Kayak with Manatees in Florida

Where to Kayak with Manatees in Florida: Top Spots to See These Gentle Giants

Kayaking with manatees in Florida is an experience you won’t want to miss. Manatees, also known as sea cows, are gentle marine mammals that can weigh up to 1,200 pounds and grow up to 13 feet long. They are known for their friendly and curious nature, making them a delight to encounter in the wild.

Florida is one of the few places in the world where you can see manatees up close and personal in their natural habitat. There are several locations throughout the state where you can kayak with manatees and witness their beauty and grace. From the crystal-clear waters of Crystal River to the winding rivers of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, there are plenty of options to choose from depending on your location and preference.

Top Destinations for Kayaking with Manatees

Crystal River: Manatee Hotspot

Crystal River is one of the best places in Florida to kayak with manatees. Located on the west coast of Florida, it is a popular destination for nature lovers and anyone who wants to observe these gentle giants up close in their natural habitat.

During the winter months, when the water temperature drops, manatees flock to the springs to stay warm. This is the best time to see manatees in Crystal River, and kayaking with them is a bucket list experience.

If you’re worried about whether it’s safe to kayak with manatees, don’t be. There are strict regulations in place to protect wildlife, and kayaking with manatees is a great way to observe them without disturbing their natural behavior.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

If you’re looking for a unique kayaking experience with manatees, then Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the perfect destination for you. This park is located about an hour north of Tampa and offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. The Weeki Wachee River runs through the park and is known for its crystal-clear water, which is perfect for kayaking.

One of the highlights of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the opportunity to see manatees up close. These gentle giants are a common sight in the river, especially during the winter months when they seek out the warmer waters of the springs. You can rent a kayak or paddleboard from the park’s rental facility and explore the river on your own, or you can join a guided tour to learn more about the local wildlife and ecosystem.

In addition to kayaking, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park also offers nature trails for hiking, picnicking areas, and even mermaid shows. Yes, you read that right – the park is famous for its live mermaid shows, which have been a popular attraction since the 1940s. These shows are performed in a natural spring and feature professional mermaids swimming and performing underwater stunts.

  • Address: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
  • Hours: The park is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
  • Price: Admission to the park is $13 for adults and $8 for children (ages 6-12). Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available for an additional fee.
  • Website: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park is home to a first-magnitude spring that is one of the largest winter gathering sites for manatees in Florida. In fact, over 660 manatees have been recorded at one time in the park’s warm waters during the winter months.

Kayaking or paddleboarding is the best way to enjoy these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Blue Spring Run is a designated manatee refuge and is closed to paddlers during the winter months. However, you can still enjoy the park’s many other waterways and see manatees from a distance.

In addition to manatees, Blue Spring State Park is home to a variety of other wildlife, including river otters, turtles, and bald eagles. The park is a designated National Wildlife Refuge and is a great place to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty.

Address: 2100 W. French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763
Hours: 8:00 AM – Sunset
Price: $6 per vehicle (up to 8 people)
Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/blue-spring-state-park

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a manatee sanctuary, which means it is a protected area where these gentle giants can live and thrive. You can kayak in the park’s waterways and observe manatees up close without disturbing them or their environment.

But manatees aren’t the only wild animals you’ll see at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators, black bears, bobcats, and more. You can also visit Monkey Island, where you’ll see spider monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

In addition to observing wildlife, the park offers a range of amenities. You can take a guided tour, rent a kayak, or explore the park’s hiking trails. There are also picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal with family and friends.

Ginnie Springs

Ginnie Springs is a must-visit destination for kayaking with manatees in Florida. Located in High Springs, Florida, Ginnie Springs is a privately owned park that offers crystal clear freshwater springs, a freshwater cave system, and an 800-foot boardwalk.

Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular activities at Ginnie Springs, and the park offers rentals for both. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also scuba dive in the underwater caves.

Ginnie Springs is known for its abundant wildlife, including manatees. The best time to see manatees in Florida is between November and March, and Ginnie Springs is no exception. Keep an eye out for these gentle giants as you paddle through the springs.

  • Address: 7300 Ginnie Springs Rd, High Springs, FL 32643
  • Hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 8:00pm
  • Price: Prices vary depending on the activity, but general daily prices are: Adults “Off-Season” Rate: $15 Adult “Season” Rate: $20 Children ages 5-12: $5 Children 4 & Under: Free.
  • Website: Ginnie Springs Website.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great location for anyone looking to kayak with manatees in Florida. Located just outside of Titusville, this refuge is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and alligators. The refuge also has a number of nature trails that offer visitors the opportunity to explore the natural habitat of the area.

One of the best things about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is the abundance of manatee sightings. These gentle giants can often be seen swimming in the rivers and canals of the refuge, making it an ideal location for kayaking with manatees.

In addition to manatees, visitors to the refuge can also see dolphins, alligators, and a wide variety of bird species. The refuge is also home to a number of endangered and threatened species, making it a valuable location for conservation efforts.

If you’re looking to kayak with manatees in Florida, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is definitely a location to consider. With its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Address: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, FL 32780
Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk
Price: Free
Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/

Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs is the “The Manatee Capital of the World” and is home to over 70 natural springs that feed the Crystal River and Kings Bay. During manatee season, which runs from November to March, hundreds of manatees gather in the warm waters of Three Sisters Springs to keep warm.

The best time to see manatees in the spring is just after a cold front has come through, as the concentration of manatees is highest during this time. Kayaking through the crystal-clear waters of Three Sisters Springs is a truly magical experience, as you get up close and personal with these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Aside from manatees, Three Sisters Springs is also a great place to paddleboard and snorkel. The crystal-clear waters make it easy to spot schools of fish and other aquatic life. The area is also home to a variety of bird species, making it a great spot for birdwatching.

Manatee Springs State Park

If you’re looking for an ideal spot to kayak with manatees in Florida, then Manatee Springs State Park is worth considering. This park is located in Chiefland, Florida and is home to a natural habitat that attracts manatees throughout the year.

Manatee Springs State Park offers a variety of activities for visitors to explore, including swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. The park has a designated area for kayaking that allows visitors to paddle along the Suwannee River and explore the natural beauty of the area.

One of the unique features of Manatee Springs State Park is that you can also swim with manatees. The best time to see manatees in this area is during the winter months, from November to March. During this time, the manatees are attracted to the warmer waters of the springs, making it easier to spot them.

In addition to kayaking and swimming with manatees, Manatee Springs State Park has a picnic area where you can enjoy a meal with family and friends. The park also offers canoe rentals for those who want to explore the Suwannee River at their own pace.

  • Address: 11650 NW 115 St, Chiefland, FL 32626
  • Hours: 8:00am to sundown, 365 days a year
  • Price: $6 per vehicle (2-8 people), $4 for single-occupant vehicle, $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, and extra passengers
  • Website: Manatee Springs State Park

Chassahowitzka River

Chassahowitzka River is known for its crystal-clear water, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty. You can rent kayaks and canoes at the Chassahowitzka River Campground at reasonable rates and put in your own canoe at a sandy launch site. The water is so clear that you can see schools of fish as you paddle. As soon as you launch, you might start seeing herons, pelicans, and osprey.

The Chassahowitzka River is also home to the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge, which is a sanctuary for many endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, bald eagle, and the Florida black bear. You might spot manatees during the winter months, when they come to the warmer waters of the Chassahowitzka River. If you are lucky, they might even swim up to your kayak and say hello.

The Chassahowitzka River is an easy river to kayak, suitable for beginners and experienced kayakers alike. If you are looking for a unique experience, you can take a clear kayak tour offered by Get Up and Go Kayaking. They offer a 2.5-3 hour tour through the lush, spring-fed waterways of the Chassahowitzka River. The clear kayaks allow you to see the underwater world and marine life in a way that is not possible with traditional kayaks.

Address: 8600 W Miss Maggie Dr, Homosassa, FL 34448
Hours: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Price: Kayak rental starts at $30 per day
Website: https://www.chassahowitzkarivercampground.com/

Silver Springs

The crystal-clear water of the Silver River provides excellent visibility for spotting these gentle giants. In addition to manatees, you may also see alligators, turtles, and a variety of bird species.

One of the best things about kayaking in Silver Springs is the opportunity to paddle through the Silver Springs State Park. The park is home to a variety of wildlife and offers stunning views of the natural Florida landscape. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a paddleboard tour of the park.

Kayaking Tours and Rentals

Guided Tours vs. Self-Guided Excursions

If you’re new to kayaking or want to learn more about the local wildlife and history, a guided tour might be the best option for you. Guided tours come with an experienced guide who will take you on a route that is safe and scenic. They will also provide you with all the necessary equipment and give you tips on how to kayak effectively.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced kayaker and want to explore at your own pace, a self-guided excursion might be more suitable. You can rent a kayak and explore the waterways on your own. However, it’s important to note that you should have some experience and knowledge of kayaking and the local wildlife before embarking on a self-guided tour.

Kayak and Gear Rentals

There are several companies that offer kayak rentals throughout Florida. Some companies offer both single and tandem kayaks, while others only offer one or the other. Additionally, some companies offer additional gear such as life jackets, paddles, and dry bags.

When renting a kayak, it’s important to consider the length of time you’ll need it for and the type of water you’ll be kayaking on. Some companies offer hourly rentals, while others offer half-day or full-day rentals. It’s also important to check the weather forecast before renting a kayak, as some companies may not allow rentals during inclement weather.

Planning Your Kayaking Trip

What to Bring

When packing for your kayaking trip, be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a waterproof bag to protect your belongings. You’ll also want to wear comfortable, quick-drying clothes and shoes that can get wet. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day.

Weather Considerations

Florida’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast before you head out. Thunderstorms are common during the summer months, so be prepared to take cover if necessary. Additionally, the temperature can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to bring layers that you can add or remove as needed.

Accommodation Options

If you’re planning to kayak with manatees in Florida, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. If you’re looking for a more urban experience, Orlando is a great choice. For a beach getaway, Fort Myers Beach and Lovers Key are both popular destinations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Manatees Dangerous to Kayakers?

Manatees are gentle giants and are not known to be aggressive towards humans. In fact, they are curious and friendly animals that often approach kayakers. However, it is important to remember that manatees are still wild animals and should be respected as such. It is recommended to keep a safe distance of at least 50 feet from manatees to avoid disturbing them or causing any harm.

Can You Swim with Manatees While Kayaking?

While it is possible to swim with manatees while kayaking, it is important to remember that manatees are protected by law under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is illegal to touch, harass, or disturb manatees in any way. If you do encounter manatees while kayaking, it is important to keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing them.