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When exploring Southwest Florida, manatees are must-see animals, and Lee County’s Manatee Park is the best area for spotting these creatures. The animals are best seen when the temperatures drop because that’s when they make their way into the park, looking for warm waters to settle in. The Florida manatees have been cut out of the list of endangered species, but they are still a threat, and travelers should be careful around them. Launched in 1996, the Manatee Park in Fort Myers is a non-captive refuge for these animals. The creatures come to the park in large numbers when the waters in the Gulf of Mexico get cold. Looking to have a Florida manatee experience? This is the best time to visit Manatee Park in Fort Myers.

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Related: A Guide On How You Can See Manatees In Florida This Year

Fees, Hours Of Operation, And Amenities

General admission to Manatee Park is free, but there are fees associated with parking. There are kayaks available for rentals from the Manatee Kayaking Company. The park offers travelers amenities, including educational programs, wildlife viewing opportunities, picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms. The park operates every day, from dawn to sunset, including the holidays.

  • Parking fees: $2 per hour, $5 per day. Shuttle vans and tour buses pay $10 and $20, respectively, per visit.
  • Hours of operation: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, every day, including holidays
  • Preferred duration in the park: two hours
  • Manatee Park Contact: +1-2396905030

How To Get To Manatee Park

The best thing about visiting Manatee Park is that it is easily accessible, and it features incredible viewing platforms as well as numerous pathways to allow visitors to explore the manatees up close. The park is found on Fort Myers' east side at 10901 Palm Beach Boulevard. How to find it? Take Exit 141 just north of Fort Myers from 1-75. Continue driving east on SR-80 for about a mile. From there, the park's entrance is on the right-hand side. Once inside the park, travelers can head to the Visitor Center and explore the displays first and find out more about them before heading to actually see them up close.

  • The park’s Address: 10901 State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.), Fort Myers, Fl 33905

The Best Time To Visit Manatee Park In Fort Myers

Manatees are larger, but they can’t survive in colder temperatures. That is why they go after warmer waters. Because of this, these beautiful creatures are best explored during the winter months. Travelers can enjoy swimming with the animals in winter because they come to Manatee Park, in the canal, in large numbers, attracted by the warm water that is generated from the Florida Power and Light Power Plant. The warm water is created when they cool off their equipment.

For the most impressive viewing of the manatees, visitors should go to the park during a cold day and ensure they regularly check the park's website for updates. Early morning is the best time of the day to join the animals. People say the best day to experience the creatures is the early morning of the coldest day of the year. Visiting early in the morning also allows travelers to avoid crowds, as there are fewer people at that time.

Uncrowded tours enable visitors to have an undisturbed adventure with the manatees. At midday, tourists are likely to come across numerous boats stirring up the water, making it difficult to spot the animals because the visibility becomes less clear. Since manatees get so playful early in the morning, travelers will get the incredible opportunity of viewing them in groups. The creatures are always in their best mood at this time, and one will probably see them eating and playing around with one another.

Another advantage of visiting in the morning is the animals become curious and interactive - and are more likely to approach the swimmers. Tourists should maintain the required attitude, not get closer, try to approach or even touch the animals, but expect to see them coming to check what's happening nearby.

Related: The Best Times To Visit Jasper & Banff National Parks

Tips For Exploring The Manatees In Winter

  • Get a guide who knows the park well. Travelers should explore Manatee Park with experienced guides who are aware of the animal's behavioral patterns and the best places to spot them at their most spectacular. Another advantage of getting a guide is that they make the adventure exciting and memorable. They also know the regulations set to protect these creatures and best experience them without posing threats to the viewers.
  • Do not bring pets to the park, as they are not allowed there.
  • Ensure the boats are less than 20 horsepower.
  • Summer months are not the time to spot the manatees. Instead, visit in winter.
  • There are no lifeguards at the park. So, visitors should come prepared for this.
  • Renting a car or a cab is the only way to get to Manatee Park.

Winter during early mornings is the perfect time of the year to visit Manatee Park and have the best experience of manatees.