Manatee Season in Ocala/Marion County
Manatees are the official marine mammal of Florida and for good reason. These sweet, gentle giants move slow enough to make it easy to capture awesome photos— and you don’t need to be near the coast to see them. In Ocala/Marion County, located just an hour north of Orlando, a visit to the natural springs often means a visit with the manatees. During the cooler winter months, manatee sightings are frequent, as they take a liking to the springs’ warmer waters. If you see one of these mammals, please remember you are permitted to look but not touch. Here are the top places in the area to spot a Florida Manatee.
Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs, located just east of Ocala, is one of the largest artesian springs ever discovered, making it the perfect spot for visitors to scope out manatees in the crystal-clear waters beneath the boats. An excursion on one of the famous Glass Bottom Boats lets you see right into the underwater world of the springs without even getting wet. If you are looking for a bit more adventure, rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard and paddle down the river. Keep your eye out for the manatee’s noses popping up out of the river for a breath and you may be able to get a closer look at them.
Silver Glen Springs
Nestled in the Ocala National Forest, Silver Glen Springs is a favorite for spotting manatees! With its clear, aquamarine-hued waters it is truly hard to match the spring’s natural beauty. The popular recreational area allows for swimming, which offers a unique opportunity to not only share the water with the manatees but see them from a unique vantage point. Bring your mask and snorkel for the best view, but please remember that you are not allowed to touch them. Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s guidelines for viewing manatees for the rules.
Salt Springs Recreational Area is another popular spring in the lush Ocala National Forest where visitors may see a manatee. The manatee migration time, when you are most likely to see a manatee at this spring, is from November through February when the 72 degree spring water is warm relative to other bodies of water. There is even a guided Kayak Manatee Tour available at Salt Springs that is fun, educational and family-friendly.
*Please remember that you are not allowed to physically touch the mammals.