Top 5 Places to Spot Manatee in Southwest Florida








We can’t imagine that you don’t want to know the Top 5 Places to Spot Manatee in Southwest Florida, but if you’re not from the area than you may find yourself slightly intimidated by an encounter with a saltwater mass between 880 and 1200 pounds, spanning 9 to 10 feet in length.

There have certainly been documented cases of tourists in the throws of panic when confronted by manatee or what locals affectionately refer to as sea cows, but these gentle creatures present no threat to their fellow mammal. In fact, people have historically proven to be more harmful to sea cows than they to us, which is often evidenced by the scars on their backs absorbed when boaters unknowingly clip them going too fast in no-wake zones.

The manatee, with an intelligence and complex learning ability similar to dolphins, are truly a welcoming and friendly sight to behold within the backwaters off the Gulf of Mexico. In many cases, they will likely come up for air within arms length of your paddleboard or canoe. Meanwhile, the babies of the bunch are known for their playful curiosity despite mama manatee’s protective protests.

If you’re looking for the best areas to lay eyes on these charming creatures, check out the list below for the top 5 places to spot manatee in Southwest Florida.

The Lee County Manatee Park

Enjoy the beauty of nature in this non-captive waterway for the Florida manatee. The summer months are typically too hot for these fascinating creatures so make your plans to visit this park from late December through February and you’ll ensure the best odds of a manatee encounter. The park also offers visitor information and manatee education so you can better understand the habitat and patterns of the Gulf’s gentle giant.

Lovers Key State Park

Try your luck at an opportunity to see the West Indian manatee, which can often be seen swimming along the shores as well as the back channels. If you want a closer look, pony up to a kayak, canoe or paddleboard rental while you’re there.

Manatee and Eco River Tours

This tour takes you on a boat through the Orange and Caloosahatchee River during the months of December, January, February and March. Manatee sightings are never guaranteed, but the captain is committed and will always take visitors to the most popular manatee hangout spots while offering expert insights on mysterious manatee behaviors.

Double R’s Fishing and Tour Company​

This tour starts on a covered pontoon boat in the heart of the Everglades, taking visitors through the estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands in the most beautiful and natural manatee environment where you are also likely to see Florida alligators, dolphins and turtles. Bring your camera for this one-hour tour, which is fully narrated by an all-knowing captain.

Manatee Guides 

Manatee are actually everywhere in Southwest Florida, so grab your kayak and launch your manatee sighting search from places like Estero Bay, Orange River or Lovers Key with a certified Florida Master Naturalist. These guided tours allow visitors to learn about Florida’s habitat and the ecological struggles of manatees in addition to absorbing the natural and abundant preserve beauty that surrounds them. Again, no guarantees, but these guys are nothing short of professional sea cow trackers with decades of experience making manatee sightings possible.


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