Manatee Park Ft Myers is a fantastic place to see manatees in the wild!
Located just outside the city, the park in Lee County is on a canal in Southwest Florida that branches off of the Caloosahatchee River, near the Florida Power and Light power plant.
The 17-acre regional park is open all year round, and it might be considered one of the smallest, but it services over but it services over 200,000 visitors each year and in my personal opinion, it is one of the best places to visit. To increase the likelihood of seeing one these gentle creatures, you need to come during the cooler months of November - March when they are searching for warm water refuge.
We've gone in January and seen lots of them! There are 3 covered viewing platforms along the river with seating and telescopes.
The viewing areas are connected by a pathway lined with native plants and beautiful butterfly gardens, it's another lovely place for watching manatees in the water and enjoy all of the surrounding beauty. The last time we went, we saw adults and babies, some had barnacles on them and some had scars probably from being injured by motor boat blades.
These "sea cows" as they are also affectionately known, are really kind of cute ... they go below the water and then surface, and you can hear the manatees making shushing and sputtering noises as they breathe out.
Apparently, they can hold their breath for 20 minutes! Be aware that you are not allowed to feed them and please, pets are also not allowed with the exception of service animals.
You can take a walk on nature paths and trails that wind through beautiful gardens and enjoy some of the wildlife.
You can fish from the fishing pier on the Orange River.
You can bring your own kayak as there is a public self launch available or rent a kayak from the Manatee Kayaking Company (239) 913-9993. A guided manatee kayak tour is also offered.
Volunteer naturalists give talks during season. The program is for all ages, and is about what manatees eat, where they live, and the challenges they face.
A playground, tiki hut rentals for parties, picnic area with charcoal grills, souvenir shop and a visitors center are available.
You can also see manatees in Florida State Parks in Homosassa Springs and Chiefland, Florida.
You can swim with manatees in Crystal River ... all of these places are north of Tampa. We swam with manatees in Crystal River several years ago and it was amazing! We had an early morning boat tour and had to watch a video first about safety and rules, then get into wet suits.
We searched for a bit until we found a mom and her baby and we were able to pet them and scratch their tummies.
I don't know if you can make out the manatee's snout and nostril in the upper center of the photo below. My daughter is behind her with a diving mask and gear on.
We put our hands on their backs and followed them around as they swam ... it was so cool!
But you don't have to drive 4 hours away, it's just as cool to watch a Florida manatee at our Ft Myers park.
Parking is $2 per hour or $5 per day and $10 for shuttle vans, $20 for tour buses.
While there is no guarantee that you will see one, there are alligators that have been seen in the park.
The best time to see the manatees is when the gulf temperatures fall below 68F. Typically in Fort Myers that would be late December - February.
No dogs are allowed at the park with the exception of service animals.
The park is open every day including holidays from 8am to sunset.
Yes, there is a small gift shop run by the Manatee Kayaking Company where you can find drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and shirts.
The video below shows more of Manatee Park Ft Myers:
For more information, go to:
Manatee Park Ft Myers
10901 Palm Beach Blvd, Route 80
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