In this article we uncover the top 10 places you can paddle board with manatees! Check these out as you plan your next adventure in Florida!
One of the best ways to use your inflatable stand up paddle board is by interacting with the natural world around you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on a river, lake, or the ocean, the wildlife found in these settings is a marvel.
But there are some animals that are more open to being interacted with. And one such animal is the manatee.
Manatees are gentle giants in the water. Due to their nature, they can be paddled next to and observed in their natural settings without worry.
If the thought of spotting manatee gliding alongside your Atoll iSUP excites you, we’ve outlined ten places in Florida you can check out to have this experience.
Let’s get into it!
Our first spot takes us to one of America’s largest springs at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida.
In the winter time, manatees hang out in the Silver River near the spring head. In fact, they travel a long way to get there. They first have to make their way through the locks at the Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River then up the river itself. But once they make it here, they tend to settle in for quite some time.
While this is an excellent spot to paddle with manatees during the winter season, the reasons it comes in on top is because of the extreme water clarity that is characteristic of Silver Springs.
You can look straight down into the water as if the manatees are right next to you! Due to this remarkable clarity, we suggest timing your trip to Silver Springs during the winter when the manatees are there.
Our second location to paddle board with manatees takes up to the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. This may be the most well-known spot for observing manatees on your SUP. There is one thing to keep in mind — from November 15h to March 31st the spring is closed down to boat and paddler traffic in order to give the manatees a quiet place to rest for the winter.
However, you are likely to find plenty of manatees in the surrounding areas during this time. Which makes it still a great place to explore on your Atoll iSUP.
Flamingo, Everglades National Park
One of the best places to spot wildlife and not just manatees is at the marina in Flamingo located inside Everglades National Park. On any given day you are likely to spot crocodiles, osprey, and other wildlife besides manatees. The best part is, they are typically present here year round! Which means you don’t have to wait for a specific time during the year for a visit.
One major bonus of visiting this spot is the campgrounds you can take advantage of for an overnight stay as well as phenomenal views of the largest subtropical wilderness in the nation.
While each location on our list is a great choice to spot manatee, this might be the ultimate spot for the Atoll adventurer.
If you are heading south to the keys, we recommend a stop on Key Largo if you want to paddle board with manatees.
Besides the charm of being in the keys with bright turquoise water, white beaches, and excellent resorts, you can always spot plenty of manatees in these warm waters on any given day.
The best place to launch your Atoll iSUP is at Key Largo Ocean Resort. This is an apartment complex with an excellent docking area where you will be able to drop your board in and paddle right away.
Just be sure to check the winds before you head out. The Florida Keys can get fairly windy during the day which can make for a tough paddle!
Silver Glen Springs, Ocala National Forest
This next location to paddle board with manatees is a bit out of the way so if you can’t make it to any of our additional locations on our list, then head here.
This launch spot is located about 40 miles east of Ocala. But what makes it a great place to paddle with manatees is their proclivity to congregate here during the winter. When the water temperature drops, hundreds of manatees will head to the Silver Glen Springs to find warm water to swim in.
Head here anytime from November to March and you are almost guaranteed to see manatees in the water underneath your feet!
Directions to Silver Glen Springs
Weeki Wachee River
Paddling on the Weeki Wachee River can be a magical experience. Especially with the high likelihood of seeing manatees in the water.
You can spend an entire afternoon here, paddling the peaceful waters with no issues. And over the years it has become a favorite manatee-spotting location.
There is one catch – you will need to make a reservation at the state park to launch your SUP. You can do that HERE.
Directions to Weeki Wachee River
Tarpon Springs, Spring Bayou/Craig Park
This small city park has a freshwater spring that attracts plenty of manatees during the winter season.
Head here if you’re not into crowded areas, or state parks. This can be a great low-key location to paddle with manatees.
The launch location is easily accessible and usually uncrowded. If you’re in the mood for a quiet time on the water with the possibility to see manatee during your wintertime paddle, head here.
Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach
Our next spot takes up to Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers. There are two main reasons to visit this launch location:
1. There are plenty of mangrove lined waterways perfect for paddlers of every vessel-type that are perfect for a peaceful time on the water scouting manatees
2. There is also a 2.5 mile beach lined with natural vegetation that is perfect for bird watching
Head here for a great time in a natural environment.
Directions to Lovers Key State Park
Homosassa State Park
If for some reason you were unable to spot any manatees at the above locations (let’s face it, some days we have bad luck) then you can also see them in captivity as well!
Head to Homosassa State Park. There you can see manatees every day of the week at the parks underwater observatory. In the winter time, gates to the spring are open and wild manatee congregate in the warm waters at this location. While you won’t be able to paddle board with the manatees here, if for some reason you weren’t able to spot any at our previous locations, you are guaranteed to see them up close here!
Directions to Homosassa State Park
We hope your manatee search is a success on your Atoll iSUP. But before you head out, there is one last thing we need to say. The manatee population in Florida is one of the largest attractions in the state. As such, it’s important we respect these creatures. Especially when we encounter them in their natural habitat.
When you do come across a pod of manatees in the water, be sure of course to take as many videos and pictures as you can! But more importantly, be sure to respect their space and maintain a proper distance.
With an Atoll iSUP the world’s waterways are yours to explore. Adventure on!