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If you have the luxury of visiting Florida during the winter, often regarded as the best time of year to visit, you will be thrilled to know it coincides with peak manatee season. What makes manatee season so special, you may ask? Well, while you can always find these roly-polies lurking around our coasts and springs, peak season, which starts in November and runs all the way to April, offers unbelievable up-close views of herds of sea cows and their calfs in all their slow and gentle glory. And just when you want to know how and where to see manatees in Florida this season, you can rest assured knowing will find the answer here.
Because manatees are warm-blooded mammals with surprisingly little blubber to keep them warm during colder days, they seek out warm waters -- usually leading massive herds of them into our coastal-connecting springs and rivers. Our springs, such as the one pictured above, are perfect refuge for a cold 'tee since they stay a consistent 72 degrees no matter how warm or cold the air temperature is.
Unsurprisingly, the migration of manatees from the oceans into the rivers is a huge tourist attraction drawing in thousands of visitors to the area annually! If you, too, want to make the most of this year's manatee season, you have plenty of time to prepare and lots of options to choose from -- so, let's talk about it!
*Do remember to mind your manatee-manners, it is illegal to harass them in any way and the only place you can legally swim with them is Crystal River.
Find a spring near you
The first step to enjoying manatee season is to find a spring near you that they are known to frequent. They may be found in most coastal-connecting waterways, but one with clear water will offer the best views. If you don't mind making a road trip out of it, one of the best areas to see them is Crystal River's Three Sisters Spring. The clear blue waters offer unbeatable views of the manatees, plus that particular spring will be roped off to tourists and have a boardwalk around the spring for your viewing pleasure. You can check out my fly-over video of Three Sisters in the video above. Homosassa Spring Park is another park in the area that not only is frequented by manatees, but has a small zoo and manatee rehabilitation center for you to check out -- which I highly recommend!
Take a manatee tour
Whether you prefer to paddle, sit in a motor boat or swim, there are several guided manatee tours you can choose from around the state. There are many companies in the town of Crystal River that offer tours, such as this guided snorkel tour for $29, kayak and paddleboard tours, and of course, chartered tours that are specifically for manatee-sightseeing. If you would like to memorialize your trip for years to come, consider purchasing a good camera such as a beginner DSLR such as the one I use, and a GoPro for underwater photography and videography.
Rent a house on the river
And if one day with the 'tees just isn't enough for you, consider renting a house on a river so you can watch them lazily swim by all day and night long. Weeki Wachee River is a perfect area for this, with many houses available to be booked for a night or two -- or more -- some of which, such as this house, are even dog-friendly and offer a private dock to launch your water vessels from! You can see a full list of riverfront rentals in Weeki Wachee, Crystal River and Homosassa available this winter season that suit your needs and price range by clicking here.
Pick up your Sunburnt Blogger mana'tee
If you want to be the envy of the town, don't forget your Sunburnt Blogger merch! This adorable manatee design is available for men, women and children as well as on objects like mugs and stickers. Click here to get yours before they sell out and don't forget to tag us in your photos!