The Lee County Manatee Park is the Best Place to See Manatees in Florida

June 24th, 2016 by

Lee County Manatee Park

The manatee is Florida’s State Marine Mammal. While the cute and goofy-looking aquatic “cousin” of the elephant can be seen all along the gulf coast, you’re often lucky to see one just for a few seconds as it comes up for air. If you want to get a close look and see dozens of manatees, the Lee County Manatee Park right here in Fort Myers is the best place to see Manatees in Florida sleeping, playing, and swimming in huge groups.

When and Where to Go

The park is located at 10901 State Road 80 in Fort Myers—located right across from Florida Power and Light—and opens at dawn and closes at dusk. There’s a $1 per hour parking fee from April to November and $2 the rest of the year.

Manatees will only be at the park when the Gulf temperature is below 68 degrees, so the best bet is to go during the winter time. The park website (linked above) updates when the manatees are out. You also want to try to get there earlier in the morning as the manatees tend to head out later in the day for food.

Pirate Manatee statue at Park

Why Do the Manatees Come to a Power Plant?

One of the byproducts of generating power at the Florida Power and Light power plant is the release of clean, warm water into the brackish Orange River. Manatees, in general, are pretty particular water creatures. They’re warm-blooded mammals and prefer the water temperature to be at least 68 degrees. While they do journey out into the Gulf of Mexico for food, they naturally hang pretty close to shore in coves and inlets.

Since the plant opened, the manatees have recognized this is a place where they can come and warm up during the winter. They’re smart creatures and that’s why you’ll see dozens of them hanging out and sometimes even choosing the park to mate and raise their young.

Manatees at Park

Manatee Viewing by Land and by Kayak

The Fort Myers Manatee Park may not be the largest park out there, but it has room for picnicking, concessions, large groups, tours, and an amphitheater. Along the water, there are several great viewing points to see the manatees, including an area where you can see below the water and even hear the manatees. The crowds tend to thin out the further down you go. When you’re ready to come back, there’s a separate boardwalk through the mangrove trees you may enjoy.

There’s also the option of bringing a kayak in your Land Rover SUV, or renting one. The Orange River is a no wake zone, so you gently hang out with the manatees just outside the park or paddle down the river where you’ll see more Florida wildlife without being disturbed by noisy motor boats tossing you around. It’s a very relaxing and peaceful way to spend part of your day!


Images found here.