Watch Florida’s most famous marine creature, the manatee, swim in its natural habitat at this non-captive park on the Orange River.
Located on the Orange River, a small tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, Manatee Park is a serene getaway for both manatees and humans. Visit this park to see some of the state’s most famous creatures in a non-captive refuge.
This 17-acre (7-hectare) park is a haven for large groups of manatees. During winter, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico get a bit too chilly for manatees. As a byproduct of power generation, Florida Power and Light pumps heated water into canals along the Orange River. This turns the canals into a manatee’s version of a hot tub; the creatures flock here to enjoy the warm water.
Stop at one of the park’s many riverside vantage points to watch them leisurely swim around. At an average of 10 feet (3.05 meters) long and 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms) in weight, these gentle giants are special sights to see in their natural habitats.
If you want to see the manatees on the river, put your canoe or kayak in at the park’s boat launch. You can find a boat to rent here. Throw your line into the water at the fishing pier; be sure you have a Florida fishing license.
The park offers enough amenities to stay here for the entire day, if you wish. Enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables or take a shady rest under the pavilion. Take younger members of your group to the playground.
In addition to its manatees, the park is known for a brilliant butterfly garden. Stroll through the lovely demonstration landscape.
The best times to view the manatees are between the months of November and March, when cooler Gulf of Mexico temperatures force the animals into the canal. During hot summers, many manatees seek refuge in cooler Gulf waters. They have no specific breeding season, so you have a good chance of seeing a manatee calf any month of the year.
The park is open year-round, every day until sunset. Except for a small parking fee, there is no entry fee. Visit the gift shop and visitors’ center on-site.