating underwater observatory and over a mile of paved and boardwalk trails surrounding the area’s natural springs. You can also learn more about these gentle giants during twice-daily tours or via a guided expedition.

Discover: Orlando Ecotourism

Silver Springs State Park

A classic Florida attraction since the 1870s, Silver Springs State Park is one of the largest natural springs in the country — and it’s just 90 minutes north of Orlando’s main tourism districts. Explore the nearly-5,000-acre springs on a clear paddleboard or kayak tour from Epic Paddle Adventures, or take an iconic glass bottom boat tour, where you might see manatees, turtles, tortoises and more. Learn more about the area at the nearby Silver River Museum, then hit the trails to catch a glimpse of the area’s resident monkey population, which was introduced to the springs in the 1930s.

More Places to See Manatees Near Orlando

Outside of peak manatee season, you can see manatees at coastal locations just one hour east of Orlando, including the following:

  • Canaveral National Seashore with Viking Eco Tours
  • Indian River Lagoon with BK Adventure
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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