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Traditionally known as manatee season, the months of November through March are the best times to be able to see these endangered mammals in the wild in Florida. As the gentle giants move from colder river, gulf and ocean waters to warmer bodies of water, they tend to congregate in natural springs that hold a constant temperature or near the warm water that comes out of power plants. If you’re headed to the best places in Florida to see manatees, here are some rentals that are located close by.
The only place in the country where you can legally swim with manatees, Crystal River is home to Three Sisters Springs where many sea cows spend the winter. This two bedroom, one bathroom cottage, located less than a mile from the springs, sleeps six people and has a private backyard, fire pit, BBQ grill, floating dock and fully stocked kitchen. Multiple kayaks are also available to borrow to explore the river and springs and get out into nature.
Located a mile and a half from Three Sisters Springs and the two National Wildlife Refuges in town, this four bedroom, three bathroom house sleeps 10 people and offers plenty to do when you’re not looking for manatees. With a boat slip that sits on the river, visitors can bring their boat or borrow the paddleboard and kayaks that come with the rental. There’s also a hammock, grill, outdoor games and chairs on the dock to enjoy the outdoor space. Indoors, a full sized kitchen, 65” television and washer and dryer will help make visitors feel even more at home.
Sleeping six, this three bedroom, two bathroom house is large enough to bring the whole family to see the manatees. An open floor plan lets everyone see what’s going on but why stay inside when everyone can hang out on the back patio to enjoy the screened-in pool?
One manatee destination on the east coast of the state is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. With over 140,000 acres of land and water for animals to live in, the habitat draws in manatees year round. This one bedroom, one bathroom apartment is seven miles from the national refuge and sleeps four people. Located behind a main house, this private space has a full kitchen along with access to a shared laundry, hot tub and pool.
Thirty minutes from Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, this house is located on the Gulf of Mexico in the small town of Cedar Key. With two bedrooms and one bathroom, the duplex sleeps six and provides plenty of outdoor views, including watching the sunset from the back dock or grilling outdoors. Indoors you’ll find plenty of room to relax after a day at the park, including a fully equipped kitchen and washer and dryer.
On the southwest side of the state is Lee County Manatee Park where manatees like to gather for the warm waters from the former power planet located nearby. If you haven’t gotten enough of the water at the park, this three bedroom, two bathroom home gives even more opportunity to be outdoors with the provided kayaks and firepit area out back. Indoors, there are board games for families to enjoy along with an open living space and updated kitchen.
Home to real, live human mermaids at the local state park, Weeki Wachee also sees plenty of manatees in the springs and river during the winter months. Located directly on the Weeki Wachee River, this waterfront property has two bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms and sleeps six. Close to local beaches and restaurants, you can bring your own boat or borrow the owners paddleboard, canoe and kayaks to explore. The house also offers an outdoor grill, fire pit and fully equipped kitchen with coffee maker, crock pot and blender.
Explore the Gulf of Mexico and Weeki Wachee River from this two bedroom, two bathroom home located just off the river. Outdoors you’ll be able to launch the onsite kayaks or paddleboard from the property’s dock to roam the waters looking for manatees. A double lot gives plenty of space to play cornhole or let children let out some energy. An inviting hammock is the perfect place for a nap and a fire pit lets you be outdoors, even on chilly nights. Indoors there’s plenty of space for friends or family and includes a dining room, full kitchen, washer and dryer and views of the river.
East of Tampa is a designated manatee sanctuary at Tampa Electric’s solar power plant in Apollo Beach. It’s a great place to be able to see manatees, especially from the viewing tower. Afterwards, head to this three bedroom, two bathroom house where your entire family will have plenty of space to relax. Located right on the water, the house sleeps eight and has its own private dock to watch people and wildlife go by. There’s also a screened-in pool that is solar heated so you can hop in, no matter the season.
On a canal and two miles from the viewing center, this four bedroom, two bathroom sleeps up to 10 people. The outdoor activities at this home will keep everyone happy. From a heated swimming pool to a dock where you can fish to the hot tub to the kayaks and bicycles you can borrow, you’ll never feel the need to stay inside. But when you do head indoors you’ll find almost 2,000 square feet of living space, plenty of seating in the living and dining areas and board games for everyone to play.
The Manatee Observation and Education Center overlooks an outlet to the Indian River, making it an ideal spot to see manatees during the winter months. Two and a half miles away is this two bedroom, one bathroom condo that sleeps seven. Close to restaurants and the beach, there’s a full sized kitchen and a screened-in patio where you can relax on rocking chairs after a day out exploring.